Saturday 24 April 2010

Vanuatu: Bungee with vines instead of elastic

For our second action-packed day in Vanuatu we boarded a teeny-tiny charter plane for a tour to see the Pentecost land-divers (Naghol).  These crazy guys bungy jump from a wooden platform with vines tied to their legs every Saturday in April and May.  Traditionally the ceremony is partly for initiation into manhood and partly to ensure a good yam harvest.  The jumpers featured in the Survivor Vanuatu opening credits, although I note their dress was much more modest.

I estimated the platform to be about 20m high, with 11 jumping platforms.  The platforms break as the vine draws taught to help absorb some of the energy.  The idea is for the jumper's hair to brush the ground...No-one was injured, while we were there, but in 1974 Queen Elizabeth II visited the island outside of the usual jumping season and a jump was performed for her during which one of the jumpers died.

Funnily enough the guys jumping seemed to be much more worried about their penis sheath coming off during the jump than anything else.  This happened to one unfortunate guy, who got laughed at by the whole village and ran off into the jungle.  It was a great atmosphere, with the local villagers outnumbering the tourists.

There are better videos of land diving than the one I took above on YouTube.

On the way to Pentecost we flew over Ambrym, which was spectacularly active, putting out a huge cloud of ash (incidentally, given that air travel over Europe has been halted due to Eyjafjallajokull's ash cloud, we were all fairly worried that we just flew through it...).  In any case we got a great view of the volcano, and even saw the pool of lava in the crater.  That's right, I saw frickin lava.

After the land-diving we stopped at Lamen Bay on Epi for lunch and snorkelling.  They have some bungalows there that would be a fantastic place to stay.  The area we snorkelled on Lamen is known for a friendly dugong that hangs out in the area.  Sadly despite much looking around at the edge of the reef there was no dugong to be found.

It was a great day, it is amazing how much you can pack in with your own charter plane to whiz between islands!


Garth said...

That bungee jumoing is frickin' awesome!

Builder said...

they are still doing this?!