For the past week we have been anchored in the lee of the lush, densely-forested island of Pentecost, first at the village of Bwatnapne and now off the slightly larger settlement of Loltong. The two are only about 7 miles apart but Bwatnapne's school teaches in English, Loltong's operates in French. The island, just 35 miles long and 5 miles wide, has three distinctly different local languages and a common one of Bislama, the Pidgin English brought to Vanuatu in the nineteenth century by foreign traders. It's difficult to imagine a more complex linguistic challenge.
Pentecost's main claim to fame is that it's the home of the land-divers. Every May, tall, rickety towers of wood and bamboo are constructed in the southern part of the island and young men throw themselves off, with long vines attached to their ankles; it's said to be the inspiration for the sport of bungee jumping. Unlike bungee, the vines have only limited stretch in them so the towers are cleverly constructed so that elements collapse as the vines become taught, to slow the jumper's progress as they approach the ploughed earth below.The season for this madness finishes at the end of June so we haven't witnessed it ourselves but we've seen lots of footage on the internet.
We think it's fair to say that we're secretly relieved to have missed the land-diving as it's allowed us to spend more time really getting to know the villagers and explore other parts of this beautiful island. Out of the Vanuatu Islands that we've visited, Pentecost is probably our favourite.
What we have witnessed is some wonderful welcomes from the people here. In Bwatnapne we were invited to join a family for supper on our first night; Frederick and Melanie were just lovely folk and Frederick's brother Hensley, a teacher at the secondary school, gave us a great insight into island life. The following morning Dianne and Kerry spent several hours with Melanie learning about her amazing skills weaving baskets from soft pandanus leaves; the skills of the Pentecost weavers are renowned throughout Vanuatu and everyone here, both men and women, carries a strong, practical and decorative woven bag over their shoulder. Needless to say, Dianne & Kerry got some retail therapy in here.
In Loltong, we joined up with three other boats to make a party of ten to enjoy a true feast laid on by Mary at the small 'Yacht Club'. Matthew and Mary organise these events and we'd heard other yachties rave about them so, when we were in Loltong a couple of weeks ago, we promised that we would return for the feast n our way back. We weren't disappointed. Mary had prepared fourteen courses of locally sourced food all cooked in the traditional way. Each course was brought to the table by Lavaty who explained what they were. You may think the number of courses would be too much but the servings were just enough to give a flavour of the real variety of food here.
Sadly the internet here isn't up to the challenge of posting photos so they'll have to wait for a few days. We're heading back towards Luganville for a much-needed food shopping expedition and to start planning our next voyage - the 900 miles or so to Australia.