Part Eight


Ikquaramanu Village

Tanna, Vanuatu







August 30, 2012


Ikquaramanu is a mostly kastom village a two hour walk from Port Resolution. I say mostly because they still prefer bush medicine to western, the ladies prepare meals without help from even the simplest kitchen gadgets, the men gather the coconuts and prepare the milk, and kava is an integral part of their life. But a copy of the Watchtower in Bislama in the tree house we stayed in last year revealed they are also Seventh Day Adventists.

Joseph, Chief Kamisak's first born son and soon to be successor, responded almost immediately when Jim texted him to say we were back in Port Resolution. Last year we took many pictures of our stay in Ikquaramanu and told him we would put together a web page to let others know about Mountain Breeze Bungalows and Tree House and the wonderful cultural experiences they offer.



Early the next morning Tomson paddled out in his dugout canoe to tell us Joseph was on the beach. Jim dinghied in to fetch him while I tidied up Tenaya. Joseph was so excited! He really is a businessman at heart and could not wait to see what Jim had done for him. Out came the iPad and up came the page for Mountain Breeze on, the website we've started to help bungalows and guest houses in Vanuatu at no charge. Tourism is in its infancy here and most proprietors do not have computers or access to the internet. But, they have the desire to make their businesses work and Jim loves to help people.

We chose the name vanuatutravels because our site is tenayatravels and that is the direction our minds went. We've recently learned that Vanuatu Tourism has the site So... we'll see how that goes.



Joseph was thrilled with the work Jim had done so far on the site and was keen for us to return to Ikquaramanu so his father could thank us. We walked over to the village beneath the smoking volcano after our friend, Lori Lynn, left Port Resolution.



As we walked up the road and neared the turnoff to the bungalows, Joseph's youngest daughter, Reharp, met us and escorted us to the village. Joseph took us to our bungalow where we settled in. I invited Reharp in to show her the photo album we made full of pictures of the ladies' Napen Napen dance they performed for us last year. She was very excited to see her older sister, Susie, among the face-painted dancers.



A short while later Joseph summoned us to join the rest of the family in the garden. He translated for his father, the chief of a large area and more than 500 people. We were ceremonially welcomed, thanked for our help, and told we are now part of their family. We are welcome any time. Should Corinne or Scott, our children, ever choose to visit, they would be accepted and treated as family and could stay as long as they wished. Jim was presented with a circular pig tusk at the end of a necklace and a beautiful feather and I received my own lovely necklace minus any animal parts and an equally beautiful feather. We were humbled by their kindness.



After Joseph's lengthy heartfelt speech and many nods from Chief Kamisak we shook hands once again before Jim stood to make his own brief but sincere speech and I followed with a few words of thanks. We presented Chief Kamisak with the photo album and the women that had been standing quietly around the perimeter quickly rushed in, took it away and began thumbing through it, oohing, aahing, pointing and giggling. It was a big hit.



Joseph loves to educate visitors about the native plants and their medicinal purposes. Some, he says, are known by all. Others are understood by very few. He walked us around the large, lovely garden and explained how the plants were used. It was fascinating! And I thought they had been planted solely for their beauty.



Joseph's younger brother, Andrew, races horses and takes guests on horseback tours. He has four horses and arranges trips to the mountains or coast depending on the riders' abilities.



Andrew led us over to the nakamal, across the valley and up the side of a mountain for a beautiful hike through the dense bush. We emerged at a small village which is also under the care of his father. Several times we crossed pipes carrying water and near the top of the mountain we came across a large water tank. It was bought with money from the entrance fees to the volcano to provide water to the villages all around the base of Mt. Yasur. On the way back we stopped at an enormous banyan tree and Andrew's young son climbed high up inside it.



Besides racing horses, Andrew has a new business. He's just finished building a kava bar on the main road near the entrance to the volcano. Smart move! Chief Komisak was there chopping the root into small pieces when we arrived. Charlie, his youngest son (but still an adult) sat with his cheeks full chewing. Yippee, we were going to have kava!












Andrew, Charlie and another man prepared the kava as Jim and I sat on the bench and watched. Because it is a kava bar and not a nakamal, women are allowed to enter and may even drink the earthy tasting, slightly lip numbing, mind mellowing, muscle relaxing potion should they desire. Usually the root is ground, hence the small chunks, but for our small party it was chewed. We can't picture the chief drinking ground kava - that would be like instant coffee. Or much worse.



Once it was dark we gathered in the dining room so everyone could see the web page for Mountain Breeze Bungalows along with the activities and cultural experiences available in the village.



The next day, in another part of the village, we were greeted by ladies in traditional costume and welcomed with woven leaf necklaces decorated with flowers. Sitting on a log under the canopy of green, Jim and I watched a demonstration of laplap being prepared. Because it must cook for over an hour in the ground, another had already been made and was ready to eat.

The layers of leaves, rocks, sticks and dirt that created the oven were discarded before our cook pulled the hot package, wrapped in a banana leaf, from the earth. She opened up the small bundle revealing the glutionous meal made of ripe and green bananas and coconut milk. She sliced it, poured more coconut milk over it and served us each a small portion. It was delicious because, as you know, I like laplap!



After our meal we went to a clearing where ladies and children performed several dances for us. What great photo opportunities these were! Like last year, Joanne taught me some dances. What fun!



Charlie demonstrated how people are carried with leaves if they are injured or sick.



We watched and listened outside the pen as one of the dancers called the two pigs to dinner. It's a very loud, distinctive call and the pigs quickly came trotting up to devour the coconut slop.



When the time came to leave we gave Chief Komisak a hand crank flashlight and Joseph a Tenaya Crew t-shirt. I gave Reharp a paua (abalone) necklace I'd been wearing and we promised to give Charlie some rope when he rode his horse over to Port Resolution. We also made arrangements to buy some fresh kava root from him.



We left Ikquaramanu and walked across the vast ash plain to Sulphur Bay. We wanted to meet Chief Isaak and see his son, Moli, before the Friday night music celebration began. Andrew accompanied us to the location where Lake Siwi drained to the sea and then said "follow the road and it will lead you right into the village." Then he turned and headed back. Right. It was 5:00 PM, would be dark in an hour, and we saw no signs of a road and had no idea how far Sulphur Bay was. I thought of it as an adventure but Jim was a little worried. That's his job, to worry.

We wondered if the group of ladies sitting in the middle of nowhere might know where the road was so walked over, introduced ourselves and shook hands. They spoke French and scolded me for not learning Bislama. Duly noted, will do that next year. Anyway, with a little French and a lot of hand signals we figured out where the road was and headed off. Eventually it appeared as the ash plain ended.



Go to August 2012 Part Nine John Frum Movement, Sulphur Bay, Tanna, Vanuatu



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