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Vanuatu: Wala Island

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Wala Island | Vanuatu | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

After the spectacular performance of the Small Namba's, our guide Ken, who had looked totally exotic in his traditional dress (which basically consisted of the bare minimum to cover his genital area, with his manhood wrapped in the sheath or namba (smaller than those of the Big Namba's), and some leaves sticking out on the back, with paint covering parts of his torso and face, had disappeared for a moment, and came back transformed into a guy with a sweater and pants - just like there are many walking around the island of Malekula. His smile was still there, though, and he took us for a short walk down to the shoreline. On the way, we met his mother, wife, some kids both with his present wife and another one, and when we reached the rocky beach, a small boat was waiting for us, and took us across for a short ride to Wala Island.

Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): The communal area, or nasala, on Wala island

We saw a yellow strip of sand above which the tropical island seemed to rest, and Ken told us that we could have a swim later on - unfortunately, we had not taken swimwear as we were unaware of this opportunity to cool off in the blue waters of the sea off Malekula island. Before exploring the island, a lady that had come on the boat with us quickly put a lap-lap together, and invited us to dig in. We had been looking forward a lot to taste the local food, and the could not wait to dig into the juicy chicken, sweet potatoes, yam, all drenched in coconut milk and with four hot black stones in the middle (the lap-lap is prepared by putting the ingredients in special leaves; the hot stones cook it the lot). Indeed, it was a very tasty lunch, with some fresh tropical fruit as a desert.

Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Open space on Wala island, the nasala, where ceremonies are performed

We were ready to follow Ken to explore the island, walked cautiously on our bare feet on a trail leading to the nasala of Wala Island. After having seen other nasalas before, we now knew the tam-tams, hollowed out tree trunks with faces carved on top, family stones, all bordering an open space where special ceremonies were once held. Now, the nalasa is mostly used for cruise-ship passengers, but keen Ken had decided to build a new nasala close to the shore, so visitors could be presented with the shows they wanted to see more efficiently. In fact, close to the shore, there were quite a few empty stalls where on cruise-ship days would be converted to souvenir stalls. On the way back, we saw a women's building, kava bars, a church and some old tombstones. The many outrigger dugout canoes on the beach made me ask if I could try paddling one, and before I knew it, we carried one of them into the water and I was paddling away. It turned out to be really easy - helped for a big part by the floater attached to the narrow canoe. All in all, we had enjoyed our visit to Wala, but it could not really compare to the performance we had seen before on Malekula itself. To top our day off, we had kava in a nakamal in Walarano village, which was so strong that it numbed the senses in our mouth. On our way back, our driver steered our pick-up truck right through a football field where kids were playing soccer - quite an experience at the end of an exciting day.

Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Family stones at the nasala of Wala Island
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Face sculpted from wood on the nasala of Wala Island
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Painted carved face on the nasala of Wala Island
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Path leading through the forest of Wala to the ceremonial area, or nasal
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Trail on Wala Island
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Tombstones and church in the village on Wala Island
Picture of Wala Island (Vanuatu): Outrigger canoe on the beach of Wala Island

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