This is our next to last day here in Wanci and it’s been one amazing event after another. I squeeze in one more trip to morning market, a short walk from the dinghy dock, then arrange a motorcycle ride to one of the water caves to wash off our snorkel gear. This is where the women bring laundry and children play in a small enclosed pool. A fresh water aquifer bubbles up into a natural rock-formed pool by a large open-mouthed cave.
After lunch onboard we walk into town to witness the bangka mbule mbule – a traditional ritual ceremoney by the Mandati community. Normally carried out every four years, or when they feel it’s necessary, to cast off evil spirits, bad crops, social unrest or anything bad. They felt the time was right and preparations were underway. A good-sized hand-carved canoe is embellished with an effigy woman at the bow, man at the stern. Crowds begin to gather around the canoe, women are making tooting horns out of pandanas leaves and everyone is tooting and talking and cheering while an elderly man blows a large conch shell. Elders are coming in with huge sacks of rice and corn. Soon children show up with dolls and artifacts they’ve made and it all gets ceremonially dumped into the canoe by the women. A ring of traditionally-clad elder men sit around the canoe watching as we’re invited to take a handful of rice and corn to drop into the canoe. More objects are tossed in and finally a group of sturdy young men hoist the bamboo poles holding the canoe and off they run through the streets, circling the roundabout several times. The streets are thick with people cheering and photographing. It’s past noon and very hot and someone splashes water on the pole bearers. Off they go, never stopping, continuing at a trot down to the harbour, across the rocky shore. It’s low tide now and they have quite a way to go before they can set the canoe into the water. Throngs of people mill around and many more race down to the peer to watch the final launch of the canoe where it will float and sink, along with all the bad stuff I suppose.
We wander back to the dinghy where our guide, Rifel, presents us with a sailboat he’s made for us as a thank you for the notebooks we gave him. We take him and two of his friends out to Chesapeake for tea and chocolate.