The sail from Ambrym to Waterfall Bay was a little bit woolly. A lot of wind and spray. M and I were both hopeful that we might be able to anchor in Bay Martelli, right at the base of the island. We sailed in to have a look around, but although it was extremely beautiful, with some huts protected by a big rocky point, there was no tolerable place to anchor in the conditions we had.
Back out to sea, still fizzing along, sloshing about… until we were in the lee [ALERT ALERT – nautical term used in correct context!] of the island and everything became a lot more civilised.
Waterfall Bay is not super-protected, which is such a shame. It’s a very shallow indent into the coastline. We tolerated it for two nights until it got a bit too rolly. It was all worth it for THE WATERFALL!!
With welcome serendipity, the town was opening a brand new Kava Bar the second night we were there.
“It said 4pm on the sign,” sighed M, as I searched for my hat (sunshine), phone (camera), crochet project (boredom) and at 4:07pm, was finally ready to go. We delivered the Smalls to Pandion and set off, feeling very unencumbered. Though M was still slightly chafing…
“Really?” I said. “Really? You think we’re going to roll up there and they will have started? This is island time. You need to get on it.”
We walked to the Kava Bar. The Kava Bar was closed. The sign did indeed say 4pm.
“OMG M! They’re all late! Either that, or we’ve missed the whole thing!”
M eyerolled, and we walked to Phillip’s house, where he was working with some younger guys on the foundations of a bungalow. After a some discussion between him and M, I heard him say;
“Four PM? Well, no. We on island time.”
I was unable to avoid smugging. The guys up at the Nakamal were still grinding the kava roots. They had to put them through the old-school meat mincers twice to get the desired consistency. M and I wandered off to walk down the road in a direction we had not yet taken.
We saw a huge Banyan tree with rocks in amongst the roots, and on closer examination, rocks knotted into its tendrils…
As we walked we began to hear a roaring, very similar to the one we had heard on our way to the amazing waterfall.
“Is there another waterfall down here?”
“I’m not sure…”
It was the roar of fast-travelling water, but it was not falling over a precipice – it was barrelling down the mountain over and under the road ahead… My first thought was not about the perfection of nature, but rather how awesome it looked for doing some washing.
After a bit of a poke around, we headed back to the Kava Bar, meeting Melissa on the way. The Kava Bar was still not open, but we chatted amongst ourselves as people filtered down the road from the Nakamal…
At about 5:30pm or so, things began to happen. Speeches were made – I desperately wanted to crochet because I understood zero, but it seemed a little bit disrespectful. Particularly as the MP from the area, Silas, was sitting only one person away from me.
The speeches continued for at least half an hour so, finally concluded by Andrew – a pale Brit who has been living in the town for some time, being in a relationship with a local woman. He is studying the languages in the area and seemed very fluent – but then, I suppose he is a linguist.
At Waterfall Bay kava is not consumed by women, and one of the men (they were all men) who spoke before Andrew had appeared quite vehement that this should remain the case. Obviously you can quaff your kava with your machete in one hand, but not if you have a vagina and are supposed to be looking after the children.
Andrew very kindly asked the chief if it was OK for Melissa and I to try some, and the chief said that was fine – different rules for the oddly attired boat-women. The thing with kava? You have to knock back your glassful in one go. So this is what we did.
I realised that the kava I had had before had not been fresh. Or possibly it was wild bush kava, which is known to be low-grade and leaves you with a hangover. Check. That’s what happened to me last time. On this occasion? Noooo. This was the proper stuff.
Mark and Miles had two glasses each. Melissa and I stuck with one. Thank god. Because wouldn’t have made it back to the boat if I had imbibed any more. You’re supposed to drink it on an empty tummy – which I did. And then eat something warm and nourishing… which it took me a while to remember, because my brain had been kava-ed.
I got back to the boat, lay gently down on the bed, and decided that if M didn’t feed the Smalls then they would survive without food for the night. I was stupendously relaxed and tired, with a slight edge of nausea. I finally convinced my body to take itself to stove and heat up a bowl of leftover curry. Then I just felt stupendously relaxed and tired.
I realised that a lot about drinking (for me) is to do with the ceremony involved. The sipping of the wine, the eking out of the gin and tonic – slamming down the kava, while quick and startlingly effective, lacked a certain je ne sais pas – but I guess that’s why you have the Kava Bar – so you can feel happily relaxed and eat snacks with your friends… We just need to work on the snack bit…