Friday, September 06, 2013

Natural wonder

Our flight from Tanna to Efate (Vanuatu) was not until late afternoon so we decided to see what they claim is the world's largest Banyan tree located in Leitouapam Village. From the town of Lenakel, it was a 4 km ride up a very rough road but not as rough as the cross-island road that we had been on! And much shorter of course.

Unloaded, we hiked down into the valley with our guide Samuel where he filled us in with some info about the tree. Banyan trees are considered spiritual to the villagers and also very useful. Lumber from the trees is commonly used to build homes and the ceremonial drinking of Kava is always beneath a Banyan tree.

There are male and female trees but we couldn't figure out how they know which is which. How old is this giant? It is said to have been large even before Captain Cook came here in 1774.

Banyan trees are full of aerial roots that start as new vine roots which are constantly being sent down to the ground from the large branches. Once the new vines take root, they grow to be another lesser trunk and so the tree stretches outward. If you cut off an aerial root, it re-grows several more to replace the one you cut off. This behemoth looks like a forest in and all by itself.

Only a fraction of ONE giant Banyan

Because of all the aerial roots, it's an easy tree to climb as displayed by our guide through the forest of this tree.

A bold Banyan climber

After exploring all around this huge tree, we returned to Lenakel where we had snacks on the beach. The beach is a popular place and we noticed all the activity happening around us.

As the sun was shining, the locals were out doing laundry. What! In salt water? No, there was a freshwater spring feeding shallow pools by the shore where the ladies were scrubbing away as the small children played nearby in the water. The colourful clean items were all laid out on the sand to dry in the sun.

Seaside laundry

Farther down the beach, children were cavorting in the ocean as the waves pulled them out to sea and then threw them back to the sandy shore amidst their raucous laughter. Many were stretched out and lounging on the sand too.

In another area, villagers were working with pandanus reeds that they had collected. They had them laid out on rocks to dry in the hot sun and will be made into skirts for future celebrations.

Drying pandanus reeds

Not far from the beach was the town's market. As usual, it was full of people selling and buying anything from large, luscious looking produce to dark smelly tobacco. Wares were spread out on tables and on the ground, inside and outside, wherever you looked.

Bundles of large taro

Peanuts, anyone?

We were now ready for a cup of the Island's delicious coffee. Locals had said we could get some at the Tanna Coffee Factory which was within walking distance of town. It was a very hot, lengthy walk and we finally arrived at the closed Factory where a passerby told us to just wait a bit. But no one came around so we trekked back to the main road to catch a bus to the airport, thirsty and disappointed. Jordan had been hoping to also purchase a bag of the well-known Tanna coffee but it wasn't that kind of a facility.

As we walked along the road, we once again ran into the youngsters that we had seen yesterday on the beach pounding nuts. Notice the large knife that they always seem to walk around with for their chores.

3 sisters going gardening

It was a short flight back to Port Vila on Efate Island. We finally arrived back on board our beloved Sea Turtle with precious memories of one-of-a-kind adventures. The stories we can now tell!

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