Sunday, 17 November 2019

14-2019 Port Vila, Heading for Home

Hi from Clare,        14- 2019 Port Vila, Heading for Home             16th November 2019

When we last wrote Eye Candy was at the island of Ambrym and we were waiting for a favourable wind to sail 110 miles south to Port Vila.

On 6th November we left Ambrym at 5am in a light easterly breeze with the intention of sailing 70 miles south to the island of Epi.   Much to our delight the wind co operated and came around to the north east and we sailed the 110 miles to Port Vila on a flat sea. It was the perfect sail to end what has been a very enjoyable sailing season in Vanuatu. We arrived in the well lit harbour of Port Vila at 1am, what a ride.

Since then we have been very busy getting the boat ready to store at the Port Vila boat yard for the cyclone season.  We have fare welled our various cruising friends as they set off for either Australia or New Zealand. We are one of the few boats left here, so I guess this year, we turn the lights out.

Yesterday we took the afternoon off and visited the Vanuatu National Museum.  We are so glad we did this after visiting a number of the islands and remote villages.  Our appreciation for the Museum’s displays and artefacts was greatly enhanced by our exposure to the Vanuatu culture over the last few months.  Our guide at the museum is a chief of one of the villages on Pentecost Island and when not working at the museum, goes home regularly.

Vanuatu National Museum

He did some Vanuatu sandroing (sand drawing) for us. These are geometric figures drawn in a continuous line without lifting the finger. The drawings date back to pre European education and are used to leave messages, explain concepts and teach children. The drawings are often accompanied by stories or song. In the photo below, our guide drew and explained the tradition of land diving. This is done by building a high bamboo tower, tying a vine to the ankles and then diving off. We are looking forward to seeing this tradition in June/July May next year when we return to Vanuatu.

Sandroing - Land Diving Tower

We had a tour of the Museum and our guide explained the purpose of the various face masks, head dresses, tam tam (drums) and other items we have seen in our travels. The guide then played some traditional music on a percussion instrument and ended with the Australian National Anthem,; see photo below.

Tam Tam (Village drums)

On Tuesday we are storing the boat in a steel cradle in the Port Villa boat yard. This cradle will be fastened down to steel rings in the ground. We will have a few more days work before flying home on Friday 22nd November for five months. We are looking forward to catching up with family and friends and also to returning to Vanuatu next year to continue our adventure.

Love Candy xx

Friday, 8 November 2019

13-2019 Blue Holes and Villages, Vanuatu

Hi from Clare,       13-2019 Blue Holes and Villages, Vanuatu     6th November 2019

Over the past few weeks we have been slowly sailing north from Port Vila stopping off at many beautiful bays and visiting local villages. Some one hundred and fifty miles later we ended up in Peterson Bay on the east side of Malakula Island. This is a beautiful bay and said to have the best all round protection in Vanutu. It certainly is a peaceful spot and it has two fresh water rivers to explore with the dinghy, the Forest River and Nalaiafu River.

Andrew motoring up the river

We, along with our American friends Ian and Cindy on Oyster Reach travelled up Forest River on day one, shortly after we had dropped anchor in the bay. The village people charge $5 per person to enter each of the rivers. Had we known this, we should have gone exploring the following morning, taking a cut lunch and having sufficient time for a leisurely swim in the fresh water blue hole. We enjoyed the trip and decided to travel the Nalaiafu River the following day. This time we came prepared with a cut lunch and our swimmers. We motored up the river through thick jungle whilst listening to Kingfishers and parrots. At the end of the river we found the blue hole surrounded by a lovely picnic area

Blue Hole Nalaiafu River

These blue holes are found in several places in Vanuatu I think they are formed when a fresh water spring is filtered through limestone and the blue cast to it is from the dissolved calcium carbonate. Our swim in the fresh water blue hole was a pleasure and an unexpected treat when sailing the ocean. We enjoyed our lunch in the picnic area watching the kids having fun. The local people have tied ropes to the trees and the kids swing out over the river. They also climb high into the tree tops and do pin drops into the river.

Both rivers are beautiful but unfortunately they are being choked by a vine which was introduced during WW2 from south west of the United States. It was suppose to camouflage gun emplacements and war equipment should the Japanese ever make it to Vanuatu. It is disappointing to see that the vine which was once useful and beautiful, now smothers whole forests like a monstrous green wet blanket.

Smothering Vines

We would have enjoyed sailing further north but time was running out and both Eye Candy and Oyster Reach needed to be back in Port Vila early November. We hope to see further north early next year before heading to Australia. We sailed forty five miles east to Vanihe Bay on the island of Ambae. Once again we have found a well protected bay from the S/E winds and we have spent five lovely days here enjoying the local people and village.

Government Office

On day one we had an escorted tour of the town by John an elderly gent who was born in the village and has lived there all his life. We are on the N/E corner of the island and the village here has shops, a police station, a bank, government offices, churches, a hospital and a primary school and a technical college. This is the main village on the island and used to be the regional centre for Ambae, Pentecost and Maewo. In August last year the people were evacuated due to a treat from a volcano on the island. At that time the administrative centre was moved to Pentecost Island where it remains today. The people were away from here for three months before anyone was allowed to return. Many people have still not returned as they have found work on other islands and settled there.

Woodwork Shop at Secondary School

We have been into the village a number of times mainly for a walk and a chat to the locals. We are learning a few names and recognising the people. Today I wanted some eggs but the store was closed. The owner had shut shop and was doing her washing in a fresh water hole on the beach. We stopped to talk to some locals loading a truck with building supplies delivered by barge yesterday. I mentioned I needed eggs and Bertha volunteered to run home and get me a dozen; I was very glad to receive them. The people are very friendly and seem quite contented in this tropical paradise. I would like to come back here next year if we have time.
Village Transport
We anchored in Asanvani Bay to the sound of music, singing, dancing and a guy on a loud speaker. The Women’s Union for the island was having it’s annual swap meeting. Gifts were exchanged and a party was in full swing with women from other villages staying overnight. The following day after many canoes loaded with smiling woman had departed we went into the village. We walked around the island meeting the people and Chief Richard. We enjoy visiting the various villages as the Vanuatu people are the most friendly we had found. They are interested in our lifestyle and ask lots of questions, but conclude that their simple lifestyle suits them.
Waterfall on Maewo Island
Chief Richard, Ian "Oyster Reach" Andrew "Eye Candy"
We sailed ten miles south to Loltong Bay on Pentecost Island. To avoid coral reefs, we followed the lead markers into the bay. The front marker we could see with the binoculars but the back marker was almost covered by bushes. Once on land we were quite amused to discover that the front marker was embedded in a chunk of concrete which could be moved anywhere. Andrew thinks it is for quick relocation when unwanted tribes arrive:)
We had drinks on Eye Candy that night with Ian and Cindy “Oyster Reach” and caught up with Mark and crew Bianca on “Macushla”

 Removal Front Lead Marker, Back Marker just visible under trees

The following morning we said good bye to Mark as he was sailing north and we were sailing south to Port Vila. We, along with Ian and Cindy went ashore. Once again the community at Loltong Bay was extremely welcoming. Matthew who manages the local yacht club is very entrepreneurial and trades local fruit and vegetables for clothes, ropes or anything else that is excess on visiting boats. The pace is slow and we asked one guy “What do you do here” his answer was “nothing” so we said “Is that good” and he answered “Yes”.
Yacht Club, Loltong Bay
The Village Loltong Bay

This island, like others we have observed have some advanced facilities which are now lying in disrepair. Pentcost for example had a hydro power station which no longer works. This seems to be a common theme throughout the islands and disappointing to see.

The Anchorage Loltong Bay

Our next little village was seven miles south in Bratnapne Bay. We stopped here mainly because the snorkelling was said to be good. We went ashore and introduced ourselves and got permission to snorkel the bay. We had a tour of the town with one of the school teachers and some of the children. We stopped at the shop and bought the kids an ice cream – they were all smiles. I didn’t take the camera so unfortunately no photos of this village.

Some of the pretty coral
Last Friday we sailed 26.5 miles to Nopul on the N/E corner of Ambrym. It was a sporty sail in 25 knots forward of the beam and lumpy two metre waves. We were glad to drop the anchor and go ashore. We were hoping that market day would be Saturday as we were running out of fresh produce. We were out of luck as Friday is their market day and by the time we got ashore the small market was sold out. The main town of Olal is about an hours walk and so we set out the following morning. Cindy was hoping that in Olal we might be able to find out what date the ‘Back to My Roots’ festival would be held next year on Ambrym. We walked to the next village and found Chief Sekor, the chief for the area. He was happy to give us a guided tour to the Festival Site deep in the forest where it is tabu to enter his hut. This is where the chief performs ceremonial duties and also houses some of the ceremonial masks. So here we were on this remote island, in this sacred place, deep in the forest with the village chief and Cindy asks “When is the Festival next year” the chief’s answer was “You can look it up on our website”
Cindy "Oyster Reach" Chief Sekor, Clare "Eye Candy" outside Ceremonial Hut
Photo taken at last year's Back to My Roots Festival

We continued walking through the forest, we would have been totally lost without a guide. We saw Chief Sekor’s garden and visited his sister’s house. Here a huge pig was caged waiting to be transferred to another village for an upcoming ceremony. The poor old pig would be killed and eaten and it’s tusk (it only had one, the other had been broken off) would be worn as decoration by that chief. We met our chief’s nephew who explained some of the culture to us, including how many pigs were necessary to buy a bride from her father. It appeared that brides from some islands are more expensive than other islands.
Apparently the Chief Sekor paid fifteen pigs plus fruit and vegetables for his wife. The chief’s nephew spoke very good English as he lived permanently on the Sunshine Coat in Queensland with his wife and daughter and was back in his village on a holiday. It appears that they live and move between two cultures and mange it very well.

The Chief's nephew and niece

After leaving the chief, we continued on to the village of Olal. We didn’t stay long as we had been walking for three and a half hours and still had an hour’s walk back to the boat. We had a quiet afternoon recovering and then enjoyed a lovely dinner on ‘Oyster Reach’.

Chief Sekor's House

We are pinned in here waiting for a trough to pass. It is raining and a swell is coming around the corner causing quite a jiggle. We are using the time to clean out cupboards and lockers in preparation for going home later this month. Hopefully we will continue our journey south to Port Villa in a couple of days.

Love Candy xx