After arriving back to Santo with the ferry I met Norah and her sisters again and within an hour we where already on the way to the southern part of the island all the way to a tiny village called Lolits. It was quite late when we arrived so after a quick dinner we went straight to bed. Our purpose to travel here was to help Norah’s friends to prepare their small community and the surrounding area to invite tourists.
Next morning after breakfast we had a formal welcome to the village with flower necklaces, … chief Vuru Mele, Norah and even pastor Titus made a small speech… we where introduced to the whole population basically and had a really warm welcome, by the end the chief ended up in tears as it was his dream for many years to setup a small guesthouse and also to prepare the historical sites around the village to be able to accept visitors.
To be honest by default I did not even wanted to come to Santo but how it usually happens, by the end I spent more than a month here and this experience next to the one I had at Pentecost turned out to be my favorite times of Vanuatu.
It is incredible how much hidden gems are around Lolits. From footprints of giants to different peoples and items turned to stones, caves filled with bats, human remains of ex chiefs, healing rocky hills…
First we went thru some of the stone remains. Here, everybody strongly believes that the stone god under the sea close to the village can turn anything to stones. There are many proofs of it of course. Most interestingly we are not talking about hundreds of years old legends, but quite recent ones. For example we stopped at a man size piece of rock, which according to the story is someones grandfather from the village, who was a local chief, very old, he could not even move, so the ladies came by usually to feed him and take care of him, while one day they only found a big stone instead of the chief with the exact same diameters (again: someone actually actively thinks that that stone is his grandfather!!).
Also, there is a tale about two brothers who came to the island with a canoe to save their mother who was about to be eaten, and eventually everybody turned to stone, the brothers, the mother and even the canoe near the shore. Interestingly, someone quite recently from an other village came by and tried to prove that it is only a legend, so he scratched one of the brothers rock with his machete, and he did not waked up next morning. It may sound magical, but everybody knows this person by name, and the whole village claimed it happened exactly like this and it only happened a few years ago. (Knife marks are still there).
At the shore the chief from the next village showed me a piece rock, which was cut off by a big snake to form a new island, but his father!!! caught the snake in action, which turned to stone and it is still visible curled up under the sea, you can see it with a snorkeling gear (same as the man shaped stone god if the swell allows it).
Speaking of the shore… wow… I never saw such beautiful bays and sandy shores in my life before, generally speaking almost everywhere you go at Vanuatu the shore is magical, but this ones… really… also it is not just the shore but the forest as well, the last primary jungle at Santo, it was never cut or cleaned, no agricultural damage or anything alike. Wonderful! Although it is not as diverse as the Amazonas since we are talking about a small island in the middle of nothing, but I was very impressed, really adventurous and lush forest.
While walking betwean the rocks once we stopped at the crash-site of a japanese fighter plane was shot down by US Army during WW2. Overgrown with the bush and lians, untouched for decades, I felt like being on an Indiana Jones expedition.
One of my favorite site was the 3 rock outcrop reaching above the canopy, inside them is a small cave with the remains of the ex chiefs. Magical sites, really. On top of the rocks the watchmen was standing looking for anyone approaching from the other villages and blowing his bubu-shell horn to warn the rest. Apparently the stones could give life back to the dead in special circumstances.
There is also a cute little story next to this rocks as well, many years ago (the remains are still visible) there where a big nakamal (do you remember? nakamal is a big long house, sort of like mans club-house) next to the caves and while man where sleeping in it every day, they realized that by the morning the rain was falling on them, and they did not know what happened so they decided that one day someone will stay awake to find out how the rain is coming in during the night. What he saw was that during the night while everybody was sleeping the roof of the nakamal was flying away to the sea and only come back by the morning before the villagers wake up. Knowing what is happening they decided that next day everybody will stay awake and confront the roof. They waited quietly and when the roof flew away they followed him to the sea and when the roof realized that he is followed he got scared and, well… guess what: it turned to stone. (Still visible on the shore) Also in the forest there are many signs of giants and their activity who once inhabited the area. One of them is their footprint, two really deep hole next to each other created by a big giant who once jumped off from the hill. To be honest to me they looked like two deep hole but the legends says otherwise, so let’s believe it. After visiting any sites we stopped for a while, had an orange, and brainstormed about the possibilities of the place. My most favorite times, seeing all this interesting and wonderful things is nice, being the first outsider to see it is something special, but sitting around a stone and seeing the guys wandering about how it will be when the first tourists will arrive with sparkling eyes is an entirely different level.
During the day every boy carried a slingshot and we stopped at every single sign of a big bird or alike. When the sun went down we made camp at this beautiful small bay, in the middle of the jungle, under the un-imaginable amount of stars to setup a fire and to cook all the things we gathered and shot during the day. Forgot to mention that some of the guys work on a one shot one bird basis, usually head-shot and from the ground to high up to the canopy. This is real hunting-gathering, could not get any more real than this. It was the most wonderful night next to the fire talking about all sort of things.
I will never forget it, ever! Such a magical experience again with soo wonderful people. It really can not be explained with words how honest, kind and peaceful the people are here, you have to come and experience it by yourself. Quite sad that most of the tourist coming to Vanuatu and only stays at Vila or Lugenville at a resort enjoying the sunshine, I mean nothing wrong with it, but if you travel a bit out of the comfort of the big hotels you will actually see what makes Vanuatu so unique in my opinion, and that is the ni-Vans.
After a few day we headed back to Lvile with Norah, to sort out a few things and to start to setup the tours. Luckily, the guys from Lolits found more to see and research, so I had a chance to go back and visit them again. Happiness!
The next visit included some hidden treasures as well, many more things turned to stone like a pig which was lifted by a mosquito but it was too heavy so she dropped it off the cliff and when he rolled down all the way to the river it turned to stone 🙂 Also some incredible waterfalls, I mean really incredible untouched waterfalls, we had to clear up the path to get even close and than the guys had to lower me down so see it and to take a few pictures of it. I saw a few waterfalls around the world, also a few hidden ones, like the one next to the kogui village in Colombia, but this ones …unreal… with that radiant blue water, lians and lush jungle around. Also we stopped next to a rock with scratches on it, they explained that centuries ago it was the place where people sharpened the stone axes, wow! And than one of the guys asked, do you want to see one axe from that time? I have one at home :D. – you can see this things in a few top museums around the world, and he has one at home somewhere… this place is full with surprises. When we visited all the new batch of sites I take the ride back to Lville. Sad… I will miss Lolits and my new friends from there. We had a great time and lots of fun together. I really enjoy that here everybody can find fun in everyday life, most of them where always ready for some jokes. You do not have to take life that seriously, how we do it at home, whats the point of it?
During my stay at Vanuatu there was one thing missing: it is the prime destination to eat blue coconut crabs. It is plentiful here, especially around Lolits since the whole village belongs to the Seventh Day Adventist church and they are not allowed to eat things like crabs, shrimps, pigs… it was a long therm project of mine to put one of that to the pot, but it was just not happening. First, with chief Secor at Ambrym, the first time I saw this thing in real life, run away before ending up in the pot, than, here at Santo, someone promised me one, but it just never arrived, than at Lolits, the guys had one at the village, and they even told me that if I want they can cook it for me but knowing that it is against their religion I did not wanted to offend them by any way, so when I was just about to give up on it, Norah called me on the phone that she is at the market and there is a lady selling a few of them! Yes!!
Norah was also kind enough to make an exception with me and I could cook it at her place. Dream come true finally! Luckily Adele from Norah’s guesthouse does not belong to the Adventist’s, so she helped my eating it.. Still we hardly managed, and we had to give off the last bits. (And it was still considered as a small baby crab)
Sadly every good thing ends once… my time at Vanuatu was coming to the end. It does not mean I will never come back, quite the opposite, I will indeed and I hope I can even stay that time forever. It was the most wonderful place I have ever been all the islands I visited, especially my most favorite: Pentecost. I hope everyone will have a chance once in life to experience this level of kindness, openness, friendliness, the place where talking with someone is the most highly regarded thing… there is still hope for a better world until places like Vanuatu exists. Not everything is lost! Can not wait to come back! That is my no1 aim and project now and until it happens I will close my eyes every night knowing that finally I found my place on the planet where I can be ultimately happy day by day… every day.