We now have a timeline. My flight is booked for the 9th October and our two crew, Jim and Greg, are flying in to Santo on the 8th October.
We always planned on approximately 30 days in Vanuatu and our 30 days are up on the 11th October. Neville has extended his 30-day visa; in case a weather window doesn’t appear before the 11th. I did the trip across but these long passages are tedious when I’m usually on the edge of sea sickness. I’m not much use as I can’t go in the cabin, and 7+ days of sitting did not really appeal. I’ve had my ‘adventure’ out in the ocean.
So, with our timeline now set, we are “on the way home” I suppose. There have been lots of highlights since leaving Port Vila and unfortunately, some lowlights.
So these last few weeks of our Pacific adventure are going to be enjoyed!
I mentioned in an earlier post about gastro problems on a few boats. Most of us have now been hit by some sort of bug, and powerful ones at that. All around the time we visited Port Vila. As one boat put it, “welcome to paradise!” Talking to other rally boats ahead of us, it has been common. Seems like our bodies take a few weeks to adjust to the Vanuatu way of life. We were also warned back in Noumea to watch for skin infections. Always a problem in the tropics. It was recommended to treat any cut or abrasion with bleach straight away and this seems to be working so far. So far none of our group have had to resort to antibiotics for skin infections. While we haven’t seen many mosquitos, we don’t leave the boat without spraying ourselves with repellent as there are cases of malaria here. We are all carrying extensive medical supplies and travelling in a group is certainly an advantage.
We stopped by Pele island after leaving Vila. A non event as a few of us were still ill or experiencing relapses of earlier gastro. An ordinary anchorage with our anchors causing us all concern with a rocky, coral bottom. Cruising Kitty had ‘broken’ their anchor winch at an earlier anchorage when it got stuck in the coral below. Fortunately, we all managed to retrieve our anchors successfully with some extra maneuvering, leaving at 5.30 am. A relief!
We then stopped overnight at Epi island and then the Maskeleyne islands, near Malakula island, where we spent four days.
Our stay at the Maskeleynes was delightful. We were all craving a snug anchorage, swimming and some r & r. We’d had several long passages on top of not feeling well, so we were relieved when we rounded the corner of Awai island and saw a pretty, lush, palm tree lined bay, protected from all winds. First up, a swim!
Within ‘minutes’ an outrigger dugout appeared, with a sail! We traded our tuna that I’d caught during the passage, for a loaf of bread. A freshly baked loaf from the village here is 100 vatu ($1) so not sure we came out on top with this one. We also charged the local Awai Chief’s phone as there is no electricity on any of these islands, even water is scarce with no rain for several months.
Water was something we could help with, as we all have water makers on board. The Chief paddled the village’s 500 litre plastic tank out to Easy Tiger on his outrigger dug-out. We learnt there were six families on Awai relying on this 500 litre tank. They had 30 cm left in the bottom before we arrived. Their other tanks were empty. There are neighbouring islands where water is available but I’m not sure, that accessible. We all made water and tipped it in to his tank. A small thankyou for visiting his village’s bay, but a much needed and appreciated one.
Our Awai anchorage was delightful. The outrigger dug-outs were busy in the bay, fishing, crabbing, collecting bananas, ferrying families to church on neighbouring islands and of course visiting us.
Chief Kaiser invited us to his village on the neighbouring island of Avokh (a short dinghy ride ‘over there’ we were told) to see their Kastom Dance. If the village is a ‘smart’ one, they will have some way of providing an activity to us passing yachties for a small charge. It is a way of providing some wealth to the village. The Kastom Dance on Avokh island was 3500 vatu pp, $35 pp. Our visit included a tour of the village and some refreshments after the cultural dance. There was a big difference between the more ‘wealthy’ village on Avokh than the small village on Aiwa.
Fifty fit young men, dressed in Kastom attire (which was not very much), danced to the beat of a single drum, telling their three stories in dance. There are two main custom tribes here, the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas – named for the size of their penis sheaths. I’ve since been told we were watching the Small Nambas. Glad we were all wearing sunglasses as it was tricky knowing where to look! This was the by far, the best Kastom Dance we had seen.
The villages in this area take their culture very seriously and when we suggested we would rather not partake in their refreshments after the dance (because of our tummy upsets), we could see them somewhat confused. They can become offended if “you break their rules”, even if you’re not sure what the “rules” are.
Next stop Luganville on Espiritu Santo, our Australian departure point. Somewhere with internet! If you are reading this post … I’ve found it!!