Journalist Ruth Taber was on board Oosterdam and sent in blog posts during her cruise. Enjoy!
Friday – February 1, 2013 – onboard the Oosterdam – tendered off Mystery Island, Vanuatu.
Yesterday’s excursion to Ekasup Cultural Village (near Port Vila) was superb. 500 villagers here continuing a traditional lifestyle going back hundreds of years. Their tribal chief represents the law, weddings are arranged and wealth is signified by the number of pigs owned. Our guide (his name is Sifo – and if anyone had trouble spelling he suggested we remember him as C4) took us through village customs, cooking, hunting, fishing (women’s work!), medicine from local plants and leaves. And more! A ginger leaf pit served as a storage place for their dried bananas; grated with a shell, the banana juice was drained and the pulp dried – and stored up to a year or more in the ginger leaf pit.
Innovative sticks with vine cuttings wrapped at around one end were used for fishing – villagers surround a school of fish and stomp these sticks in the water and the vine juice removes the oxygen and the fish succumb (it’s important to know which vine leaves are used – according to Sifo.) The program ended with a few dances and songs accompanied by “home-made” musical instruments in addition to guitar.
There was unanimous agreement by all the guests on this tour – this was an extraordinary event we had experienced.
Today, Feb. 1, we’re just off Mystery Island. Not sure where the name came from – some say it‘s got resident ghosts. It’s uninhabited but stunning. Tenders (Oosterdam’s life boats) took guests back and forth – no crowds, no waiting – what a pleasure. I walked around the entire island at the edge of the water – warm, beautiful turquoise color. Snorkelers were enjoying themselves as well as swimmers and lazy sun seekers.
When ships stop here, residents of a nearby island come with their wares and set up temporary markets to sell local souvenirs. They’re in the middle of the island away from the water and I didn’t even realize they were present until I was returning to the tender.
So rare to find such pristine beaches; this is a photographer’s delight with unusual plants and beautiful flowers.
Oh yes – couldn’t leave this entry without mentioning the Pavlova dessert at last night’s dinner – very popular Australian meringue pastry and a popular choice on the Oosterdam. I know why – filled with cherries, it was absolutely delicious!