Gregor arrived on Santo the day after I had come back from Rah. On Monday, we flew to Ambae which is East of Santo. The idea was to have a bit of an active week, before a few days on the beach towards the end of our holiday.
The first adventure, as always on the outer islands, was road transport. The roads are really bad, the trucks are old, and the drivers are fantastic. All in all, it’s very safe, because speeds are so low, maybe around 15kmh.
You won’t be surprised that fuel for the truck comes in small bottles:
We took the truck up to Duviara, a very pleasant tiny settlement high up in the hills. It’s high enough to be out of reach for mosquitos, and the temperature for us people from temperate climates was just about perfect.
On the next day, we got up early and walked up to the volcanic crater lakes. There are two lakes, and as the kastom story goes, one is the gate to hell, and the other one is the gate to paradise. I won’t have to tell you which is which as it’s that obvious!
It was a good 4.5 hours along a very pleasant track through the bush up to Lake Vui. All of a sudden, you come out of the bush, there’s dead trees all around you, with their silvery trunks and branches reaching into the deep blue sky. There’s an eerie silence, and the sun is burning hot.
It’s stunning and incredibly beautiful:
Then half an hour of backtracking and another 10 minutes up a ridge gets you to a small camping site with a view of Lake Manaro Lakua:
Now guess which of the two lakes leads into paradise!
We had lunch on the ridge. Emina, our host, had made a very nice meal of river prawns, taro and aelan kabis for us:
Emina is a great cook.She was happy to let us into her kitchen and show us how to make laplap, a typical dish.
The making of Laplap:
Laplap can be made of any starchy vegetable. The laplap Emina made for us was made from taro. Raw taro is really aggressive on people’s skins. So we weren’t allowed to help Emina with grating it which was the first step.
Emina grating taro on a spiky stick:
Once the taro was grated, the dough was spread evenly on banana leaves:
The banana leaves were then folded up and tied together, forming a little parcel.
While Emina was grating the taro, her husband Wesley had made a fire and heated a pile of stones on it. The parcel of taro and banana leaves was then put between the hot stones:
While the laplap was cooking, Gregor grated some coconut:
Wesley then made some coconut cream. Once the laplap was cooked, it was taken from the hot stones, the parcel was opened, and Emina put coconut cream on top of the laplap:
That’s it! So here’s our dinner – taro laplap, with aelan kabis:
Yery yummy, yes we did enjoy our meal very much!
But at Duviara, it wasn’t all about food. In a small nakamal that was slowly being taken over by the jungle, three tamtams, wooden slit drums, were stored:
I knocked on them and even when lying on the ground, they had quite a cool sound.
We really liked it at Duviara, and stayed an extra day. But then it was time to move on again, as we had a bit of walking to do, first down to the coast again. In the afternoon, we took a dip in some very cool rock pools:
On the next day, we got up early as we had a big day ahead: walking over to West Ambae. It started off innocently enough, along the truck road and then along the beach:
The long leaves that you can see lying on the sand are being prepared for weaving mats.
But then the hard work started, over roots and rocks and up a big hill, rewarded with good views out to the sea and to West Ambae:
Luckily enough, the descent turned out to be much gentler than the ascent as it was getting very hot by then.
Once down again, it was a pleasant walk along the truck road, along gardens and through some pretty villages:
We were really tired when we arrived, but had made it much earlier than expected. There was still time for a dip in the sea before it got dark, which was good.
We spent two days just hanging out & recovering. Not that we really needed that much time, but as all our walks had gone so smoothly, we had more time in the end than needed.
While I wasn’t doing much at all, Gregor spent hours playing with the two small cats at our accommodation. Here he is with the cheekier one:
By the time Monday arrived and we flew back to Santo, we were well rested and felt more like doing stuff than chilling out on the beach as had been our plan.