Thursday, June 26, 2014

Black Magic Island

Magic in Vanuatu is strongest on islands where there are active volcanoes. We are now anchored off Ambrym Island which is considered the country's sorcery center. That's because of the twin volcanoes Mt. Marum and Mt. Benbow. These were the volcanic glows we saw while we were anchored off Pentecost Island. Though often shrouded in the clouds, when it is clear they are quite a sight. We are anchored in North Ambryn quite close to the volcanoes near the villages of Ranvetlam and Ranon. The island's beaches are all black sand – thanks to the active volcanoes. It is a very fine sand and very black. The water is clear – but because of the black sand, it isn't that turquoise blue you often see in the Pacific islands.

We came here from Pentecost after a nice 13 mile sail. The passage between these two islands can sometimes be fierce as wind funnels between the islands and the currents and tides can cause big waves. But the "magic" was working – and we had a great sail across – at least until we got into the wind shadow of Ambryn where the wind died completely. We anchored in 30 feet of water in what is supposed to be good holding.

Within an hour of being anchored, Chief Joseph from the village of Ranvetlam came rowing his canoe over and came aboard. He was an interesting character. He is also one of the area's wood carvers. Ambrym is renowned for its wood carving skills. The giant "tam tam" drums (as well as smaller versions) are carved here. These are a totem pole like carving. They carve a slit under the faces and hollow out around the slit(thus called slit drums). These carvings make a magnificent drum sound when beat upon. They also carve masks and various ceremonial spears and clubs (not of the golfing variety).

The best news was that this was the location where we met up with old friends that we haven't seen in more than nine months. These are friends we crossed the Pacific with in 2012 and they spent cyclone season this year in New Zealand. They came up to Vanuatu from NZ. We met at this anchorage and they luckily caught fish on their trip here so we enjoyed a feast of freshly caught mahi and waloo (similar to wahoo – but with a different mouth shape). It was a feast and a great time seeing Sandy and Rankin from "Gypsea Heart," Ann and Mark from "Blue Rodeo," and Heather and Jon from "Evergreen." They are heading to northern Vanuatu islands and we are slowly making our way south. We should meet again in New Caledonia or NZ.

We went up to Chief Joseph's village the next morning "en masse." It was a short walk to the village and it is always fun entering a village. The kids are the first to come running up to you and you become the pied pipers as they follow you around. Chief Joseph is a wood carver and arranges the tour to the volcanoes and four of the folks in the group were interested in hiking up to the crater. He showed us his wood carvings (which were quite beautiful) and the guys worked on fixing his portable generator.

Today (Thursday), together with the "Gypsea Heart" crew, we walked into the villages of Ranon and Lonbate. Sandy on GH had put some stuff on a hard-drive for one of the men from the village and we were owed some fresh fruit from Obed who we gave a few batteries to for his camera. The villages were the location where a marriage ceremony was taking place. This is a multiple day affair – and it turns out there will be two weddings taking place. Many pigs are killed for the feast and the two villages (one is for the grooms' and the other for the brides) each prepare and cook many traditional dishes for the feast. We were invited to the actual weddings on Friday morning. It would be something to see and very traditional – not designed for the tourists. But we also feel that sometimes these people are simply polite and invite you out of courtesy. Plus what do you give a few brides and grooms in Vanuatu for wedding gifts.

This is another lovely place and the people continue to be remarkable.

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