Monday, 27 February 2012

A Shore Tour on Lifou

Sea Princess at Lifou 
I'm not a great fan of organised excursions but felt I wanted to see more of Lifou than I did last time we were here. So I decided to take the cruise ship's shore tour called a 'Melanesian Experience'.
  It was a beautifully sunny, very hot day and the water in the Bay of Santal where the 'Sea Princess' moored was those glorious turquoise and blue shades like you see on a tourism poster. A five minute tender ride took us to shore, then we boarded a bus for our two hour tour.
  According to the brochure we would 'view traditional houses and cheerful gardens' in two 'enchanting' villages. This, to me, implied a visit but no, we kept right on driving along. The only viewing was done from the bus windows and as there was no commentary, we didn't know where we were or which villages we passed through.
St John the Baptist on Lifou
 Eventually we arrived at an historic church, built by missionaries in 1883. This was the church of St John the Baptist, a tall, solid building with towers and turrets, its ochre coloured plaster contrasting with the bright blue skies. It was so unlike the Melanesian houses we had seen on the drive. These were small structures of corrugated iron or local limestone with no window glass and wooden shutters, or circular thatched 'beehive' houses with conical roofs in the traditional style of Lifou.
Chief's case on Lifou
  Our guide bustled us off the bus and into the church then bustled us straight out again. From there we walked a short distance to the village of Hnathalo. Young girls gave each of us a plaited flax headband, adorned with flowers to wear - a charming touch! After taking off our shoes we went into the chief's 'parliament' house - a circular thatched building supported by enormous mahogany posts. It was dark inside and hot but impressive for its size and height. This photo doesn't do it justice - apparently it is the largest 'case' on the whole of Lifou. Our guide told us some interesting facts about Melanesian society.
  I'll write more about the visit in my next post - including how to cook a meal Lifou-style.

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