Our last stop on Malakula was Wala island a small island on the east coast, we anchored on the north shore which gave us good protection from the south east winds.
We were met by a guy who was interested in getting his invertors repaired, when we went to his house we saw he had two huge speakers and was clearly blowing them up after some serious music was being played ! We tried to help but they were shot to pieces, I think he gives them to every passing boat to fix but knows they have had it. Another guy we met on the beach was a quietly spoken man called George, he asked us if we wanted a tour of the island and to go and see the ‘stones’. He asked us what sort of food we ate on the boat, we didn’t know whether he was asking as he had very little food or if he was just being inquisitive. We said we didn’t have too much as we needed to restock in Luganville as we had been away for over a week, he then asked if we would like to come to dinner that night with his family, I think he thought we were going to go hungry !! He then apologised to us as he hadn’t shaved for a while, his mother had died 11 days earlier and as he was in mourning he wasn’t allowed to shave for 30 days. It seemed to be that you had 30 days to mourn and that would be it as later he showed us his mothers house and said that he would take it down after 30 days and then she would be gone.
He took us through some land filled with coconut trees which led to a clearing filled with large stones on either side. When a child was born a large stone was carried from the sea up onto the land, one side for boys, one side for girls. In front of the stone were placed some smaller stones were a pig would get slaughtered in celebration. There did seem to be an awful lot more boys that seemed to be born than girls going by the number of stones, but then he said that the men had to carry the boys stones and the women the girls stones. I think the story did get lost in translation a little but it was an interesting walk through the island.
The ‘stones’ –
Me and George hanging out near one of their drums made from a tree trunk –
He showed us his house and the new house he was building next door, this was to be built partially of brick and he was saving up for the concrete floor which was currently coral from the shore.
The ‘new’ church with the old church next to it –
We returned to the boat for the rest of the afternoon before going back to Georges house for dinner with his family. He was there with his wife, daughter, brother, and other members of his family all sitting on the floor waiting for us. He had asked me before whether I wanted to try Kava, a drink that is drunk all across the Pacific and other places too. Its basically a crushed up root vegetable which has the effects similar to drinking alcohol. I had to sit away from the rest of the family and he poured me a glass of it telling me to drink it in one !! Fortunately it was dark so I didn’t really get to examine it but I’m pretty sure it looked similar to pond water and tasted similar too. It made the tongue and lips go slightly numb but nothing much else, I had another cup later with similar effect but nothing much else happened.
Chris, Lisa and I were served dinner first with the others waiting and watching, it seemed to be that we had to eat first and then the kids would eat next. I noticed that George and his brother never ate, maybe there wasn’t enough to go around. It was a simple meal of rice, yams, vegetables, and to wash it all down rain water poured from a kettle. It was nice of them to have invited us to their home and have dinner with them, they had so little but were so very generous.
During our visit we had noticed a floating pontoon stacked up on the beach, the tourism board had managed to get cruise ships to come to the island. George said that there hadn’t been a ship for 7 months because of the cyclone but the cyclone had only been 3 months earlier. Apparantly the village chief had started to get greedy and instead of accepting the agreed price for each ship visited he now wanted to charge per person and now the cruise ships were never going to return. A big loss of income for the tiny island.
One thing you have to remember on some of these far away islands is that you could always become dinner – apparantly the last reported case of cannibalism was only in 1987 !!
We left Wala island the next day and George was waiting on the beach to wave us goodbye, it was a worth while stop and we were pleased we went there.
We now weren’t far from our destination of Luganville so we stopped off just south at Ratua island resort. It was a private island resort but you were allowed to anchor outside and come in and use the facilties like restaurant and bar. It was a peaceful anchorage and a great stop for our final night before Luganville.