We have arrived in Vanuatu!
After 31 hours at sea, we entered Port Resolution on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu at 7 am. Sunday. Hearing the village roosters and seeing the steam rising from the cliffs, we knew we were in the right place. We had departed Ouvea at midnight on Friday so we were in bed by 7.30 am. Easy Tiger and then Sans Souci followed. Some great easy sailing but some messy seas with strong winds as well. All forgotten now.
Port Resolution is not a port as such, simply a bay on the eastern side of the island of Tanna. It is protected from the south east trade winds and close to Tanna’s Mt. Yasur volcano. The reason we are here! We had contacted Vanuatu’s immigration department prior to arriving, seeking permission to check-in at an undeclared ‘port of entry’ so all our paperwork was in order, with customs and immigration officers due to arrive Monday morning to finalise our clearance in to Vanuatu. No getting off our boats until then.
Our costs –
Customs 5,000 VT (approx. $60)
Immigration 4,800 VT (approx. $55)
Fuel Total 6,000 VT with our share at 1,000 VT (6 boats sharing this cost) (approx. $11)
There were no costs to clear in to New Caledonia and we know we will be paying more fees to clear out of Vanuatu, but these costs aren’t unreasonable (Australia’s inward clearance fee is approx. $300). The country needs the money.
Once the formalities were done we three boats headed for the shore. We knew Port Resolution had a yacht club and we’d had various visits from the locals in their dug-outs giving us the local drill. Number one was to arrange for a visit to the seaside town of Lenakel on the opposite side of the island and a Mt. Yasur volcano tour. A day tour was arranged for 27,000 VT for the next day. We were in luck as Tanna had had unseasonal rain before we arrived making the volcano tour not so pleasant with lots of steam rather than lava spewing out the top. The weather had improved. Phew!
We toured the local Port Resolution village, met some locals and arranged to visit Leah’s Restaurant (Chez Leah) for dinner. It became very obvious from early on that English is spoken by many of the village ni-Van people. The children are taught English both in primary and secondary schools. Tanna is a relatively wealthy island with Mt. Yasur attracting much tourism, but the villages to us, were in need. Cyclone Pam had hit Vanuatu very hard and we could see remnants of that damage. But the people here are friendly and always have a smile, yet many are very poor.
Our big day was next. We managed to renegotiate a later start with our guide Stanley, as we really didn’t want 5 hours in Lenakel. The volcano tour started at 4 pm and it was a two-hour each way trip to Lenakel. Our later start was 8 am. That was still 4 hours in Lenakel! So with cushions packed … we had been warned by previous rally yachts … we jumped in our dual-cab ute with much enthusiasm and anticipation.
We did have a great day and yes, we had too much time in the “frontier” town of Lenakel but the trip there and back was fantastic. We rocked and rolled our way along potholed roads and we stopped at various ‘shops’ along the way purchasing Juliana’s various vegies of need and helped a poor family by buying their lovely bread (best bread in months). Even experiencing diesel refilling was an experience. No bowsers. A one-gallon plastic bottle of diesel poured in to a funnel is how they refill their vehicles. We drove over the Mt. Yasur ash plains. Such evocative landscape. We experienced Lenakel. We visited the bank and purchased local SIM cards. There is phone coverage here and we were able to buy data but the internet coverage so far is very slow. (New Cal certainly excelled with their phone and internet coverage.) Finding a lunch spot was a task. Steve asked a local girl when he was queuing in the bank, but she didn’t give us any faith on where we could eat. But our guide Stanley took us to a lunch spot right on the water with fish and salad on the menu. Water views, local food and white tablecloths. It sounds far better than it was!
I haven’t mentioned the truck trip. We had a dual cab ute that seated five including the driver. Driver John had Steve as his front passenger with Leanne, myself and Juliana in the back. Neville and Hugh took the tray. There were cushions in the back tray but we all took our own as we had been warned (I took two). The seats inside were showing springs and the grip handles had disappeared. The back seat sank in the middle so it was certainly a cozy ride. I think I survived very well, as not only did a few of us have dodgy backs and bung knees, I had unfortunately fallen from our dinghy when I ‘zigged’ and our dinghy ‘zagged’ in Ouvea. I fell in shallow water but landed on hard rippled sand right on my tailbone. Say no more!
See my next post for our volcano experience …