I arrived on Bokissa Island, six miles off Espiritu Santo, in 1988 from Tokyo, six months after my husband, Kevin, arrived here from Australia. I had no knowledge of the country, no management experience, and knew only a few words of English. I lived on the island for six years, operated a SCUBA diving business called Bokissa Island Dive, ran Bokissa Island Resort for a few years, then moved to Luganville town on Espiritu Santo Island - to begin the dive company, “Aquamarine”.
Back then, I thought people would go mad living on a tiny island, where the pace of life is permanently set on slow motion. But the longer I stayed, the more I learnt about the people, their culture, the nature and timelessness of the island itself. Six years of life on small island taught me to speak Bislama (the indigenous Vanuatu language), to work with ni-Vanuatu people, to deal with cyclones and earthquakes, and it also taught me endless patience and an appreciation of something far more important than the reckless pace of the modern world.
I am here to introduce you to the fascinating Melanesian people, the majestic island of Espiritu Santo, and to share with you the other amazing islands that make up this unique South Pacific paradise known as Vanuatu.
- Mayumi Green
At the end of August 2006, Mayumi and Yumi Takei (a JOCV volunteer at College de Luganville, Santo) completed a successful hike through the tropical jungle of South Santo to a very remote Custom village called "Marakai". Mayumi had made a shorter trip to Marakai (along with Dr Jo Bell, former vet of Luganville) in November 2005 and was so fascinated by the beauty of tropical jungle and the bush people of South Santo, she could not wait to visit Marakai once more.
Mayumi and Yumi’s adventure to Marakai included a 5 night and 6 day hike through Marakai - Tanmet - Vunaspef. The following story and photograph has been supplied by Mayumi Green in the hope of inspiring others to visit the more remote and far-away villages of South Santo.
Day 1: Myself, Yumi, our friend Samuel from Vunaspef and Andy from Tanmet (both sons of the Chief of the village) drove to Namoru village in South Santo. There we picked up Thomas and Alexi who where to be our guides to hike us through to Marakai. Samuel and Alexi guided my first trip to Marakai, so I was feeling very comfortable with the crew.
We left Namoru village at 10.00 am. Villagers provided their advice of the planned hike and we then left the 4WD behind at Melesule and hiked to Malatao village at Wylapa River. We arrived at Supemalao village (823 feet above sea level) at 1.00 pm for a short rest.
While there we met our friend Baba the Nambut (means deaf) and then continued our hike passing Jalakatui village (1,000 feet), and reached Marukari village (1,330 feet) around 2.30 pm. We reached Tabunbotari village (1,154 feet) at 5.00 pm to stay for our first night.
the same village I had previously stayed at. Last time there was only
three adults in the village, but this second time around there was about 50
people in the village and large numbers of pikinini (children), who were
back for school holidays and having a lafet (party or celebration) and
great time with their families and friends.
We started the last big climb to our destination village of Marakai (1,937 feet) arriving there at 3.00 pm. Just like the last time I was there, we were invited into the guest house and looked after by the late chief’s wife Irene, and served with hot kaikai of taro and leaf cooked with ginger and coconut milk.
Chief Moli Sula and Assistant Chief Redion came back from their garden
work, the whole village sang "Nagariamel" for us. They used
to sing this special song when they lived with Jimmy Stevens who created
“Coconuts rebellion” before the 1980 Independence of Vanuatu
Marakai is a pure custom village. They don't use money and everything for living is grown and taken from the bush environment, including salt which is drained from water and ashes of the Black Palm tree. The men use the bark of the Black Palm for their Mal Mal, and the women use the leaves of Nangaria. Glen and Alexi had advised us that the people don't except money to stay in their villages, so instead we took gifts of sugar, salt, candles, matches, a lighter and other things in return for the hospitality we received at every village.
As soon as
we arrived, all the boys grabbed their guitars and wooden base and started
the singing. I had no idea how much energy they could muster. Samuel's
wife was expected our return so she had prepared huge kaikai of Bunyap
(taro, kumara, island cabbage and beef cooked in laplap style). We had
yet another Kava ceremony, played music, sang, ate and then everyone slept
around a fire in the same Nakamal.
One of the custom stories of South Santo is that if I were to ask a man for his sister's name, he is not allowed to tell me. The same goes for asking a woman for her brother’s name. Also, they cannot tell you their brother-in-law or sister-in-law names, but they can write the names down. The reason is respect for each other. It is a true story, ask anyone from South Santo. Perhaps we will never understand some of their customs, but that should not stop us respecting and letting people live their lives according to their own custom.
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