With a local Tusker beer in my hand I trudge behind Roy while the song of exotic birds above makes me breathe in deep as I relish that wonderful feeling of being somewhere new for the first time. After a while I cant help but notice that he has a slightly widen stance to his stride and its almost as if he is hopping along the clay-like path through the jungle. I admire the fact that he is without shoes but there is something strange about the growing silence between us. At the beach he was very loquacious but the deeper we wander into the dense tropical forest, the less he wants me to speak. I have to keep up as he darts left and right then ducks under branches and roots of prehistoric trees, trekking further away from the narrow main footpath. I try to remember where we are going and pick out distinctive trees for beacons, but soon I am lost. I don’t know if he is really taking me to where he said he would and I am starting to get the feeling we are not supposed to be going there in the first place. I get paranoid and think about turning around to run away from him before its too late. No one will hear my screams out here and he is probably a master at slicing through flesh with that machete he is carrying. After all, he is taking me to an ancient cannibal-feeding site…
Before my little adventure into the jungle however, my eyes were blessed with some sights that you will only find here on this small Vanuatu Island of Wala. As I stroll pass the impeccably tidy island houses made from palms, I get to admire the children and their tropical pets. It makes me reminisce about my furry childhood friends and although I did not have any exotic pets, we did have eleven dogs at a time. The children here have all kinds of domesticated creatures. From colorful birds and patient chickens to chilled out iguanas and graceful turtles. The best thing about these pets is that they are not kept in cages. The brilliantly colored iguana chills on a Melanesian girls’ head while the baby turtles go back to their big tidal pool at the end of the day. Earlier on in the day I gave a small boy that was playing with his pet iguana a soccer ball as a gift. He was pretty stoked, but when I happened to walk pass their house later in the day I noticed the ball discarded far to one side, the boy clearly preferring to play with his pet Iguana named Roy. Two things came to mind; An Iguana is obviously a far better thing to play with seeing that a ball can’t sit on your shoulder and secondly most things here are named Roy. It makes me happy to observe the contentedness of these islanders. I don’t know it yet but at the end of this day I will have newfound respects, learn more about trusting strangers and have an admiration for the parents of this place.
Where else will you see this?
Starfish and baby turtles for pets – any child’s dream
A baby Hawksbill turtle
Although the island is not very large I quickly find myself wandered far away from all the tourists at the beach. I like being away from everyone else and I feel I get to see things that no one else does. As I stroll around the village, I see a local man dressed in nothing but a piece of rope around his genitals, the kind of rope-like sack material you buy your oranges in. Although it doesn’t look very comfy, it looks like the ultimate commando setup. He notices me looking and I hesitate as he calls me over, thinking there can’t be much more the rope man can show me as much is already revealed.
“ Hello, my name is Roy. Do you want to see something interesting?” Yes, another man named Roy wants to show me something. I say OK but as long as it does not involve anything to do with rope coming off. “ I want to show you how I make a fire. I can make a fire with no matches.” We walk to his back yard and he asks me to sit as he gathers his materials. “ This is the only way I make a fire every day. I never use matches, a real man makes fire like this.” Roy proceeds to show me a method that I know if I had to try it I will end up with blisters on my hand and a definite night in the dark. In a matter of seconds he has the husk of a coconut in flames, keeping a close eye on my reaction to his natural and ingenious lighter. Very impressive. As I say goodbye to my new hero in his red rope setup I keep quiet about the fact that I have a lighter in my bag. I cant help but thinking that this guy must be pulling a lot of chicks with an attire and fire making tricks like that.
No, they don’t grow that large on this island. Roy in his island vibing rope undies.
How to make a fire like a champ:
Step one: Be a man and try to wear nothing but your undies.
Step two: Have your stuff ready. You don’t want to be running around looking for husk after an ember is made.
Step three: Be patient and don’t let sweat ruin your efforts
Step four: Be a man and don’t cry when you get smoke in the eye.
Step five: Braai
… We stop at what looks like randomly scattered concrete blocks covered in moss. All thoughts about being eaten by another human disappear when Roy breaks the tense silence with a whisper in the shadows. “ Look there, under the tomb. The last skull of a human being that was eaten by cannibals, more than two hundred years ago.” I can’t help but get the creeps as I imagine the episode of savageness that played out here centuries ago. I do however also become aware of the antithesis of the scene. The top of the skull is eerily hidden in the undergrowth but exposed just enough so a plant can shoot new green leaves through it.
Cannibal tombs in the jungle
Skull in the undergrowth
Roy became his normal unreserved and gabby self when we got closer to the beach after the sinister little tour, telling me all about his ancestors and the many different things he believes. He introduced me to his wife and children and insisted that we have some kava together. From the varied experiences of just one day on this beautiful island in the Pacific I realize a few things. I learnt that you could trust strangers, even if they take you into the unknown with a machete. I have a new found respect for the real men out there, living without the essential things that have turned many western men into pansies, and I have an absolute appreciation for the parents out there that teach their children to live in harmony with nature and its many wonderful creatures.