Today was another long motor-sailing day, having weighed anchor at daybreak to depart Tanna Island for Aneityum (aka Anatom) Island. Beating to windward not only stresses us, but stresses the yacht, so having light winds and slighter seas was far more preferably for the last of our windward legs. Today, in winds of less than 10 Kts, with a lazy swell, lake-like seas and speeds of around 6 Kts, we enjoyed a reasonably fast trip.
For a mid-morning snack we tucked into some of the fruit we still had left over from all the "gift exchanges" we had to participate in on Erromango Island and, since we'd run out of bread, Roy excelled in the galley once again by baking baguettes for lunch. Elaine, under supervision from Roy, tried her hand at making paw paw jam, after getting an idea of a recipe from one of the locals. En route we also made a temporary repair to the headsail where some stitching had come loose.
Certainly an industrious day , which allowed us to make good use of our time for a change, while motor-sailing.
Today was definitely far less eventful than yesterday, but restful. After a lazy morning and a cooked breakfast, we headed ashore to explore the local village, where we found Chez Leah's "restaurant". Again, the term is used very loosely, but we were able to enjoy a delicious mug of Tanna coffee, some cream biscuits and a few complimentary slices of paw paw.
After wandering around the village, we headed back to the "yacht club" where we meet a number of the cruisers from the yachts that had arrived earlier today. We also signed the visitors log book and happened to stumble across Andy and Paul's name, with their yacht Talulah Ruby II at the time, signed on the 2008 / 2009 World ARC rally flag that was on display , the very first rally. Of course we couldn't resist adding our names to the 2016 / 2017 World ARC flag, given that we'd paid for this leg of the circumnavigation, albeit that we arrived a year after the rest of the fleet.
To stretch our legs we then walked to White Bay and discovered a fabulous, but wild and rugged coastline, fringed by a white sandy beach. Being on the windward side of the island, though, it was very windy today, but would make a great place for a beach picnic / barbecue otherwise. Unfortunately, our time in Vanuatu is coming too a close, so we'll have to find another suitable beach in either New Caledonia or Australia.
We've certainly had an eventful two days. Yesterday we departed Dillon's Bay at daybreak for our sail to Tanna Island. With the wind, waves and current on the nose, we motored the first leg then got some reprieve from the current and swell in the shadow of Tanna Island, which allowed us to motor-sail. We knew it would be slow going, so we'd planned to only go as far as Lomanloma Bay on the northwest corner of Tanna Island. However, with the southeast to northwest orientation of the island, the swell was basically coming up both the leeward and windward sides, making Lomanloma Bay a less than desirable choice. With that and enough daylight remaining we altered course for Waisisi Bay. We were rewarded with two separate whale sightings for our trouble.
It was dusk by the time we anchored. We'd no sooner settled down with our sundowners when we heard some giggling. On further investigation we encountered a group of children who had paddled out to Paw Paw in their dugout canoes. We felt so bad that we had no sweets onboard to give them, but then Elaine remembered we had packets of Ginger Snap biscuits. The delight on their little faces at receiving two biscuits each was priceless. Of course, it didn't take long for word to spread and, just as darkness fell, two more children, who couldn't have been older than five years old, paddled out for their biscuits. In many ways, it broke our hearts, but we later learnt that yachts rarely visit Waisisi Bay, so the entire experience was new for these children.
This morning we discovered the reason yachts seldom stop at Waisisi Bay. Every inch of Paw Paw was covered in a thick layer of ash. Knowing it would take us the best part of the day to clean the mess, we decided to get an early start and motored the last 6NM to Port Resolution, our intended destination on Tanna Island and the single reason we had sailed to Vanuatu to begin with - Mount Yasur, an active volcano that we could visit. En route to Port Resolution we had another sighting of whales, but this time it was a female and her calf, breaching beautifully as they approached us. It was the start of the most spectacular day.
Of course, there's always the "piper to pay" and a significant leak in our portside water heater was our payment. It drained about a quarter of a tank of our much needed freshwater into the bilge before we heard the bilge pumps activate. Once that issue was isolated, we tackled our mess on deck. After trying to sweep it up, then trying to wash it off with buckets, we were getting nowhere. It was time to bring out the "big guns" - Our 8000 gallons / 30000 litres per hour emergency pump with a 3 inch firehose attached. While we hate to give Paw Paw a saltwater washdown, we had no choice in this regard and the pump worked wonders. We then spent some time giving the stainless steel, hatches, etc a freshwater wipe and, fortunately, mother nature helped o ut later in the day with a decent amount of rain.
By then we were scrambling to get ready for our trip to Mount Yasur, only to discover our transportation was running late, so we ended up with an hour to spare. With that we enjoyed a walk around the very pretty gardens and grounds of the Port Resolution "Yacht Club", as well as a chat to Scott off Morning Light who was also joining the excursion. After a very bumpy ride, fortunately in the comfort of a 4-wheel drive supercab, we arrived at the entrance to the operations, but by now the similarities between Costa Rica and much of Vanuatu had definitely surfaced. The roads are essentially mud tracks. The vegetation is thick and lush, but seeing steam coming out of the mountain side as we approached the volcano was incredible.
After paying our entrance fee, we were escorted to the staging area, where we meet our guides, heard the story of the legend, received our garlands as a welcome gift and witnessed th e traditional ceremony, which included the presentation of "kava" to the chief, receiving his blessing for a safe adventure and some traditional custom dancing and singing. The latter was very different to what we had seen elsewhere in the South Pacific Islands. It resembled African dancing in many ways with regard to its simplicity and pounding of the feet.
Nothing really prepared us for the experience that awaited us though. It was beyond what we had ever imagined. We were both simply in awe of what we were witnessing. The Yasur volcano is one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world. The 4-wheel drive vehicles took us to within 200m of the crater, following which we hiked the remainder of the way to the rim. Standing on the ledge, where, in one direction you would slide straight into the molten rock and the other, straight down the outer cliffs, was rather unsettling, but seeing the magma explosions as the sunset was beyond words.
Mount Yasur is steeped in legend: "Once upon a time, the volcano-man, Yasur, found refuge with two old woman on Tanna Island. He liked it there and decided to stay forever, swallowing up the house and its occupants and that is where the two craters stem from, one for each of Yasur's victims". Most local people, however, believe it is the "House of the Spirits" and, to be honest, we can relate to the latter. The noise and rumblings sounded really angry and menacing. With smoke and steam pouring out, the magma explosions sent pieces of molten rock the size of cars flying skyward.
To be that close to an active volcano will truly remain one of our most memorable experiences and has made every inch of ocean that we have crossed thus far, worthwhile. It certainly stands out with our diving in Bonaire, Elaine's dive with the Dolphins in Curacao, visiting the historic St Pierre on Martinique destroyed by Mount Pelee, visiting the devastation of Plymouth on Montserrat caused by Mount Soufriere, the hundreds of dolphins that came to frolick in Paw Paw's bows on our sail to Colombia, our trip up the Chargres River to the Embera Indian village in Panama, our snorkel excursions in the Galapagos, our snorkel at the "Aquarium" in the Rangiroa atoll of the Tuamotus, feeding the sting rays in Moorea, seeing the manta rays in Boro Boro, the isolation of Surwarrow, the To Sua Ocean Trench and snorkeling the crater of the underwater volcano in Samoa, the humpback whales in Tonga and the mud pools and hot springs in Fiji. An experience of a lifetime for which we are immensely grateful!
In yesterday's blog we touched on our visit to the Dillon's Bay "Yacht Club". What we didn't mention was that David has spent ten years building his "yacht club". Of course, the term is used very loosely. Consisting of a single building with the guest house on the top storey, it contained a table, a few benches and a book swap. The pathways and gardens leading up to the building were lovely and it has a magnificent view over the bay. His future plans include the construction of an awning over the balcony area and putting out tables and chairs where cruisers can relax and enjoy the ambiance.
We understood the building has been used for potluck gatherings when groups of cruisers or rallies have arrived, but also for an exchange of gifts, which was a little unexpected, given that we had already undertaken the traditional gift exchange with Chief Jacob. Nevertheless, we were grateful for the hospitality, so Roy returned to Paw Paw together a few gifts of our own to present, as well as some stationery enabling us to update the visitors book. What was a lovely surprise for us, though, were the flags attached to the rafters. Particularly those of cruisers we knew - Into the Blue, Corango, Barbara Jean, Belefonte and Overseas Express who have all completed their circumnavigation with the World ARC 2016 / 2017 rally. We also spotted the flags from Take off and Ain't Fancy whom we'd just said our goodbyes to in Fiji as they headed west with this year's World ARC rally. Needless to say, we rectified the fact that he didn't have an Irish flag.
Today, after completing a few chores, we headed ashore for a much needed walk. Our route took us along the river bank which reminded us a lot of the Salt River Canyon and our "tubing" days in Arizona. A little further along we were reminded of rural South Africa, when we came across the woman of the village doing their laundry in the river, slapping the cloths against the rocks in exactly the same way.
Unfortunately we didn't realise we had crossed ground that belonged to another chief, who was out of town. That didn't stop one of the villagers calling after us on our return to request a gift exchange. After a steady flow of villagers in their dugouts coming out to Paw Paw over the past three days, bringing fruit that is now running out of our ears in exchange for rice, sugar, powdered milk, cloths, fishing hooks and fishing line, we had to decline politely indicating that we had more than enough fruit and had nothing else to give. We're not too sure he was very pleased with the response, but it couldn't be helped. Of course, having David arrive with two more Paw Paw's this evening in the hopes of obtaining some books from us, certainly left us with a feeling that "enough is enough" and he left empty-handed as well. Of course, we then realised why no one was approaching the French yacht anchored next to us. The only thing the village rs were getting from them was a "God Bless You" and a prayer. The villagers obviously realised that Paw Paw was the local gift shop.
Regardless, it has been another experience and we'll definitely have to make Paw Paw jam in the next few days so as not to waste all the fruit!
Since arriving in Vanuatu, we have posted a number of articles on our blog that have focused on the historical and cultural aspects of this country. However the diversity has become more apparent with each new area or island that we have visited. Port Vila was a noisy, busy and a very cosmopolitan environment. Havannah Harbour was very tranquil, but Erromango Island has given us the best insight into life in Vanuatu thus far.
Our arrival in Dillon's Bay yesterday revealed that we could only get "Edge" data, but after the initial grumbles, we soon learnt that having "Edge" was definitely better than nothing, especially when the service went down last night. Miraculously, though, it came back on when the sun reached a certain height this morning. Then we realised what the issue was - The tower is solar powered and, therefore, goes off every night.
Putting these technology constraints aside and besides the cultural differences between t he islands, as well as what each island has to offer the tourist, apparently each island also has something different to contribute to the overall economy. Today we discovered that Erromango Island contributes lobsters. Every night the men from the village dive for lobster which are then flown to Port Vila every morning. The proceeds from these sales are then used to purchase school supplies for the children, as well as to purchase any items that the village requires. Any other needs are acquired through their practice of "trading" with either other villages or other islands or through cruisers like ourselves. We have acquired so much fruit in the short period of time we have been here, simply by trading sugar, rice, powdered milk, fish hooks and fishing line. Of course, at the mention of lobster, Roy didn't waste any time in suggesting a trade of lobster for fish hooks, so we await the arrival of our lobster tomorrow morning.
Although it was a Sunday and we could hear the various church bells ringing in the village, Chief Jacob had assured us we could still visit the village today. So, after a meander up the William's River in the dinghy and finding a suitable spot to land, we were greeted by a very pleasant gentleman, David, owner of the Dillon's Bay "Yacht Club".
Our walk through the village revealed traditionally built homes tucked away between the lush vegetation, fruit trees galore and very friendly villagers, particularly the children who greeted us with huge smiles and enthusiastic waves. One little girl in particular, who was no older than three years old, walked straight up to Roy with her outstretched hand to be shaken. Just the cutest. Another youngster, who captured our interest because of his hair, turned out to be a real character as he posed for some photographs.
We learnt that each family in the village has their own section where they live and are responsible for tending to the grounds / gardens of that specific area, but the communal areas included the clinic, the schools and a small shop. The churches, however, seemed to be spread throughout the village. Four different languages, French, English, Bislama and their native dialect, are taught in school, as well as mathematics, science, geography, etc. We also learnt that there is a guesthouse above the "Yacht Club" that provides additional income for village. It is used by tourists who visit the island to see the enormous Kauri trees, some of which have a circumference equal to fifteen people forming a circle.
This was a perfect example of yet another community in the South Pacific thriving without any modern amenities and leading a simple, but fulfilling life. Certainly makes you wonder who's got it right!