Monday, 11 July 2011

Land diving experience in Pentecost Island

At the end of June, we had visitors coming to Vila and so we planned to have a weekend getaway out of Efate. First option, the popular Tanna volcano, was declined due to its current increasing volcanic activities. As we were working on the plan B, the idea to see the infamous land diving ritual in Pentecost island came up. At the beginning, I was not quite enthusiastic with it, knowing that we would have to pay a lot for day return chartered flight to Pentecost. Nevertheless, we went to the airline office to check the price and seat availability for the flight.

Luckily, we were informed that Air Vanuatu offer a land diving package for VUV 44,000 or equal to AUD 400 per person, including return tickets (approximately cost VUV 22,000), 2 nights accomodation plus meals, refreshments, return transfer to the airport in Pentecost, fee to enter the jump site (VUV 8,000) and camera fee. This option is taken as the four of us are not willing to spend a lot of money only for a day trip to Pentecost, hence we have to make the most of our time while we are there. Again, we are lucky as the land diving ritual takes place once a week every Saturday from early April to end of June and the ritual we are going to see will be the last one for this year!

Upon arrival at the Lonorore airport on Saturday morning, we waited for the other tourists who came with the chartered flight and some others who came with their yacht. We walked for few minutes to the jump site, where some men were preparing the ritual. Land diving is a custom in the southern Pentecost, an original version of bungee jumping, where men jump from a 20-40 metre manmade tower with the vines tied to their ankles and land at soft soil ground. The tower takes about five to six weeks to build using the tree trunks and can be used several times. There were ten divers, all men, ready to jump from different heights. The first jump was done by a boy from the lowest point, and followed by the others with increasing heights. A group of men and women sang and danced with excitement, encouraging the diver who was ready to jump. It was spectacular!

The custom dance

Land diving or commonly known as naghol celebrates the yam harvest and is a fertility rite for men. It is originated from the legend about a woman who fled from her husband and hid in a tree. Tamale, her husband, chased her and begged her to go down. As she refused, Tamale climbed the tree and when he reached the top, she jumped. Tamale was shocked and therefore he followed, only to realise that his wife had tied the vines to her ankles. Nowadays, only men do this rite to show the women that they cannot be tricked again. When the divers jump, they curl up their head and touch the earth, understood as the symbol in making the land fertile for the following year's yam crop.

When the rite finished about one hour later, we were supposed to be picked up by the truck from Noda Guesthouse. As we were waiting for the truck, a couple approached us. Surprisingly, they brought the message from the guesthouse owner to collect us since the river was flooded and therefore the truck could not go through, so they planned to take us along with their....YACHT!!!! The couple, who are very friendly and kindhearted, are on their way cruising the South Pacific ocean with their yacht since last year. Few minutes later, we boarded a very nice yacht cruising for about one hour to our destination. We were so excited as none of us has ever been on a yacht before :D

The transport, the guest house, and local veggies

The first night we had Melanesian feast where the couple and their two friends came along to join. It was a traditional meal with local vegetables, taro, chicken and a whole small pig! We managed to be the first in the queue and took the chicken, which was, fortunately, cooked separately from the pig. Lessons learnt, we should seek the information about the type of food to be served prior to attending any kind of feast next time. Nevertheless, we are satisfied with the guesthouse and would recommend anyone interested in visiting Waterfall village to stay at Noda Guesthouse.

We spent the rest of the days wandering around the village and visiting the beautiful Waterfall Falls. We left the village on Monday afternoon by boat that took us to the airport. What a wonderful weekend getaway, discovering another beauty of Vanuatu islands!

A glimpse of Waterfall Village, South Pentecost

Note: land diving (Naghol) package tour between April and June every year can be booked through Air Vanuatu.

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