Saturday, 12 October 2019

11-2019 Heading north to Luganville

Hi from Clare,     11-2019 Heading north to Luganville          12th October 2019

Today is the thirteenth day of our trip from Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to Luganville which is the second largest town in Vanuatu. The distance is only 150 miles but we have stopped at many places along the way to enjoy the village hospitality and learn more about the Vanuatu culture.

We arrived at the island of Epi on 29th September in company with three other yachts. We have known Mark on ‘Macushla’ for a number of years having sailed with him across two oceans and through the Caribbean. We made new American friends, Ian and Cindy on ‘Oyster Reach’ and together we are travelling up to Luganville. British couple, Steve and Jody on Ena Vigo are also new to us although known through our radio net.
Our anchorage at Epi Island
Lamen Bay, Epi, is a small but industrious community. The village houses and gardens are well maintained. We found the ladies making baskets from palm reeds and we had breakfast at a most attractive hut decorated with shells. The breakfast of eggs, toast, local fruit, pancakes with local jam, tea or coffee was delicious and cost $5.
Village ladies making multi purpose baskets
At Breakfast Left Cindy, Andrew, Clare, Right Steve, Ian, Jodi
The snorkelling was good, we found large turtles, but no dugong. It always amazes us that when snorkelling we always find something we haven’t seen before. The photo below shows a living creature that looks like a piece of wool spread over the coral, but when disturbed the tentacles retract back to one central point; quite fascinating to watch.
Ocean creature
Our next stop was Port Sandwich. No sooner had we dropped the anchor that a canoe came alongside welcoming us with gifts of papaya, and grapefruit. When walking ashore that afternoon, small children gave us lemons and bananas. The next morning was market day so we set out at 6.30am with Ian and Cindy of ‘Oyster Reach’ and Steve and Jodi of ‘Ena Vigo’ to arrive in time for the early morning 7am market. I think someone forgot to tell the locals the start time as no seller arrived until 9am. We stocked up on fresh vegetables and I bought a dozen eggs. You can imagine how surprised I was that night to discovered that the eggs were hard boiled.
Receiving local fruit upon arrival
The local market at Port Sandwich
The three kilometre walk to market gave us an opportunity to see the small villages along the way. The people came out to talk to us and seemed genuinely interested in where we came from and how long we had been cruising. Even the children would step forward without hesitation to shake hands, it is very cute.
Village houses
Village children on the way to the market
Port Sandwich is a very deep bay and has a number of rivers to explore by dinghy. We packed a picnic lunch and along with Ian and Cindy from ‘Oyster Reach’ we motored our dinghies up the rivers enjoying the explosion of tropical foliage teaming with bird life.
 Our trip up the river
Our next stop was at Banam Bay where we organised a walk to a waterfall and some traditional dancing. The people here live in small communities of extended families. All the huts are in close proximity. The people seemed very happy and contented, they smile a lot. We met a mother carrying a one year old child who shook our hands unprompted, it was very endearing. We couldn’t help but notice that we haven’t heard any small children crying in the village communities. There seems to be endless child minders carrying little ones around.

The Gorgeous Children from Banam Bay
The walk to the waterfall was easy on flat ground and mostly in the shade of fruit trees. The chief from the first village was our guide. The waterfall was owned by the next village so we had to ask permission from that chief to see his waterfall. So the chief from the second village came along with us and showed us the various edible plants along the way. We were given a cacao fruit to suck on. The outside of the bean is white, soft and sweet and only bitter if you bite into the brown bean. It was a good experience as the people are very welcoming. Andrew and Ian from ‘Oyster Reach’ enjoyed a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall. The girls were content to just wade in up to our knees.
Andrew having a dip in the waterfall
The two chiefs with Andrew, Ian with the local lads
In the afternoon we returned to the first village to see the dance show, Unlike other communities we have experienced, the men danced in one area and the woman in another. Their tradition in this village is that the village women are not allowed to watch the men dancing. We think the men we saw dancing really enjoyed themselves. We then went to another location and watched the woman dance. Their dancing was similar to what we have seen before but there was more participation by small girls who joined in enthusiastically.
The village men dancing
The village women dancing
It was with some regret we left this community and sailed the following morning to Port Stanley. This is a busy location with a wharf, lots of cars, and townships that have been established long ago by the French and English. We hitched a ride in the back of a four wheel drive for $1 to the township of Lakatoro. We were hoping to visit a local handy craft shop which has a good reputation. However it was shut and none of the local people could tell us when it might be opened again. Not to worry, we consoled ourselves with a visit to a chocolate factory instead and bought some rather tasty dark chocolate.

Earlier that morning a local family from Selenamboro village on Uri Island came out to our boat for a chat. The guy, David, asked Andrew if he would help him wire his new house for electric light. So Andrew spent a few hours that afternoon cobbling it together and as he said, probably breaking all the wiring rules. However by the end of the day the job was complete and the local guy was a happy man. Now he needs lights to use with his solar powered battery.
Andrew at work
David with his first light switch
The following morning we sailed to Wala Island. We were instantly met by a local offering a tour of the island for $5 with a basket of local fruit at the end. So we went for a walk around the island but we have to say the guide was very hard to understand. When talking about local customs, it was difficult to determine whether he was talking about now or a custom from the past, so we didn’t learn a lot. The fruit at the end was most generous. We ended up with mangoes, papaya, bananas, grapefruit, ginger and cucumber. The guide asked Andrew to check his house batteries and wanted any spare rope we might have to tie his house roof down in preparation for the next cyclone. He also asked if I could put some movies on his USB stick. I agreed thinking I could just give him what we had, but no, he only wanted action movies and musicals. So I spent quite a few hours during the night sorting through our movies to give him what he wanted. He was pretty happy this morning when he came by at 6.30am to collect the two sticks he gave us yesterday. We have concluded after the last few days that the requests are always larger and more complicated than first anticipated.

Yesterday morning we sailed to Vao Island and had a good walk with a chief who couldn’t speak English. French is the second language for these islanders. However the chief managed quite well explaining that where we were walking was tabu unless we were with the chief. It was an area of traditional ceremonies usually including the killing of a pig. There are six tam tam drums (hollow logs), one for each village on the island. Each tam tam has its own sound and that is how the chief calls the people of that village to assembly. The tam tam can be heard from a great distance.
Ian, Andrew and the chief in front of the tam tam

This morning we sailed to Espirito-Santo. We caught a very nice tuna on the way so we are sharing dinner with Oyster Reach tonight. We don’t know how long we will stay here but we want to dive on the wreck of the President Coolidge which is a World War 2 troop ship that sank after running into a friendly mine. Also Million Dollar Point where the American government dumped all their equipment at the end of the war. We also want to see Luganville township before sailing back to Port villa.

We have very much enjoyed our trip north and we think Vanuatu is a lovely country.

Love Candy xx

Friday, 27 September 2019

10-2019 Tanna Volcano & Cultural Village

Hi from Clare,     10-2019 Tanna Volcano & Cultural Village      Friday 26th September 2019
We are having a very happy and interesting time in Vanuatu. Before we arrived in Port Villa we were relying on out of date Cruising Guides for information which didn’t paint a very rosy picture. Upon arrival, what a pleasant surprise to find a developing and bustling city. We also have many cruising friends here. Some, like us are staying for a few months to explore the surrounding islands. Others are passing through on their way to New Zealand or Australia. The group below is typical of the nightly round up for happy hour at the Waterfront Restaurant. A good time to catch up with friends and meet new arrivals.

Good friends at happy hour
On Friday we flew 120 miles south to the island of Tanna and stayed at the Evergreen Resort for three nights. It was a wonderful break from routine in a beautiful location. We enjoyed being waited on with serviced rooms and lovely meals in the restaurant. We slept peacefully each night, had breakfast overlooking the ocean then soaked up the morning sun and swam in the pool before venturing out on our excursions; a great way to start the day.

Evergreen Resort

Clare enjoying the pool

We decided to do two half day excursions, one to Mount Yasur which is said to be the Worlds Most Accessible Active Volcano Tour and the following day we did the Louinio Primitive Cultural Village Tour. The volcano trip departed the resort at 2pm and we returned at 9pm. It was a ninety minute road trip across the island to get to the volcano. This gave us a good look at the lush countryside, small settlements, the main town of Lenakel, spectacular ocean views and Yasur volcano from a distance. Towards the end of the trip the road was very bumpy, good thing we were in a 4WD. Some of the tourists had to sit on seats in the back of the Isuzu D-Max which would have been cold and uncomfortable. However both Andrew and I got a seat in the cabin as we were probably the oldest people on the trip. Occasionally, our senior years has an advantage:)

Ocean View on the way
Our first sight of Yasur Volcano
Close up of Yasur

So they weren’t kidding when they said Yasur was the worlds most accessible volcano. We took the 4WD most of the way up and then walked to the top of the mountain and around the edge of the volcano. A lot of smoke, ash, gas and a lot of rumbling with the occasional burp of fire and lava. When the first burp of fire and lava erupted the girl next to me screamed and ran and hid behind her boyfriend. He was no where big enough to protect her from anything:) Predictably it was very windy on the mountain and so we got covered with grit and ash. It was in our hair, our eyes and the gas was choking. We could smell the gas on us the next day even after a shower and change of clothes. I think the most amazing thing was that there were no security rails. At one viewing area there was a flimsy rail which we were told not to lean on. To get to the best viewing place it was necessary to walk uphill along the edge of the volcano on a path just wide enough for two people to pass. There was a steep drop on each side of the path, one side went down into the volcano and the side went down the outside of the volcano. So I decided the last elevation wasn’t for me, the path was too narrow and it was very windy. So I gave the camera to Andrew and asked him to get some good photos for the blog. We came off the mountain after dark and made our way back down by torch light.
Best viewing spot for Yasur
One of the burps

The next day’s excursion to the Louinio Primitive Cultural Village (Yakel tribe) was like stepping back in time and a very pleasant experience. These friendly village people are intent on preserving their culture and live as much as possible untouched by western influence. We were met by the female guide, the daughter of the chief, who was one of few villagers who spoke English. She showed us their vegetable gardens, fruit and nut trees. We were invited into a hut to eat a traditional dish of cassava (like potato) and spinach, cooked in a banana leaf. Below is a photo of two huts, our guide explained that the hut where the roof goes to the ground is considered cyclone proof.

 Andrew and our Guide
Preparing cassava and spinach dish

Traditional Huts
However when cyclone Pam swept through the village in 2015 nothing was saved. Our guide said everything went including all vegetation. The village people had a clear view to the ocean some miles away. Relief came very quickly from Australia with volunteers building temporary accommodation and providing food. We saw how the men start a fire by rubbing two stick together and the village people sang and danced for us. The people dress in traditional grass skirts and nambas (penis cover). The only time they wear western clothes is when they leave the village and go to town. The children walk an hour to school and home again. When they arrive home, off come the school uniforms and primitive life continues. All the kids we saw were having great fun playing together.

Starting the fire
Village dancers
Andrew’s great, great uncle John G Paton lived and worked in Vanuatu as a missionary around 1860. We went in search for the Paton Memorial Church (PMC for short) which is named after his wife Margaret Whitecross Paton. The A frame construction is nestled on the hillside and we can see it from our boat in the harbour. There was a hospital here also named after John Paton, however that is no longer standing. The church is still an integral part of the community.
The Paton Memorial Church
Inside the PMC
Yesterday we had lunch at the home of a new friend, Michael, an Australian who has his home is Sydney but also a house here in Vanuatu. Andrew met Michael via the radio when talking to one of our cruising friends Larry on ‘Serengetti’ who arrived in Australia last year. We mentioned to Larry that we were heading for Vanuatu and Michael popped up from Sydney and introduced himself. He said he was flying into Vanuatu on Wednesday 25th September and would love to meet us. So we had a very enjoyable afternoon with Michael and Nan yesterday and they are coming for a visit on Eye Candy this afternoon.

Tonight we will sail seventy miles north to the next island of Epi. This is a remote island with a small village. Other cruisers have reported many huge turtles and dugongs in the bay. We are looking forward to crystal clear water again. At 25 degrees, the water is a little cooler than we are used to but I’m sure we will cope:)

Over the next few weeks we will continue north to Luganville which is the next biggest town in Vanuatu. We probably won’t have much phone or internet coverage between Port Vila and Luganville and so any contact will be made via Sailmail.

Love Candy xx