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Published: November 22nd 2012
In which our heroes arrive to a non-western country, become guests in a local parish, backpack to a remote island and twice try to get stoned but are unsuccessful.
If you drill a hole through the earth from Israel you will emerge in the South Pacific. The closest land to that point will be a one of the most remote islands in the world, the small island of Rapa Iti in French Polynesia. In my mid 20s I was sure that by age 40 I will find myself on Rapa but having passed my 39th
birthday and understanding that getting to a location that is served by a once-in-a-few-months transport ship taking 3 weeks to arrive is probably not a possibility in my current obligations. So I pushed the timeframe for getting to Rapa to age 60.
Still, the S. Pacific is just next door to New Zealand and after much back and forth we decided to take a week off from our NZ vacation to visit there. Just where “there” was located, also took many weekends of research. Fiji was deemed “too touristic”, Tonga which is closest to NZ was found to be not interesting enough
and French Polynesia is too expensive and in any case has too many French speakers on it to be fun.
And then my research caught sight of Vanuatu. A country so interesting that it is one of the few countries in the world to be colonized by two powers at the same time (France and UK until the late 70s). A country so fun that is was rated top in the UN’s Gross National Happiness index in 2009. A place that the last documented cannibal ate his meal 2 years after the Beatles sang their first “love me do”. A country with one of the lowest per-capita incomes outside of Africa. Just the kind of place I wish to visit J
Hagit, preoccupied with the whole baby thing, started to suspect something was wrong with this “vacation to a pacific island” at the Auckland airport. Normally flight attendants are the best looking people in the nation but the flight attendants on Air Vanuatu were … to be PC … not nice looking. The plane, as well, was past it best times and the whole atmosphere got Hagit to understand, correctly, that we will not be visiting the most
modern country in the world.
On the first day we traveled to a waterfall. We got there on a local bus which dropped us off at the trail head. But before we started walking we heard singing from the other side of the road and through the greenery. It was a Sunday and in the forest under an open shed stood a few tens of people - in the best cloths they could find - singing Hymns. It was a makeshift church. Under the shed were mostly the women and older people and the small children were held by the fathers just behind the shed . We listened to the congregation sing and after a few songs (some of them, I’m sure, repeating just for our sake) I told Hagit we can leave. Just then the priest started talking in English. He welcomed us to the parish and everyone clapped. Hagit and I were not ready for what came next. Every man, woman, child and sick person in the gathering came up a d shook our hands. Including the children’s hands, including Zohar. Liya stood in attention and gave her hand as if she was
the Queen of England. Ariel couldn’t have cared. Hagit was unsuccessfully busy protecting Zohar from the kisses. Some people came to greet us two times. Some, upon hearing we were from Israel, the land of Jesus, came for thirds.
The next day we rented a car and traveled around the capital island – Efate. In every village we passed all people waved their hands to say hello. Wherever we stopped we were again greeted by all and all wanted to touch us and especially Zohar.
Our next adventure came the following day when we left the main island to a small island called Pele Island. It is so small you can walk around it in about an hour. On it there are 4 villages with about 100 people in total with no electricity and no roads. To get there we took an hour long bus and then 20 minutes in a small motorized boat.
We stayed in the smallest village and got our little hut just facing the most beautiful pacific beach one can imagine. It was heavenly.
Dinner was caught by our host on the atoll using a spear gun.
4 fish that were served with laplap – a not very tasty dish made from some root cooked with green banana served in banana leaves. There was also a papaya salad served with lemon juice. We watch the sunset and with no electricity it soon became very very dark. There was no moon that night and waking up at midnight to pee I could not see my hand in front of my face but I could see thousands of stars surrounding me.
The next day we woke up to idle on the beach, watching a partial solar eclipse and seeing the tide come up and then down.
On the way back the sea was a bit rough and we all got wet from the waves that rocked our little boat. Amazingly in the 20 minute ride we saw a dolphin, a sea cow, a large turtle and schools of fish jumping. This, mind you, was not a wildlife tour .All these critters are normally not bothered by tourist and we were just lucky to see them.
Back on the main island we waited for our bus back. Whenever and wherever we had time, the kids were playing
around with themselves in venting games with whatever they found lying around. . I realized that we were quit successfully backpacking with the children. I also realized that for the 2 days that were away from civilization and the children were away from their toys they were playing much nicer with each other. Not fighting who gets what toy.
Kava is a discussing local drink.
Kava is made by grinding a local root and sometimes made by boys chewing on the root to make it more potent.
Kava taste like mud. (בוצק is the best term)
Kava is drunk from a coconut shell shared by everyone.
So why drink kava? Kava has the opposite effect on the body then vodka-red bull . it numbs the body and the mind.
Vanuatu kava is the strongest kava in the Pacific.
So naturally I had to taste some.
Kava is served in dark drinking spots after sunset. There was a kava place just next door to our hotel and for ½ a dollar I got a used cup and some kava from a bucket.
I drank my disgusting cup of
mud and I was expecting to get high. Or low. Or otherwise incapacitated.
My lips got numb as if I had a Novocain shoot. My throat contracted and created a lot of spit.
But I felt no other mind controlling sensation. I think I was too relaxed and was unable to get any more relaxed.
I will stay with alcohol as my preferred drug.
Quote of the week #1
- אני עף לזילנד“I’m flying to Zealand” – Ariel jumping on a trampoline in our hotel in Vanuatu
Quote of the week #2
“No alarms and no surprises” – Radiohead playing on my iPod at 6AM waiting while the sun rise over the pacific. Just the same time the war in Gaza started.
Quote of the week #3
“Australia urged both sides for restraint” –the Australian news channel we saw while in Vanuatu quoiting the Australian foreign ministry regarding the situation in Gaza not quite understating their lack of any control over what is happening.
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