Saturday, June 28, 2014

Malakula Island

Latitude: S 16 degrees 26.35 minutes
Longitude: E 167 degrees 47.03 minutes

After our time on the Black Magic Island of Ambrym and saying farewell to our old friends who were heading to Pentecost for the last Land Diving event, we decided to sail to Malakula Island about 30 miles away. Once out of the wind shadow of Ambrym Island, we had a great and speedy sail across to Makakula. Two fishing lines out – but no fish. We were quite hopeful with our good speed and our friends having caught several fish on their passage a few days prior. At least we got to eat some of their catch!

Malakula was named by Captain Cook as Mallicullo Island – a play on the french words "mal a cul" which roughly translates as "pain in the ass." It seems Captain Cook's experience on this island was less than ideal – he and his crew were unwelcomed by the natives (but luckily not consumed) and they ate fish from here that made them violently ill. Perhaps that's why he named the place what he did. Since Independence though, it is surprising that the name didn't change except in spelling.

This island is known for one thing in particular. Cannibalism. It seems the last recorded act of traditional village cannibalism was recorded on this island in 1969. Heck, that was in our lifetime! It seems there are still people alive who experienced this strange and unsavory (excuse the pun) act. Throughout the history of Vanuatu (then New Hebrides), villages were constantly at war with each other. Each village has its own language and customs. There were the constant battles between "Big Namba" and "Small Namba" villages. And in a battle, a man or two would be taken and served up for dinner. Of course, those men would be avenged and the battles and taking of other men would continue. This was a time that for once, it was good to be a woman. Women were not taken as dinner or even allowed to participate in the eating of "the man."

We are glad that is the past (or so we hope) and now the islands raise cattle and pigs! Malakula is also known to have many sharks and shark attacks. So we won't be in the water here – except up the rivers. The guide books tell you not to even get in the water to check your anchor in certain bays! These are aggressive sharks so we will heed that warning and stay aboard or ashore!

With those descriptions, it doesn't seem like Malakula is an island worthy of a visit – but it is the second largest island in Vanuatu and is very lush and green. Plus, the nice thing about cruising these islands is that you can pretty much make day trips through the chain and this was a stop to allow us to do just that.

We are nestled in a very protected inlet in a place called Port Sandwich. Don't have the story on the name yet – but with a name like that, we're hoping to be able get some bread ashore! Malakula is mostly a francophile island – where along with the village language and Bislama, almost everyone here speaks French rather than English. That is probably why there are three French boats in the anchorage with us. We're hoping they can speak a bit of English as well – as our French and Bislama aren't quite up to speed.

The winds are supposed to get quite strong mid-week, so we'll probably stick here until they lighten up again. This is very protected from almost every direction.

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