We only stayed two days in the anchorage, and one of them was spent going back into town, via a cab that had been arranged to take groups of us to Customs and Immigration so that we could apply for our 30-day Visa extension, and to take care of whatever business we might need to, since this would be our last stop in civilization until we get to Port Vila in about 6 weeks. Our "cab" turned out to be a mini super cab pickup truck. Four of us crammed into the cab while Frank and Jock (from "Just in Time") rode in the bed of the truck. Poor guys! Thank goodness this was only a 20- minute/7 mile ride into town. In the Customs office we met another American cruising couple, Laura and Mark aboard "Sabbatical III", a 54 ft. Amel. He is a professor at Brown Univ., and sails 8 months of the year, then goes back to work for the remaining 4. Nice deal. Lovely people whom we ended up spending a bit of time with over the next couple of weeks.
Friday, Frank played golf with John from "Windflower". Somehow I ended up on the boat all day, so I just read a book. I should have planned that better so that I could have access to the dinghy or to hitch a ride with someone else to go snorkel or just for a walk on shore. It was much too far to swim.
On Saturday morning we left for Lolowai Bay on the island of Ambae, which was a great 6-hour sail. We had anticipated 8 hours, but caught great winds across the beam, averaging 27 knots, gusting to about 35, giving us an average boat speed of 7-8 knots with reefs in both sails. The going got a bit rough, seas a bit high and it was exhilarating! Lolowai reminded us very much of the Marquesas. We anchored in a deep, dark bay surrounded by mountainous terrain. The beaches were black, as is quite common in these volcanic islands. There wasn't much to the village, in fact it appeared fairly deserted with only a few homes, although it is said to be the principal center for the Anglican Diocese of Melanesia, and houses the hospital, bank and post office for this entire area. The villagers were very simple people and quite curious about the yachts. They hooped and hollered to us from shore. Next morning the local ladies set up a fruit and vegetable mini market for us on shore. We purchased some cooking bananas, kumara (sweet potatoes), pawpaw (papaya), and pampelmousse stowed our goods into the dinghy and then set off for a long group hike, which everyone enjoyed immensely. We climbed up to the caldera of the no longer active volcano. The hike turned out to be an all day adventure sometimes through rugged wilderness, often on steep rocky trails and roads, hardly seeing another soul. Every now and then we would spy what appeared to be an abandoned garden and perhaps an abandoned home, although we were told they probably were inhabited but that this is just the way these people live. The islands here are so lush with vegetation that it is nearly grown over itself. Michele and Paul's two young children, Merric and Seanna were in heaven on those trails. I kept thinking of my own grandson who is about their age, and how much fun he would have out here picking up sticks and rocks, climbing the huge Banyan trees, picking bananas and fruit, seeing lizards, frogs, baby pigs and chickens scattering along. It wouldn't be a bad place to get stranded now that they no longer eat people. After the hike we walked up to the hospital. Oh my god! It is not a place you would want to go if you are infirm! Remembering episodes of the TV show "ER", when Carter went to the clinic in Africa, I thought this place didn't even measure up to that. The patients even have to bring their own drinking water, drinking cups, and food. Their medications are apparently outdated and the place, just like some of the villages and homes we passed, looks like the remains of either a bombing or a cyclone. Very sad. Not sanitary. We guessed that the only people who go there are the Christians who do not believe in Black Magic and are so very ill they look to this as the last resort. It probably is their last.
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