Goat killing, bumpheads, and kava
Since our last blog we spent a couple of very quiet, but nice days in the anchorage near Dixon Reef, and then sailed down to Southwest Bay yesterday. Dixon Reef turned out to be an amazing place for snorkeling. The reef is very expansive, with gorgeous coral formations and tons of colorful fish. For a while we just kept seeing lots and lots of beautiful, but small fish, but then we were rewarded by seeing a large school of bumphead parrotfish. They look just like the name would indicate – huge fish (up to 4 feet long), with a tremendous long face topped by a great big bump. They look more like a cartoon than a real fish. They travel in schools and we happened upon about 10 of them feeding on the reef. They let us follow them for quite a long way. It was a real thrill. We also saw a few white tipped sharks and a sea turtle. The village of Dixon Reef is not near the anchorage so we did not have much interaction with the locals, except on Sunday when we walked to town. The anchorage was beautiful, but a bit uncomfortable as it was not well protected from the ocean swell. The only other boat there was Cardea, with our friend Jim on it.
We have just spent our first day in Southwest Bay anchored outside the village of Lembinwen. We were here last year and enjoyed it very much so we wanted to bring Hannah here. We have had quite an adventure today. As a matter of fact, Mark and Hannah left the boat an hour ago to go drink kava on the beach with the locals. It was a rainy day and we almost did not leave the boat this morning, but I am so glad we did. First we went to the village where we walked around and met some of the villagers. People here are friendly, but extremely shy. A few people remembered us from last year.
There is a small river that runs by the edge of the village and empties out into the ocean and on the other side of it there is a very large ranch owned by a New Zealander. The ranch has sheep, goats, cattle, chickens and a few riding horses. It is very large, covering over 200 acres of land, and it has the only western style home on the island as far as we can tell. We had caught glimpses of the lovely ranch from the water, and had even visited the grounds last year, although the owner was not in the country at that time. The ranch sells their beef to markets in Vanuatu, exports some to Australia and New Zealand, and gives away a lot to the villagers. This time, when we went to visit, we were very lucky, as the owner’s 22 year old son was there. When we walked up to the house we saw him and a few other white boys near the shed where they process and store meat and eggs. We went to say hello and realized they were right in the middle of butchering several goats. There were severed heads and entrails sitting in a huge pile on the ground, and a lot of blood.
The owners son, Scott, is an extremely friendly, outgoing and generous young guy. He spends several weeks a year here, and the rest of the year in New Zealand where he owns his own butcher shop. His dad apparently owned about 50 butcher shops in New Zealand and just fell in love with Vanuatu and decided
to build a ranch here and now lives here about one quarter of each year. Scott explained to us that a client of theirs had just put in an order for 10 goats and so they were in the process of killing and butchering the animals just as we arrived. It was not a pretty sight, but extremely interesting. Scott slung a rifle with a scope over his shoulder and we followed him out to the lovely meadow where the goats were grazing. He felled three more goats with a single shot between the eyes (from 50 meters) as we watched and then two of his friends ran out and slit their throats (anyone hungry yet?). It does sound kind of horrible, but it really was so interesting. Two of Scott’s friends are young New Zealanders who are in Vanuatu teaching English to some of the kids in the next village over (about a mile away). Another of his friends is an engineer who comes out to Vanuatu once a year or so to repair equipment on the ranch. Scott asked if we would stay and have lunch with them. It was a hard invitation to refuse. The home is not ostentatious, but is very lovely, with a huge veranda overlooking the bay, the palm covered hills, and the beautiful water. Small outriggers paddle back and forth across the bay with fishermen. All of the local people love Scott and his family because they are apparently quite generous and are continuously doing things for the villagers – including paying for the rebuilding of an entire village after a hurricane several years ago, giving away meats and eggs, and employing many of the locals on the ranch. Scott insisted on preparing lunch for all of us – 7 guests in all. He grilled meat (of course), prepared potatoes and salad and bread (baked by a local woman) and insisted on giving us several steaks to take back to the boat with us. Then he asked us to meet him in the village to drink kava at his favorite kava bar. Mark and Hannah and Jim all went – but I was too exhausted to leave the boat. Hope they get back soon so we can hear all about it!
This is Mark now, just back from 2 1/2 hours of “kava crawl” though the kava bars (nakamals) of Lembinwen village. This village of 300 persons has 6 nakamals. The first nakamal Hannah and I visted was in a thatched hut and the second (“Gideon’s”) was outside a hut (the rain had stopped) further from the beach. We sat on plain wooden benches. One typically drinks kava standing up, taking the whole portion without taking a breath, and then spits afterward either onto the dirt floor of the nakamal or outside. We were with Jim of Cardea, the four Kiwis, and two Vanuatans who work on the ranch. It was very mellow and Hannah and I had several cups of kava over two hours.
Kava makes conversation easy and makes it comfortable to just hang around in the nakamal being thoughtful, or at least that is the perception. The kava drinking was still in full swing when Hannah and I left for the boat but we thought Laura might be worried about us. I ran into Solomon whom we know well from last year and invited him and Rita, his wife, to visit us in the mid-afternoon tomorrow. At five in the evening, we will have our Kiwi friends and Jim over for beers and snacks. So our social schedule is quite full, in spite of the rain.