The Magical Rom dance. Ambrym, Vanuatu.

The descent from the crater of the Mt Benbow did not quite work out as planned. After returning to pick up our tents, we put on our backpacks and re-crossed the lava fields and ravines of the caldera. Again we were alternately soaked by storms or burnt by the sun.

As ever, it was much quicker going down than up, and after an  an exhausting eight hour walk from the volcano we sat and relaxed by the road, grateful that the long hike was over.We had pre-booked the only car on west Ambrym to pick us up. But after an hour we realised something was not right, the car was not coming. We started walking.

Although easier than climbing over lava and mud, the six kilometre walk was tiring. I had dreamed of putting my feet up and letting a motor vehicle drive me down this track. We later learnt that the ute had broken down, and would be out of action until a spare part was shipped in from Port Villa on the weekly boat. So we did as the locals do, and walked.

After two further hours down the rutted track we came into a small village, where they were preparing to perform an initiation ceremony, the Rom dance. My tiredness melted away and I felt very privileged to be able to watch the wild dancing, to a regular beat played on a tam-tam and seed shakers, with the Rom mask dancers twirling and smashing the ground in front of the tam-tam (statue).

This Custom ceremony is male only, portraying the old story of good vs evil, with the masked Rom dancers representing the evil spirits. The dances only occur in the middle of the year (July -> September) unless performed for special festivals.

I was in pain, with blisters on my feet and legs due to the volcanic trekking, and the forced walk down the bush track from the pick up point, but this physical, colourful and noisy dance I had witnessed made me thankful that the island car was unreliable.


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