Gather round for story time!
The three of us are alone, marching single file through a jungle path on some tiny, mysterious island off of Malakula. The only mode of transportation is by boat or foot. It’s so small, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost.
We eagerly explore deeper and deeper into the jungle, walking through the trunks of ancient banyan trees. If a cyclone were to hit the island, that’s where we’d take shelter.
Suddenly, leaves rustle and a twig snaps.
I glance around, unable to shake the feeling we’re being watched.
I hear another noise behind me.
My heart pounds as I glance over my shoulder.
A man dressed in woven palm fronds notches an arrow- pointed at me- and slowly draws back his bow.
My husband and son turn to see what’s the matter.
Suddenly, more men step into view, having been perfectly camouflaged until now.
We’re completely surrounded—a variety of primitive weapons pointed at us.
The colour drains from my face. “Maybe we should have stayed on the beach,” I whisper to my husband.
Communication between the men seems serious. I realize when we met with Chief on the other island, we had to get permission before being allowed in to visit their tribe. Maybe we’ve stumbled too close to their village.
Outnumbered, with nowhere to run, we follow as they lead us through the jungle. I keep reminding myself there’s been no cannibalism since 1968 around here.
Hopefully that statistic doesn’t change.
They bring us to their village. It’s quite different from Chief’s.
Beneath a rustic shelter is a huge fire pit surrounded with rocks. I don’t remember who, but someone walked around with us, trying to communicate.
To cook, they shove food into hollow bamboo and put it on the hot coals. When finished, they dump the contents onto a large leaf, using it as a bowl. Pits dug into the ground, covered with palm leaves, store their fresh fruit. In fact, bananas can be stored this way for at least four years.
“Not monkey banana. Vegetable banana,” I’m told.
After a tour of the village, several of the men showed off—by walking on hot coals. Eventually we were shown the path back to the beach. It was an amazing experience...and not the first time we thought we were being kidnapped while on vacation.
There was that time in Luxor...oh, but that’s another story.