Our welcome to Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea, called by the locals “The Rocky Island of Fruits”, was detailed in our previous blog post, “Our Welcome to Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea”. During our visit we watched the last of the traditional ceremonial festivities on our three week expedition through Melanesia. The first ceremony was the making of kava drink from the roots of the kava plant. We had tasted kava a few years ago in Fiji (where it is also popular) and also earlier on this trip. Kava drink has sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant and entheigenic properties and is local to Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. We were treated to several dance performances where the music is the rhythmic beating of the local slit-gong, or garamut, drums (pictured, below). Our final ceremony was the formal ceremonial wedding of a young couple (a “demonstration”, complete with the traditional costumes).
As we sailed away from Baluan Island and Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, we reflected on how fortunate we had been to visit these wonderful islands and to be so warmly received by the islanders, many of whom have very little contact with Westerners over the course of a year. Our memories of the people, the islands, the natural surroundings, the culture and the welcoming spirit of the region will remain with us for a long time. Appropriately, we came across this quotation from Margaret Mead who spent much of her early adulthood doing research in this region, including Manus Island — next door to Baluan Island:
“as the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” — Margaret Mead