Thursday, July 9, 2015

Port Stanley, Malekula Island, Vanuatu

At daybreak, we left Port Sandwich for a 35 mile trip up the island to another Port – this one named Stanley. Haven't yet figured out if James Cook named it or for whom it is named...but we'll find out! Though two students came by the boat and they couldn't tell us who Stanley was either. Our last evening in Port Sandwich was quite special as we spotted a very small dugong swimming near the boat. We saw him several times – so it was definitely a dugong. We had not heard of any in Port Sandwich before – so it was exciting and we enjoyed looking for him to pop up again for another breath of air. It makes us wonder about the talk of many sharks in Port Sandwich...if this relatively small dugong was around. We still weren't going to be the test case for a long swim around...and we never saw locals swimming.

We had a great sunny day in Port Sandwich which meant laundry day after collecting all the rain water from the many days of cloudy, grey, rainy days. It was a breezy, sunny day so everything dried quickly. We went ashore to say goodbye to Rock and Noella and had a great visit with them. They are really great folks and we left with more fresh stuff from their garden - this time a perfectly ripe popo (that's Bislama for pawpaw or papaya). Now fresh fruit since Cyclone Pam is really a treasure – so we felt very honored to be gifted this.

Our sail up the island was great – we had a steady 12-15 knot southeasterly and the seas were less than a meter. We had the head sail out and a lovely run – just having to jibe a few times. The bad news was no fish even though we had two lines out. We settled into an anchorage near the island of Uri and set the anchor in about 11 meters (36 feet). It is quite windy here as there isn't much protection from the low lying island on the windward side. Willy, a local in a canoe who came by, told us it should calm at night. Hope he's right! There is a little bit of fetch so we get some pitch at anchor – but we did get spoiled in Awei Island and then Port Sandwich where it was flat calm.

Here's a little history about the island of Malekula. Don't read any further if you are queasy or prudish because the history is not for the feint of heart. The island is actually shaped like a dog sitting down and is the second largest in the Vanuatu chain. It is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse islands. But it's claim to fame rests in its cannibal past and fashion statements when it came to male organ coverings. There were many villages on this large island and they were divided into two distinct "clans." They were the "Big Nambas" and the "Small Nambas." They are so named based on the style of "namba" that the men penis sheaths. It doesn't refer to the size of their units – simply the style of covering said unit. The small nambas use a dried fiber and wrap it around their penis and secure it to a belt. The big nambas use a purple pandanus fiber that they wrap elaborately and secure it to a large bark belt. In the past, the tribes fought – usually big and small nambas against each other – but often it was even the same " clan" - just different tribes. The battles weren't about their fashionable wraps – but over anything from territory, crops or just because they liked to fight. The outcome usually meant someone went back with the winners village for dinner...only they weren't the guests they were the dinner. This was the one instance in the history of Vanuatu where being a woman was an advantage. They didn't eat women...nor were women allowed to eat human flesh. The Big Nambas were re-knowned for their fierceness. Many foreigners would never come near a big namba village – and with good reason. Even the police when investigating the death and dining on a trader – would not return.

But the cannibalism is in the past – though many "kustom" villages still attire in the appropriate sized nambas. Now, they capitalize on the cannibal past with tours and treks to old sites and stories from villagers. The island is known to have some of the best traditional "kustom" dances – especially the dances for the male grade-taking ceremonies.

Glad we arrived in the post-cannibal era – though one of us would be safe!

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