A Travellerspoint blog

World Cup frenzy

It sounds like the World Cup has taken Australia by storm. The Ni Vans have also adopted Australia as their own showing full support for the socceroos.

We have managed to see two of their games. We are back in the capital now, so last week we went to a local pub to watch their game vs Italy on the big screen. Although they had a disappointing end to their quest for gold we should all be proud they reached the final 16.

We also had a fun adventure on Ambrym trying to watch the game vs Brazil. There are only about five TVs in the whole of North Ambrym all hooked up to generators. We had some volunteer friends stay with us for a week and we all decided to do a 2am night walk through the jungle to the nearest TV. We walked up to the old custom village, Fanla (home to some of the high chiefs) and managed to wake up every dog and person in the village! One of the locals stumbled out of their homes to ask what we wanted. He told us that they couldn’t get the satellite dish to work and that we would have to walk to the next village if we wanted to see the game. We had only walked this track once (in the daylight) so it made for quite an adventure walking in the middle of the night in dim torch light at each intersection trying to decide whether to take the path to the right or left. After about 20 minutes of exploring, we finally found the Rural Training Centre and could hear the match was underway.

We walked into the hall and shuffled our way to the back behind about 100 passionate Ni Van Socceroo supporters. The TV had good reception but was quite small so we shared a pair of binoculars to see what was going on. It took us quite awhile to realise that Australia wasn’t the ones wearing yellow!

Although we lost and could hardly see a thing it was a great adventure and a totally unique experience! The next morning we were blurry eyed but had to attend heavy going meeting followed by the arrival of the National Geographic cruise ship.

Posted by pippamatt 23:15 Comments (1)

Cruise ship comes to town

One element of tourism that we have had little involvement in is the cruise ship. There are visits scheduled to come to Ambrym over the course of this year with two having been already.

Our work has focused more on ecotourism and bringing small groups to Ambrym but when the cruise ship was scheduled to come recently we offered to help out. The cruise ship that visited Ranon is owned by National Geographic and you could say it caters for the ‘top end’ of the cruise ship market. 100 weatlhy guests (mostly well educated retirees from the US) and 60 crew had been around the Pacific for a few months seeing a whole stack of cultural and natural wonders before coming to Ambrym.

The purpose of their Ambrym visit was to see the Rom Dance.

With all the big preparations already taken care of, our only task was to settle the nerves of the tour guides who would be interpreting the Rom to the curious tourists. We have developed a good working relationship with the guides in our tour guide training workshops and although they were nervous we assured them all would be well as they knew their stuff.

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(The string share a joke while in the background the dancers assemble before a big crowd)

In the end the day proved to be a success with many in the community having an opportunity to earn income through selling handicrafts, dancing or being guides.

The highlight for the kids was a zodiac ride. The cruise boat crew were generous enough to offer swarms of kids joy rides out to their cruise ship and back.

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(Kids scramble to the shore after their joy ride)

For us it was great to see our guides in action and hear plenty of positive praise from the visitors and local community about their work.

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(Pippa showing the kids a National Geographic magazine which was a gift from cruise ship staff)

The big question – Are cruise ships good for the community?

From our point of view the income generated from the visit is sorely needed in the community, particularly when it comes to school fees. Even if the guides just spend their earnings on Kava, the money trickles back through the community as most families are involved in growing and selling the Kava plant.

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The impact of the visitors on local culture on face value seems minimal. The visitors are retirees who dress conservatively and come to view the culture for a few hours and then they leave. There is never more than 100 people, and they more or less stay in the area of the Rom dance on the edge of Ranon village so the place doesn’t seem overwhelmed by people when the guests arrive.

The main down side that we can see is jealously arising because some people benefit a lot more than others from the cruise ship visits. In particular the event organizer and the land owners receive a lot more income than the dancers and people who are selling handy crafts.

So on balance we would say the cruise ships are good for the local community however we are currently setting up a tourism task force that will include in its work monitoring the impact of tourism.

Posted by pippamatt 16:24 Comments (1)

Pentecost dare devils

We’ve heard so much about the land diving (Naghol) and from all accounts it sounded like a hoot, so we decided to take the plunge ourselves, not likely!!

Most of you would have seen pictures of the land diving on TV. We were lucky that this amazing display of courage occurs annually on Pentecost Island which is a 2 hour boat ride from our home village Ranon.

Our speed boat ride across was quite rough with 3m waves coming at us from all sides. The currents between the islands can be tricky causing an effect like being a cork in a washing machine. We are both proud to say we didn’t feed the fish!

Once safely on dry ground we found there would be a 4 hour wait so we had time to explore as our excitement about finally being able to see the land diving grew.

At the allotted time we were joined by 9 people from a chartered yacht and headed up hill to the 15m rickety tower made from logs, vines and bush rope where all the action takes place. The soil in front of the tower is cleared of rocks then loosened which apparently helps to reduce the chance of injury.

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What we saw at the Naghol really was an incredible experience. One at a time the boys would climb the tower to their designated diving spot. Two vines would be tied to their legs.

Meanwhile around 40 men and women, boys and girls in traditional dress were singing and dancing and essentially egging the jumpers on.
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Once tied “safely” to their restraints the jumpers walked to the end of their diving board and went through a series of gestures; back arching, clapping, deep breathes, praying, in preparation for their big jump. We were both really frightened for the jumpers and as they continued to gesture and psyche themselves to take the plunge the tension was intense.
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Finally when the jumper was ready they would lean forward and plunge at breakneck speed towards the ground. Instead of a smooth slowing like the bungey we know, they reach the limit of the vines and then there is a big crack as there downward motion is halted suddenly and they are flung sideways into the dirt ground.
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A cheering was raised by the crowd and we were most relieved to see all the six jumpers get to their feet after each jump.

We are both fairly adventurous people but quickly agreed that land diving would never be for us!!

Posted by pippamatt 16:09 Comments (1)

Matt's Dad goes bush!

Matt’s Dad, Peter, came and spent 11 days with us in Vanuatu. Peter pretty much experienced the full spectrum of what Vanuatu can offer the tourist, including; resort life, a touristy overnight trip on Tanna, and the cultural exchange of 5 days on Ambrym island.

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(Glass bottomed Kayaking at Le Lagon)

We stayed with Peter at Le Lagon for a few nights, and fitted in plenty of sports including golf, tennis and kayaking.

After a few days of a relaxed resort life it was time for a bit of adventure. We had heard that the Tanna volcano was an amazing experience…but the weather wasn’t looking good!!!! The thick cloud we flew through to reach Tanna confirmed our suspicions that the weather might not be the best to view the volcano. By the time we arrived at our bungalow accommodation, Jungle Oasis, rain looked imminent and after an hour of exploring the beautiful bungalow surrounds we were forced inside by a heavy downpour. It’s quite an investment to get to Tanna and as we were there for only one night we hoped for the rain to stop. By 4pm it had and we set off on our adventure!

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Matt and his Dad infront of Mt Yasur, Tanna Island

We had been hearing explosions from the Volcano all afternoon, and were eagerly anticipating getting up close to see the source of all the commotion. We decided to go on foot as we all felt like a walk and Jungle Oasis is only around 1 hour walk from the Volcano summit. The walk began well but by the time we got to with in 300m of the Crater a huge cloud rolled in and rain pelted down at a 45 degree angle totally drenching Peter and giving Matt’s raincoat and Pippa’s umbrella a good working over. However a great explosion turned our heads and we were amazed to see pieces of lava, some the size of a human, flying up into the sky. They seemed to move in slow motion as the lava lumps hung in the air before they fell back down out of site into the crater mouth. We all knew we had to see more of this!

The final push to the top was tough through the driving rain and as we got closer to the top the wind became even more furious forcing the rain against our faces and dampening our spirits. Once we reached the top there was no boiling cauldron of lava as we had imagined but a moonscape with clouds and volcano smoke whizzing by partially blocking our view of the crater. We huddled together and waited. After a cold wait of around 5 minutes (it seemed much longer) a small explosion sent streams of lava flying into the air. It was quite exciting but the rain really was cold. During the next wait we wavered between heading back to our cozy bungalow and staying in the rain, but before we could make our final decision there was a great flash of light, a huge explosion and the sky lit up as great chunks of man sized lava filled the sky. After that we were like druggies waiting for the next hit. We ended up staying for more than an hour in the cold wind and rain (Matt was shivering) but were able to experience some of the most amazing sites we had ever seen.

In the end our guide Charlie had to make us promise that we would head back after the next explosion. We reluctantly agreed…and not long after doing so were rewarded with the biggest explosion of the night.

Although the conditions were not ideal our Tanna experience was certainly unforgettable. We managed a little video and a few dodgy photos in the rain. The best one is shown below.

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(The dodgiest photo ever taken of a lava explosion)

After Tanna we had a night back in Vila and then headed to Ambrym. Peter had a great time and was able to test out a few tours for us including the survivor tour, the kids tour and the revamped Rom tour. He also got to meet many of the great friends we have made and enjoyed himself thoroughly. He left saying it was his best holiday!

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(Peter was quite a marksman. He hit a bulls eye from about 10 metres)

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(All on Ambrym are so warm and welcoming, but the kids really make it special)

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(The High Chiefs of Ambrym Magic danced the Rom sending tingles down our spines)

Posted by pippamatt 13:33 Comments (3)

Marathon journey

We had a marathon journey trying to get from Ambrym to Vila. The boat driver told us we would be departing Ranon at 5am to get to the airport by 8am. We had to pick up a woman along the way but when we arrived at her village, she was no where to be seen. The boat driver walked up the hill to her village to find she was still asleep! She took her time packing her bags and 45 minutes later moseyed down the hill to our boat.

By this stage we were fuming and super stressed we were going to miss our plane. When we finally arrived at the airport, it was all closed up…the plane was 2 hours late…on island time!

When the airport opened up, we found they didn’t have our booking that we had made over the phone. The flight was all booked up but they just managed to squeeze us on a later flight. We spent 5 hours in the airport (which is more like a concrete building with no toilet, shop, drinks, etc). Pippa had a headache the whole day just to make the journey that much more pleasant. Our flight took us via Santo Island where we had to wait 1 hour for a connecting flight to Vila. We finally arrived at 7pm that night!

While in Vila, we were lucky to have a beautiful place to house sit for a week overlooking Vila bay. Matt spent the week working at Live and Learn while Pippa spent her time in meetings, running errands and stocking up on supplies for Ambrym.

Last weekend we trialed one of the tours a Youth Ambassador volunteer has been developing with the local community. The tour was of the some cultural sites of a respected high chief called Roi Mata. He died 400 years ago and was buried with his multiple wives and family members of which some were buried alive.

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As part of the tour was a tour of a beautiful cave with ancient rock art.

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There were also some beautiful handicrafts to buy.

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Pippa and Lisa showing off some of their purchases!

Another highlight of our week in Vila was the news that our Rom Dance article was published in the Virgin Blue In-flight Magazine. We got a 2 page colour spread with our names mentioned in the bi-line! You can check it out on their website.

Go to:

http://www.virginblue.com.au/products/voyeur/may06/?section=Song%20and%20dance

Posted by pippamatt 22:02 Comments (0)

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