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Cruise Diary: Port Vila, Vanuatu

Guest Sharon Johnson and her husband were on Volendam for the trans-Pacific voyage to Sydney and the circumnavigation of Australia for 55 days. Enjoy this post and photos from their call at Port Vila, Vanuatu.

We sailed into Port Vila very early in the morning. It was only an overnight sail from Fiji, but we lost a day due to the crossing of the International Dateline. We took a tour to “Ekasup Cultural Village” which has won several awards (Vanuatu’s “Best Tourist Attraction”) for their presentation of Melanesian customs. Melanesia means black islands. We drove out of Port Vila, crossed a river and rode along a very good paved road past houses before turning down a road to the Ekasup Village. We were greeted by our guide who lead us along a path to the village. Before we arrived at the village, warriors silently appeared out of the jungle to challenge us — we were in their territory. And until about the 1860’s it would have been cannibal territory. – Sharon and Al Johnson

Catamarans and sailboats at Port Vila as seen from the Volendam.

Catamarans and sailboats at Port Vila as seen from the Volendam.

The Ekasup Village Guide.

The Ekasup Village Guide.

We were startled by this warrior in the tree above us as we walked down the trail.

We were startled by this warrior in the tree above us as we walked down the trail.

When we arrived at the Ekasup Village, the spokesman for the tribe greeted us. He told us that the green plant standing in the path was a warning not to proceed any further or you would have been killed in the old days. Those who came in peace carried a green leafed branch in their hand. I found this interesting as the Yapese on the Micronesian Island of Yap have the same custom.

When we arrived at the Ekasup Village, the spokesman for the tribe greeted us. He told us that the green plant standing in the path was a warning not to proceed any further or you would have been killed in the old days. Those who came in peace carried a green leafed branch in their hand. I found this interesting as the Yapese on the Micronesian Island of Yap have the same custom.

The spokesmen then led us to a clearing where we could sit down. He explained how his tribe would have stored food for usage in times when food was not readily available. He told us that the rainy season brings strong winds and sometimes cyclones which knock down all the fruit in the trees which the tribe couldn’t possibly eat all at one time. And if they didn’t prepare the fruit for storing, the fruit and vegetables would rot. Notice the huge bunch of bananas. He took one of the bananas, peeled it and then scraped it on a rock making what looked like to me — banana purée. They then squeezed the banana puree to remove all the water. Then the strained bananas were placed in a pit lined with huge banana leaves. When food was needed, they would take the dried bananas and add coconut milk thus reconstituting the bananas. Bananas can be stored up to three years using this method.

Mashing the banana into a purée

Mashing the banana into a purée.

Our Ekasup guide told us that the girls of the village get married around 18 to 20. The men get married later as they have to give a dowry for the girl that they marry. Most of the marriages are arranged. And they get married for life.

Woman of the village weaving

Woman of the village weaving.

We walked inside a Banyan tree that was so large that about 20 people could fit inside when there was a cyclone. Note the young man with a fire smoldering inside the banyan tree.

We walked inside a Banyan tree that was so large that about 20 people could fit inside when there was a cyclone. Note the young man with a fire smoldering inside the banyan tree.

I bought a necklace from the young girl in the photo.

I bought a necklace from the young girl in the photo.

Posing with some of the members of the tribe.

Posing with some of the members of the tribe.

After leaving the village, we drove through Port Vila seeing the sights — their Parliament, Police Station, French Quarter and also Port Vila’s Chinatown. Until 1980, Port Vila was governed by both the French and British. Our guide told us that during that time they had two police stations and two hospitals. After independence they combined the two police stations into one.

The orange roofed building is the Parliament building for Vanuatu.

The orange roofed building is the Parliament building for Vanuatu.

Port Vila War Memorial honoring those who died in both World Wars

Port Vila War Memorial honoring those who died in both World Wars.

Al and the Volendam

Al and the Volendam.

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