Oct 23

Vanuatu Kava

Tag: fun activity,interacting with the locals,routeJonathon Haradon @ 9:05 pm

Vanuatu kava is stronger than Fiji kava.  20 shells of Fiji kava and mostly what I felt was bloated.  2 shells of Vanuatu kava…. mmmm mellow.  mmmm numb mouth.  mmmm slurred speech.  mmmm difficulty in concentrating on anything other than mindless action movies, like Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale.

As Matt, Karen and I were waiting for the small pickup truck that would take us and eleven other people up to the active volcano on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, Matt inquired of Stanley about kava.  Stanley, a native Vanuatu-ian, (he must have another, non-English, Vanuatu name) was responsible for setting up the transportation and seemed to be well connected in the village.  Stanley said he could get us some kava.  This was perfect as we didn’t think we would have time to visit a nakamal, a place where they serve kava in Vanuatu, after seeing the volcano.  And we would be leaving for New Caldonia the next day.

Stanley asked Matt how much kava we would like.

“Well how much would a liter cost?” Matt replied.

“100 vatu.”  Stanley replied.  This was about one dollar.

“We’ll take four liters,”  I told Stanley.  I was tempted to ask for three times that amount.  We’d have enough kava to last us a year or more!

When we returned from the volcano, Stanley had our kava.  Unfortunately it was only half a liter of kava.  Somewhere in the verbal communication something got lost or mistranslated.  Resigned to our meager amount of kava and unwilling to try and figure out why it was so much less than we expected, we took our kava back to the boat.  Whereupon, at the boat, we began to drink it.

The guidebook we have says you should drink kava on an empty stomach to heighten its effects.  My forays into alcoholic consumption have confirmed this is a good technique for enhancing effects of mind altering substances, so I believe it and Matt and I abstained from eating dinner for two hours while we drank some kava.

To drink it right, we broke out the shells I had purchased in Fiji.  We poured the kava into them; the kava looked more thick than Fijian kava.  In Fiji after pounding dried brown roots and adding water, they strain the liquid through cheesecloth.  In Vanuatu, they grind green roots and do not strain it.  I hope they grind it and don’t mash it in their mouths.  The different texture did not change the taste, it still was dirty bath water, but now with a little more viscus thickness to it.  Texture-wise, think whole milk versus water.

We drank one shell, and Matt started in immediately on another.  “Why not go for the full effect?” he reasoned.  I followed a little behind.  After two shells, I felt mellow, a numb mouth, slurred speech and difficulty concentrating.  If I focused hard, I could force myself to talk normal, or at least what I presumed sounded more normal.  But if I just let aimless ramblings come forth, I felt like I was slurring my words and my mouth wasn’t functioning the way it normally would.  It was fun.

Matt lapped me in kava consumed, and I handed off my last 1/2 of a shell to him to boot, as he was saying there didn’t seem to be much effect.  I wonder if he was simply focusing harder on what might be happening, his more analytic nature trying to quantify and categorize the effect, but consequently forcing out or marginalizing those effects by the act of analyzing them.  Analogous to quantum mechanics, perhaps you can’t analyze the effect without changing the effect.  The physicist in Matt defeated by the physics of it.

In the end, Matt lopped on a couple of shots of prime fine Scotch, and this he paid for dearly over the next 24 hours as we began our sail to new Caldonia.  Kava and alcohol apparently don’t mix.

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