I won’t go massively into my opinion on drugs, or dare I say my history of “trying new things” – for inevitably it would be used by some hack journalist against me at some point – but let’s just say my formative clubbing years were spent in the late 90s dancing to happy hardcore. Alas it is not acceptable for an almost 40-year-old man to be seen embracing disco biscuits, so now I tend to be a ‘smoke and drink too much’ kind of a guy. But every now and again the chance to embrace the inner trier comes up, and that was what I got in Vanuatu.
Ever heard of Kava? If you haven’t it’s not only a big deal in the Pacific, but also the ‘drug of choice’, with more Kava bars than booze joints. And guess what? It’s legal.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting high on Kava!
Kava, much like alcohol, is taken in liquid form, but alas that is pretty much where the similarity ends. Kava looks like muddy water, but it tastes much worse than muddy water; kind of like bad muddy water that makes your mouth go numb. In short, it tastes like shit.
But tasting like shit never stopped Magic Mushrooms making the cool kids wild, and I was prepared to give Kava a firm chance. The effects of Kava are said to be different person to person, but to paraphrase a person on our trip: “it’s like being baked without the paranoia”. You feel a bit slow, a bit mellow, and might even get some drunk-like lightheadedness and wobbly walking going on. In Vanuatu –where we decided to get our kava jollies – there are kava bars, or as the locals call them “nakamals” everywhere. They range from high end to what we might call “dive bars”. In fact they massively outnumber real bars, with alcohol not only being damned expensive, but also seen as a bit of a taboo. Back In the day these nakamals were the strict preserve of menfolk, but times are a-changin’ and in a place like Port Vila women are allowed to get high too. Equality in action.
The Shell Game
A pint of kava then? Not quite. Kava is served in ‘shells’; maybe once upon a time they were actually shells, but now they are served in a bowl, with it costing just under $1 per ‘shell’. How many it takes you to get baked depends on you. You can also get a takeaway in a plastic bottle for fairly cheap, if that’s your thing.
Vanuatu, as well as having fun drugs to try, also has a rather funny language that once upon a time resembled English. Part of the kava ritual, if you are in a decent nakamal, is to have washemoat – yep, washemoat – which is basically food and/or water to get rid of the crap taste of the kava. Ever chased a tequila then chowed down on a kebab? This is that, Vanuatu style.
Finally, after x amount of the narcotic, you get your kava drunk-/high-type buzz. For some it makes them quiet; for me I personally felt a bit slow, but more amused by the world than usual. And is there a hangover? Like anything, it depends how much you drink. But it’s ultimately a sedative; drink enough and you will feel like crap in the morning.
Different Drinks for Different Needs
To conclude about my night on the kava: whilst we might finish a hard day’s work and have a few beers, Vanuatu’s people like to finish work and sip kava. Compared to alcohol, I’m sure there are fairly few people getting into fights after taking it. But for me personally, whilst I’m glad I tried it, when it hits 5pm I’m still gonna reach for a gin and tonic rather than a kava.