The Harbin Y-12's approach to the runway unveils Mount Vulmat covered in dense jungle soaked by two days of heavy rain.
And a tiny seaside made of black sand and pebbles that vegetation invades, almost reaching the blue water of the Pacific Ocean.
When the plane comes to a standstill, a small crowd of ni-vanuatu (Vanuatu inhabitants) curious leave the shade of the trees and approach to greet new visitors.
The Quiet Moments Preceding the Naghol of Pentecost
We are invited to register with the elders of Lonorore. Once the formality has been completed, we are free to explore the exotic coastline that hides the town.
Gradually, more groups of natives arrive along a narrow path or along the beach. They too cluster around the barracks that serve the airport.
It's only an hour before the ritual begins. The enclosure remains off-limits. Only young jumpers and men who take care of the final preparations attend.
It's the end of May. The Naghol season is still halfway through. Once, the event took place once a year.
As more travelers discovered Pentecost, the ceremony proved to be an inescapable source of profit for the villages that practiced it.
The Origins and Secular Tradition of Pentecost Naghol
It is now repeated eight times, from April to June. Its origin, if true, could not be more unique.
It is said on the island that a native complained about the persistence of her husband's sexual advances, her name Tamalie. Unable to sensitize him, he got fed up and fled into the forest. Tamalie chased her.
He forced her to climb a prickly pear tree. Cornered, seeing her husband ascend, the woman tied vines around her ankles and launched herself. It swayed along the ground, unharmed, before letting go.
Feeling challenged but not noticing the vines, Tamalie jumped after her and lost her life.
From then on, the men of Pentecost decided to practice the jump with lianas so that they would no longer be deceived by their partners. Thereafter, the practice became kastom (tradition).
On the fringe of legend, Naghol is carried out as a rite of passage for village boys. The natives believe that, when carried out successfully, it contributes to good cassava crops.
And to ward off the ills of the rainy season, including the malaria that prevails in the Vanuatu archipelago, as in other lush parts of Melanesia.
The Tropical Intensify of Pentecost Naghol
When permission is given to advance, outsiders quickly forget about the mosquitoes that bother and worry them. They join the group of native spectators and advance through the forest, in the footsteps of a hurried host.
At some point, the narrow path enters a wide clearing. From it stand out a muddy slope and, at its top, a huge tower of logs.
While the assistance is distributed along the foothills and sides of the slope, some men soften the ground in the projection of the base of the tower.
Others review and retouch its chaotic structure.
At the same time, a group of tribal supporters – children at the front, followed by women and then by men – dance, sing and whistle, to and fro, in a way to encourage the jumpers.
These are kept in the vicinity of the tower for two days, without contact with girls to ensure the required sexual abstinence.
It is also common for them to anoint themselves with coconut oil and to use wild boar tusks as amulets, in addition to nambas, vegetable capsules that wrap around the penis.
As we noticed later, some are inspired by the use of natural substances (read drugs).
The longer the jump they prepare for, the greater the inspiration.
The Naghol Tower Leaps. Courage (or Madness) from the Bottom Up
The ritual begins with dives from the lower platforms of the tower. Evolves to the top, depending on the age of the participants. The village elders choose the lianas. They have to be cut shortly before the ceremony, according to the weight of each jumper and the height from which they are going to jump.
Despite the required precision, those responsible continue to dispense with any modern instrument. Once the selection is made, the tips of the lianas are unraveled and attached to the participants' ankles.
If they are loosely tied or too long, the unfortunate jumper crashes to the ground. If they are short, the jumper could collide with the base of the tower, from which several trunks project.
The Naghol of Pentecost that Ended in Disgrace
In order not to compromise the elasticity of the lianas, Naghol was always carried out in the dry season. But in 1974, the colonial administration wanted to impress the sovereign Queen Elizabeth II – who visited the so-called New Hebrides.
Against the wishes of the natives, the visit of the queen forced the ceremony to take place during the rains. It was once without an example. The lianas used by one of the jumpers broke.
They caused the only tragedy directly caused by the Naghol dives.
Back in the clearing, the intermediate jumpers have already fulfilled their role and the ceremony takes place without accidents. The group of “supporters” goes back to dancing and singing, then, with redoubled intensity.
The Mad Leap from the Vertiginous Top of the Naghol Tower
One last teenager climbs to the top of the tower where he stands on a tiny platform. At its height, he joins in the chants for a minute and waves looking at the sky.
Without further contemplation, it drives forward, covers his head and neck with his arms and flies over the Pentecostes jungle, before diving towards the ground.
Lianas break the fall, like the tower that bends slightly and softens the stretch. As expected, the jumper's hands lightly touch the ground.
In addition to some pain in his legs, after being examined by other villagers, it is proved that he is in a position to celebrate.
Once the ceremony is over, the audience is allowed to approach the tower. In three stages, it envelops and glorifies the new adult. But the jumper's reaction is contained.
His red eyes explain a certain “absence” that makes up for it with endless smiles.
The monetary compensation demanded by the Isle of Pentecost to bungee-jumping companies in the world for copying Naghol has not yet been paid.
If one of these Pentecost days wins this case, all your natives will have extra reasons to smile.