Ashboarding in Vanuatu

Sunday 20 April 2014
CATEGORY: Adventure | Travel
TAGS: Pacific

Vanuatu? Not sure what or where it is? Your ignorance may be forgiven – its really not the most obvious place I had chosen for a short last minute trip. Located a thousand kilometers east of Australia in the midst of the South Pacific, Vanuatu is a tiny (but independent and sovereign) archipelago of around 85 islands. Its called the happiest nation on the planet (don’t ask me who came up with that statistic). The fact that I had indeed arrived at the end of the world was made perfectly clear when Pavel stood in line for check-in at the airport in Port Vila (the capital). Introducing himself as a professor of Information Technology at the University of Krakow, he clearly had the look of a geek, but – he was wearing only (!!!) a Nambus – a penis cover, of the sort the native tribes in Vanuatu are wearing. He had the intention of spending the next three weeks with a tribe on the island Tanna (also my destination, but with a bit more clothes!). The chief of the tribe had asked him to wear the appropriate clothes already on his travels there (an initiation ritual?), hence Pavel was joining the plane slightly underdressed. “At least its not the dress of the locals on Pentecoast (another island), as that would have left my balls fully visible” (Pavel commenting on the three feathers that were hiding his treasures). I declined his invitation to fully dress as well– thanks, but no thanks! Tanna Island was a revelation – a remote island (really remote, supplied by ship once a week, a few villages, thats it! No electricity, no internet, but yes: mobiles…. they are really everywhere!) it features a fully active volcanoe – Mt Yasur, that erupts about every five to ten minutes – throwing barrel size rocks into the air and spitting lava to lighten the night. I couldnt help but climb the mountain and fly my newest toy, my drone, into the crater – what a thrill ride. I wasn’t actually the first one with that idea – Larry Page (= Google founder & CEO) was here two weeks earlier flying 5 (!!!!) drones into the crater – pah! Anyway – he for sure didnt decend the same way. I had spied a snowboard at one of the village huts (apparently some crazy Austrian dude (sounds familiar??) had left it there a few years earlier). The binding was broken, but easily fixed with straps. I stepped on the board on the crater rim and off the ride went down the ashplan – its definitly not snow!!! and a fall lets you look more like a Schnitzel (i.e. covered and battered in ash) rather than a cool dude! Needless to say it was tons of fun. My stunt brought me the invitation to join the local football derby – the biggest Good Friday attraction. Nava was playing Pony… start was scheduled 9am, island time… as a newbie I wasnt really familiar with the latter part of the information – but when players only rocked up around 11am I started to realize, that clocks work differently here. Despite multiple assurance that the game is done barefoot, I had to see with shock that several players turned up in football shoes showing no intention to put them off. Even three referees (they were ruling offsides !!!!) and trikot’s were provided. My playing career was shortlived however– after about 15minutes I gut a full shoe onto my barefoot – crying out in pain, clearly identifying myself for not being made for island football, I was quickly substituted (probably for the better – I guess the team was just waiting for me to leave the field without loosing face). On the sidelines, I received careful attention – before I could intervene I had to drink two bowls of Kava – the local heavily intoxicating drink made out of a special, very precious root (it looks like dirty dishwashing water and tastes about the same). Similar in effects to a joint, just stronger, it definitely eased the pain immediately. Continuing the game however was out of question 🙂 Well, we lost anyhow! The next day was time to check out Pentecoast – an island, where the famous Nagol festival was happening, also known as land diving. Young man climb a tower, bind two vines to their legs and jump head first from up to 18 metres into a mud pid!!! Nothing to be repeated at home, but apparently this is the place were modern day bungee jumping was born… At least on a bungee jump you leave out the part, where NOT touching the ground is considered being a coward!! It was truly spectacular – while a decade ago the jumpers did the stunt to impress the gods (and for sure also the girls :), nowadays the get some cash incentive – 12.000 Vat to jump off the highest platform – 100 Euros – a small fortune! Before they lift off the jumper drives themselves into some kind of nirvana – hundreds of local dancers chant and shout and I am pretty sure Kava is playing a not too insignificant role too. Its hard to capture all the experiences of my first few days here in the south pacific – I was expecting resorts full of Australians (sorry, not meant negatively) and was greeted by truly magical experiences – sleeping in a small hut, listening to the noises of the jungle, getting greated all day long by the most friendly people ever … light years away from Hong Kong…. hopefully to be continued!

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