Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Louisiade Trip - Skull Cave, Limestone Cave, Sailau racing

The view from our "banana boat" as we scream along over the reef to the skull cave.
On Friday, September 20 the Louisiades Rally group of "Dim-Dims" (the local word for white people) took off to another island for a hike through the jungle to the skull cave.  Boats that had larger dingys with powerful outboards were told to take their dingys for the trip but those of us with little dingys and not-so-powerful outboards (we only have an 6hp motor) had to ride in what the locals call 'banana boats'.  The banana boats are long open boats with big outboards on the back.  They have zero creature comforts.  Passengers sit on planks across the bottom of the boat and the body bounces and slams with every wave.  Ouch, Ouch, Ouch.

Departing the island for the skull cave - banana boat in the foreground.
The Captain enjoying the view from the b-boat.
After quite a long ride to the island with the Skull Cave we came to a small beach on a very hilly island.  Everyone climbed out of the boats and waited until we were led by guides down the beach to the path.  Everywhere we went there were locals waiting for us.  A first it seemed to me that they were just standing around but then I realised they were there to watch and help us on our way.  All you needed to do was stumble or look hot and lost and there was a lovely person or two there to take your hand and help.  I will be the first to say that I'm  not the most agile person on bush walks.  The Captain has to steady me a lot or just simply pull me up and over or down and around difficult terrain.  It was good to have so many there to help.

This was the trail through the jungle.  It was HOT! and you had to literally walk over sharp rocks the whole way.

Inside the skull cave.  You can just see how steep it was to climb up into the cave....and the wonderful local people that were always there to help you if needed.

The piles of bones and skulls inside the cave - they were dumped in many areas all around the cave.  Supposedly they were the result of tribal disputes from the past that were solved and then the perpetrators eaten. 

It was a great trip - and very very HOT.  As each Dim-Dim made it back to the beach and the end of the track we all walked into the water neck deep clothes and all to cool down!

That night - like so many nights to come - we had drinks on the beach and then a 'bring a plate to share' BBQ.  Guy presented awards for the trip over to the yachties.  Things like, "Grumpiest Skipper", "Best Cook", and "Most Sail Changes" which we won because we would reef down at 5:30 every night.  This day was so good.  So many times over the 4 weeks I found myself just looking at the night sky - with all the millions of stars we don't see in our so called civilized world - and smiling to myself saying "Thank You" to the universe.  I am/we are so grateful to have this experience.

The next day we jumped in our dingys again - this time we didn't have to go to far so we took ours - for a trip around to the other side of Panasia to the limestone cave.  The morning air was misty but it was still very humid.  We were met on the beach by the local chief and some of the women who sang to us and welcomed us with a line up into their village.  Most of the villages we went to did this.  They would meet us at the beach and then line up.  We would walk down the line with the first person presenting a lei of frangipani flowers and then each person shaking our hand.

Welcome by the chief and local women on the beach at South Panasia.
After our beach side welcome we trekked through the jungle behind the village to a steep path that had, in some places, rough made ladders which were really just sticks tied together by palm leaves.  Up and up we went on the path climbing the sharp rocks.   At one point it was necessary to climb up an even bigger and shakier ladder to, what looked like, a hole or crevice in the side of a rocky hill.  At the top of the crevice was a slick bit of mud and rock that, on first glance, looked like it was just too slippery to negotiate and then it was necessary to turn around - inside the crevice - and manoeuvre down the other side backwards!  Whew, it was hot and tough going. 

Once down the inside rickety ladder we found ourselves inside a huge - and I mean huge - limestone cave with a path leading down.  The Captain was ahead of me and he was madly taking photos until we heard the sound of a big SPLASH! from the floor of the cavern.  Enough picture taking.  We walked, slid, climbed down to the bottom of the cavern to find a large freshwater swimming pool with those from our party ahead of us already enjoying!  Needless to say the Captain was off with his clothes and in quick smart.  I wasn't far behind him and Catherine stayed up on the side to take photos.  It was without a single doubt HEAVEN. .. cool and refreshing.

The climb down inside the cave...you can see how deep and steep it was.

The swimming hole at the bottom of the cave.  The photo doesn't do it justice - it was huge.

Me and the Captain in the pool.

After the cave we went back to the village of South Panasia and had a Mumu -  food, mainly root vegs and pork cooked in a fire pit in the ground.  Guy also did a presentation of the rally goods that he and the other boats had brought for the village.

The next day we moved on to Panapompom where we had a great time with the locals with swimming races, canoe races and Sailau races.

Sailau on the beach for the activities of the day.
Canoe racing with the dim-dims.

Racing Sailaus.

We had a terrific time on this island.  George (The Captain) and Catherine went out twice for a ride on a sailau and even took a trip to another island.  I had some quiet time off to hang around our boat and read a book.  All 3 of us had a lot fun over the days we spent here.

Tomorrow.... the island of BoboEina, Catherine's birthday and the island of Bagaman.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoying your photos and blog sis, do George and yourself have plans to study ocean navigation? I'm in awe of the ancient Polynesians who managed to navigate huge distances in the open ocean. Was reading a while back about their "stick charts" where they would use sticks and shells to mark currents and the like and each tribe had secret navigation techniques . Hopefully you will come visit us here in Connemara we have no light pollution and not a single light in sight at night which leads to some awesome star gazing, bit different night sky to yours too, not quite as many stars but the Pole star is one big advantage.