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LA BOUDEUSE DISCOVER THE VANUATU (48 photos) Send this reportage Send this reportage
A rainy spring day, La Boudeuse dropped anchor in Homo bay, southern Pentecost island, the very spot where Captain Cook landed two and a half centuries ago. Before us, jungle covered mountains dominate the horizon, blanketed by a woolly fog. Dugout canoes are lined up on the sand. If we were not absolutely certain we lived in the 21st century, we might think we had returned to a time long ago.
© .. AFP./
Categories: Adventure, Human & Ethnology, Sea, Travel, Men Interest
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Once our boats were on shore, we begin to discover the southern part of the island, crossing a series of rivers cutting through mountains. In just a few days, we would realize the why this place intrigues us so, this last place Melanesain Pacific sheltering a traditional community reduced to just a 100 or so men living in a half a dozen villages carved into the hills.

From the outside world encircling their small territory, these men accept only what fits with their customs, and reject all the rest. Sustained by farming, gardening, hunting and fishing, they live naked, men protectively wrap their penis, women wear grass skirts. They call themselves Saa.

Discovered last century, the Saa are especially known for one ritual, called N’gol or 'Land Diving' Each year between April and June, they construct wooden towers,30 m in height and jump off into the void, their ankles attached to vines. This long lasting rite of passage, demonstrating a man’s courage, is still practiced today as are most of Saa’s ancestral rituals. However for the last decade or so, the spectacular jump has been exploited tour groups. The impact of tourism has resulted in a economic paradox, the Saa discover that thanks to tourism, it is not necessary to work to make money. They must only accept the temporary presence of these hurried guests who, in theory, have none whatsoever influence on Saa lifestyle.

But is this only an illusion? Couldn’t even this limited contact with the outside world change a fragile culture such as the Saa's? In order to understand the possible anomaly to their traditional micro-society, we make them a unique proposal: accept us into your village and in turn
we invite you aboard La Boudeuse to share our life. With the main objective being a mutual discovery of one another.

A crew of five makes our way into Saa territory. After an exhausting hike from the coast, under heavy rain and through unprecedented mud, we reach a small village called Tapra: just a dozen bamboo huts at the base of the mountain, an imposing 'nakamal', where the men gather, a large 'nasara' for ceremonies, all surrounded by a thick forest.