Bambu Gila – The Crazy Bamboo Dance of Maluku

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Bambu Gila is a mystical ritual performed in Indonesia’s Maluku Islands, where a group of strong men struggle to control a piece of bamboo from moving around like crazy as if it were possessed by an unseen power.

The origins of Bambu Gila, or Crazy Bamboo, are unknown, but it is believed the ancient ritual was once used to induce a fearless fighting mentality before going to war. Today, the once warring tribes of Maluku live in piece and this unique tradition has been reduced to a popular tourist attraction. Preparations for Bambu Gila start with a special ceremony in which the local shamans ask permission from the spirits that still dwell in the nearby bamboo forests to cut down a log for the famous dance. Crazy bamboos are  brought from Mount Gamalama, the volcanic mountain in Ternate, Northern Maluku, where the spirits are believed to be the strongest, cut to a specific size, cleaned and rubbed with coconut oil. During the actual ritual, seven of the strongest villagers are selected to handle the bamboo which supposedly starts to move by itself and becomes increasingly heavier and more difficult to control, after a ginger-chewing shaman recites strange mantras and blows incense into it. Although it’s hard to believe there are supernatural forces at work, the performers put on quite a show that attracts thousands of visitors from all over Indonesia and beyond.

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Burping Champion Tries to Get Drunk by Chugging 30 Non-Alcoholic Beers in One Hour

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Competitive eater Tim Janus wanted to make history by becoming the first person to get legally drunk on non-alcoholic beer. To reach his goal, Tim recently tried to chug 30 cans of non-alcoholic beer in one hour.

People have been asking if it’s possible to become intoxicated by drinking non-alcoholic beer for years. Theoretically, it’s possible, but one would have to consume large quantities of the stuff to make it happen. Tim “Eater X” Janus decided he, as a of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, definitely had the stomach to do it, so in April he contacted the Deadspin website to have the stunt documented by a reputable news outlet. Tim estimated he would have to chug around 30 cans of non-alcoholic beer in under an hour in order to reach the .08 alcohol level to be declared legally drunk. That’s over 2.5 gallons of liquid in a very short amount of time, enough to probably kill an ordinary person. But Tim’s stomach is anything but ordinary, as he has proven during the many competitive eating contests he has won throughout the years.

Tim-Janus-beer

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Ambitious Jogger Is Running from Canada to Argentina Barefoot

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Joseph Michael Liu Kai-Tsu Roqueni, a young engineer from Montreal, is planning to raise money for charity by running 19,000 kilometers, from Canada to Argentina, within 18 months, barefoot.

The self-described “Chexican” – because of his Chinese, Mexican and Canadian heritage – had been training for his epic barefoot run across the Americas for a year before he finally kicked off his official trek on July 2.  Joseph left from his hometown of Montreal and will cross 14 countries all the way down to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, known as the southernmost city in the world. His feet will cover 19,000 kilometers (11,806 miles), a distance about 7,000 kilometers greater than the Earth’s diameter.  The 32-year-old engineer is not the first person in the world to run such a great distance, but he is the first who plans on doing it without proper running shoes. Roqueni has always tried to do things differently, and the biggest motivation for running to the end of the world barefoot was that “no one else had done it”. It’s also the cheaper alternative, because he won’t have to spend thousands of dollars on dozens of pairs, and he’ll be able to move faster without the extra baggage slowing him down.

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The Game of Gostra – Running Up a Greasy Wooden Pole in Malta

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Every year, on the afternoon of the last Sunday in August, brave young men from all over Malta compete in the traditional game of “gostra”, trying to run all the way to the top of a long greasy pole and snatch one of the three prizes.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the game of gostra was practiced all through the festive summer months, in various locations around the islands of Malta and Gozo. A wooden pole measuring about 10 meters long was mounted on a coal barge and towed to harbor towns and seaside villages around the Maltese coast, where it was smeared with grease and animal fat. Brave local men would try to run up the pole and reach one of the symbolic flags at the top in order to claim a prize. Today, the traditional game is only held in the towns of Msida and Spinola Bay, in honor of St. Joseph and St. Julian. The pole stretches out into the water, and only half of it is covered in grease, but in order to have a higher chance of reaching the flags before slipping off the slippery wood, most competitors prefer to run up the pole, hoping they can maintain their balance long enough to snatch one of the coveted prizes. This sometimes causes them to fall awkwardly hitting the log on their way down into the sea, and injure themselves.

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Indonesian Villagers Beat Each Other with Rattan Brooms in the Name of Brotherhood and Friendship

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Every year, a week after the end of Ramadan, the Indonesian villages of Morella and Mamala hold Pukul Sapu, a unique ritual that has men from the two villages beating each other across their bare backs with rattan broomsticks.

There’s nothing like a good beating to strengthen the bond between members of a community, at according to the people of Morella and Mamala, two villages in the Maluku province of Indonesia. Seven days after the end of Ramadan, the local young men take part in Pukul Sapu, an ancient ritual that translates as “Beating Brooms”. A fitting name, considering it involves participants hitting each other with strips of rattan across their backs until they are all covered in bloody scars. Before the actual beating begins, the men gather to receive the prayers of the village elders which are supposed to provide protection from serious injury during the proceedings. Wearing only short pants and headbands, the brave men enter the arena and split into two groups, facing each other. They then take turns in hitting each other across the back and chest with hard rattan brooms, with the one taking the beating lifting his arms into the air to proudly display his bloody wounds. This is not a mock battle, and the traces left by each lash is more than enough proof, yet the participants take the beating without so much as a flinch or cry of pain.

Pukul-Sapu

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Scala di Santa Maria del Monte – Probably the World’s Most Beautifully Decorated Staircase

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Located in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, La Scala di Santa Maria del Monte is an old 142-step staircase, each of which are decorated with a different ceramic pattern. It’s a wonder to behold, but during the Spring and Summer seasons it becomes even more breathtaking as locals adorn it with potted flowers and lanterns, creating intricate designs.

Situated 68 kilometers from Catania, the town of Caltagirone has long been famous for its production of pottery. The name of this charming settlement derives from the Arabic qal’at-al-jarar” (“Castle of [pottery] jars”) and befits its longstanding pottery-making tradition perfectly. The talent of local craftsmen can be admired everywhere in Caltagirone, as everything from the palaces, churches and monuments to the gardens and squares of this place are covered in beautiful ceramics. But it’s the splendid Scala di Santa maria del Monte, a 142-step staircase dating back to 1608 that really stands as a testament to the town’s millennial tradition of pottery making. This breathtaking work of art that connects the high part of Caltagirone to the low part, is completely covered in ceramic tiles, with each of its steps featuring a different design inspired by local culture. The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte is the main attraction of the Sicilian town, and it’s here that locals celebrate their most important festivals, La Scala Infiorata and La Luminaria, during which they use the staircase as a canvas for floral and light masterpieces.

Scala-Infiorata-Caltaragione

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Pucker Up and Sing – The World Whistling Championship

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Every year, the world’s most passionate whistlers gather in Louisburg, North Carolina, to compete in the annual World Whistling Championship. Whistlers, young and old, are judged on resonance, intonation and stage presence as they interpret some of the most famous concertos and sonatas.

In 1970, Allen De Hart, director of public affairs at Louisburg College, founded the Franklin County and Louisburg College Festival, which focused on traditional music and dance from the southern states. Three years later, Darrel Williams, a contestant from Durham, North Carolina, requested he whistle his original composition rather than sing it. The judges accepted it and they were so impressed with his performance that the annual event soon became the National Whistlers Convention. For the last 40 years, talented whistlers from all around the world have been coming to Louisburg to show off their skills and claim the coveted title of World Whistling Champion. It might sound like a wacky contest to a lot of people, but for the dozens of participants who take part in it every it’s serious business. They spend a lot of time practicing both their whistling and their stage performance, and take special care of their “instruments”, making sure they are in perfect condition on the big day. Kissing apparently makes the lips mushy so some of them adopt a “24-hour no kissing” policy to keep their lips crisp, while others sip ice water right before the performance. The ice constricts the lip tissue, making it nice an smooth and allowing the air to flow properly.

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Danza de los Zancos – The Whirling Stilt Dancers of Anguiano

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Walking on stilts is a daunting task for most people, but for the skilled “danzatores” of Anguiano, Spain, it’s a regular walk in the park. During the annual Danza de los Zancos celebration they take to the streets on wooden stilts measuring some 50 centimeters, and spin rapidly down the town’s steepest alleyways. They risk breaking their necks or smashing their heads against the cobbled pavement to honor La Magdalena (Mary Magdalene).

Every year, on July 22, the town of Anguino hosts one of the oldest, most fascinating fiestas in Spain, the Danza de los Zancos (Stilt Dance). In honor of Mary Magdalene, one of the most popular saints in this part of the country, eight brave and morally upright boys from the oldest families in Anguiano put on brightly colored vests, white shirts and damask yellow skirts, and dance on 50-cm-high wooden stilts. And I don’t mean just bouncing from one foot to another, but whirling at high speeds on steep and narrow alleys with nothing but a human mattress of spectators to catch them if they lose their balance. Did I mention they clap their castanets at the same time?

Danza-de-los-Zancos

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Physical Deformities in the Name of Tradition – The Cullatori of Nola

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La Festa dei Gigli, or The Festival of Lilies, is held every year in the Italian town of Nola. In celebration of St. Paulinus, who in 410 AD saved his people from the invading Visigoths, local man carry heavy wooden obelisks on their shoulders through the streets of Nola, which in time causes them to develop giant calluses.

Artistic photos of men sporting different-size growths on the back of their necks and shoulders have been making the rounds online for a few days now. It turns out they are the works of Italian photographer Antonio Busiello, who recently won first prize at The Royal Photographic Society’s International Print Exhibition. The men in his photos are known as “cullatori” or cradle rockers, and they are responsible with carrying large wooden obelisks on their shoulders during the annual Festa dei Gigli, in Nola, southern Italy. These decorative structures are 25-meters high and weigh around 2,500 kilograms. The cullatori carry them through the narrow streets of Nola for a day and a night without stopping, which leaves them with huge calluses on their backs and shoulders. But the most fascinating thing about these keepers of an ancient tradition is that instead of hiding their physical deformities, they display them with pride as symbols of their sacrifice and devotion to Saint Paulinus, who once gave up himself and all his possessions to save the citizens of Nola during the Visigoth invasion.

The-Cullatore

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The Amazing Stone Jumpers of Nias Island

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Hombo Batu or Stone Jumping is an ancient ritual of Nias Island, North Sumatra, with young men leaping over stone walls over two-meters tall. The tradition was born out of inter-tribal conflicts and was once potentially deadly as the walls were covered with spikes and sharpened bamboo sticks.

Centuries ago, Nias Island was divided into several regions ruled by landlords or warlords. It was not a hereditary position, nor was it gained by force, but rather through entertainment of the masses. Whoever threw more parties known as “owasa” gained the favor of local communities and became their leader. But organizing these festive events didn’t come cheap, and the island’s landlords would constantly fight each other and use the spoils of war as funding. To start a war, they needed able brave men who had to prove their worth at drafting challenges. Becoming a soldier was a big honor for the young men of Nias and earned them a higher social status in the community, but physical attributes and weapon mastery were not enough to convince their leaders. They also had to jump over a 2.3-meter-tall stone wall without touching it. To make things even harder for candidates, the top of the obstacle was covered with spikes and sharp bamboo sticks, and the jumps often resulted in serious injuries and even deaths. According to some sources, Hombo Batu was also a way of training soldiers to jump over walls during a siege and light the enemy’s camp ablaze with torches.

Stone-jumping

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Japan’s Hand Canon Fireworks Look Insanely Dangerous

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Out of all the impressive fireworks celebrations held annually all around Japan, Tezutsu Hanabi is by far the most eye-catching. Experienced masters hold large bamboo tubes filled with black powder in their arms as flames gush out towards the sky. Did I mention they explode at the end?

Tezutsu hand cannons are believed to have originated as a form of long-distance communication smoke devices called Noroshi. With the introduction of smokeless gun powder, these Civil War era tools started being used as fireworks and later as a form of prayer at Yoshida Shrine, in Toyohashi. The Tezutsu Hanabi fireworks display has been carried out for the last 300 years, as part of the Gion Festival, attracting tourists from all over Japan and beyond with columns of flames up to 20 meters-high piercing the night sky. Seeing dozens of men walking around nonchalantly with 80-cm-long, 10-cm-wide bamboo cylinders filled with over three kilograms of ignited black powder is indeed quite the spectacle.

Tezutsu-Hanabi

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Red Bull 400 – The Toughest 400-Meter Race in the World

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Even if you’re not a professional athlete, completing a 400-meter race doesn’t sound like that big of a challenge, right? But what if that relatively short distance had to be covered up the steepest ski jumping hill in Europe? That certainly complicates things a bit, doesn’t it?

The Red Bull 400 uphill race is the brainchild of former world-class sprinter Andreas Berger. After seeing the ski jumping hill in Kulm, Austria, he got the idea to use the venue for the world’s most extreme 400-meter track and field event. Berger and his wife were the first to run up to the very top, and decided it was difficult enough but still doable. The first ever edition of the Red Bull 400 took place in 2011, and every year since then hundreds of athletes, both male and female have signed up to push their muscles to the limit in “the hardest 400 meters in the world”. Kulm is one of the steepest slopes on Earth, with an average gradient of about 45% and an angle of ascent of 37 degrees in its toughest sections. The difference in altitude from the bottom to the top is 180 meters, but it’s not just the vertical climb runners have to worry about. The grass-covered lower part of the track is very slippery, and spike or crampon footwear is not allowed, while the second stage takes place on smooth concrete, forcing participants to change their approach.

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Revelers Throw Dead Rats at Each Other as Part of Bizarre Spanish Festival

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Having a dead rat thrown straight in the face might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the people of El Puig, the yearly Battle of the Rats is an eagerly awaited event. During the bizarre celebration, people pick up frozen rat corpses and throw them at each other in the name of fun.

Every year, on the last Sunday of January, the town of El Puig, north of Valencia, hosts the Batalla de Ratas, or Battle of the Rats, one of the weirdest fiestas in Spain. Locals and tourists from all over the world gather in the main square to bash cucañas, a kind of local piñada. Sounds like a fun time, only there’s a catch – the goodies in half of these colorful cucañas include dead rats. Instead of running away in disgust at the sight of rodent corpses falling to the ground, festival goers rush to pick them up and throw them at the crowd. If you’ve been hit by a dead rat, it’s customary to grab it and throw it back at your attacker. It’s a good thing we’re not in the Middle Ages anymore, and the bubonic plague is nearly extinct, but still, I can’t help but think there’s something really unhygienic about throwing rats at people. In their defense, the people of El Puig only use frozen and previously-prepared corpses of humanely-killed rats.

Battle of the rats

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Only in the Philippines: Riding on Wooden Scooters at 50 Kilometers Per Hour

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The municipality of Banaue, in the Philippines, is widely known for its spectacular rice terraces, but few people know it’s also the setting of a traditional race that has daredevils riding wooden scooters downhill at speeds of up to 50 kph, without any kind of protection.

The wooden scooter has long been the preferred means of transportation for Ifugao (Philippine for “people of the hill) in Banaue, and is still used today, as a cheaper alternative to gas-powered motorcycles and scooters. They were created centuries ago to help people travel downhill faster. The men-folk had to walk up the surrounding hills almost every day to gather firewood and tend to their rice crops, and carrying the load back down was an exhausting task that took them hours to complete. People started making light scooters almost entirely out of wood, and pushed them uphill whenever they had something to transport back to their village. At the top, they would simply strap the load on both sides of the vehicle and let gravity take them back down in a matter of minutes. In time, making wooden scooters became an art form, and masters of the craft began decorating them with all kinds of designs, from local animals and birds to human heads. Today, the Ifugao still celebrate this useful invention by participating in a seven-kilometer wooden scooter race down a steep road along the famous Banaue Rice Terraces.

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England’s Shin-Kicking Championship Is a Painful Affair

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Sometimes described as an English martial art, shin kicking is a centuries-old combat sport in which two participants kick each other in the shins until one of them falls down. Needless to say there is a lot of pain involved.

The origins of shin kicking are lost in the mists of time, but some experts say it started as a variation of wrestling, at least five or six hundred years ago. The brutal sport has been a part of the famous Cotsworld Olympik Games since the 17th centuries and it’s still practiced today. The rules of shin kicking are very straightforward: the two combatants grab each other’s collars and start kicking until one of them falls down. Although pushing or pulling is permitted, contestants have to kick their opponent in the shins at least once before they hit the ground for their win to count. Matches are won by the person who wins two out of three rounds. As you probably know, shin kicks really hurt, so participants are allowed to stuff their pants with straw in order to cushion the painful blows. Still, the organizers of the annual Shin Kicking Championship say the pain is so bad that the vast majority of participants never return. This year, Zak Warren, the previous champion actually defended his title, but it’s a very rare occurrence.

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