Search This Blog

Sunday, September 6, 2009

August 10-30, 2009; Vanuatu part 2

After our village visit, we were all in an interesting state of mind; mostly of gratitude that we were born into the cultures that were our own and not of a third world, superstitious heritage. For some odd reason, Vanuatu has made quite an impact on me, which I find difficult to articulate. We spent a week at Oyster Island, during which time it rained nearly every day. I finally took some laundry in to be washed on one of the sunny days. The resort has a washing machine and will wash our laundry for V$1,000/load (approx USD$10), but returns them to us to hang dry on the boat. Although the exchange rate for us is quite good, the fees for service at Oyster Island were pricey. Each activity, including the trip to town and to the village cost us the equivalent of around USD$50.00 per trip. Groceries were inexpensive but not abundant and not what we would consider usual goods. White potatoes are not found. Kumara (sweet potatoes) are abundant. Pawpaw (papaya) and bananas are also found in large quantities. I have learned to cook with green bananas and green pawpaw, making some excellent vegetable curry dishes. Pamplemousse is back! We haven't really had those since the Marquesas. We don't find lettuce, tomatoes and the like, but are told that if we do we may not want to eat them because of the contaminated water in which they are grown. Oddly, however, eating cucumbers, kumara and radishes seems to be OK. The cucumbers are gargantuan, as are the white radishes! We have made a steady diet from bananas, pawpaw and coconuts. There are the eating and the drinking variety of coconuts, as well as the many varieties of eating (raw) and cooking bananas. Lord, I could go on and on about that!

The resort provided varied forms of entertainment for us, which were local performing arts. One was a performance done solely in the water, where the women made rhythmic musical sounds with their hands slapping and splashing the water. It was actually quite incredible. Also during this event, some of the men did a type of Kastom dance, which is derivative of cannibal tribe rituals (we think). The spears and clubs used are much more primitive than those in Fiji. The men wear very strange costumes, including a tree branch sticking up through the crack of their rear end. That can't be very comfortable - especially while dancing and stomping around. It is all very strange to us. We find it gets stranger as we travel these islands.

We had a final chart marking meeting one day, and at the end a local fellow from the island of Santo brought out some carvings and woven baskets for sale. I bought a large "tote" for V$1,200. We passed on the carvings. I'd seen many in the market and didn't get quite develop an appreciation for them. I'm not sure what they are, but they look like some kind of mutated alien bug. They are probably a type of tiki god, but have the face of a praying mantis. I will take a picture of one and when we do get internet will try to post it along with the hundreds of other pictures we have yet to post.

On Monday, the 17th, the rally group moved south to get closer to Luganville. We decided to cruise up to Champagne Beach toward the north end of Santo in Hog Bay. This area is noted for being the most photographed beach in all of Vanuatu, and is a regular stop for cruise ships. We sure are glad we made the detour. It is lovely. When we arrived, only two other yachts were in the anchorage: "Lady Kay" (English) and "Crystal Harmony" (Kiwi). It was a quiet, sheltered anchorage that boasted clear aqua blue water and sugar white sand beaches. There were turtles swimming about and it was as tranquil as you can find. Champagne beach was just around a small point (which Frank calls a "stick-out") that separated it from the rest of Hog Bay where we anchored. In front of us was a small beach hostel much like a backpacker's resort. We spent our first evening just relaxing and taking in the peace and quiet.

The next morning, we waved goodbye "Lady Kay" as they departed and then took the short dinghy ride over to Champagne beach. It was August 18th; our 8th Wedding Anniversary, and were tickled to be spending it in paradise. As we landed on the beach we noticed the sand was so fine it felt like soft powder on our feet. We marveled that this incredible spot has been unmarred by some high-end hotel/resort chain. In fact most of Vanuatu remains relatively untouched by the outside world and its commercial disturbances. After our morning adventure to the famed beach we lunched at the "resort" and then hiked up to the road, a bit inland, for a walk. A young man approached us asking for rope, clothing, etc. I asked him if he had anything to trade for any of these items. He said he would bring us bananas, later in the day. I felt strange about his request and don't quite know why, but we soon found that in Vanuatu a lot of the locals make a habit of asking for handouts and offer little in return. We continued on our way but then it didn't take long for us to feel we had just stepped out of time and reality once we left the beach area. We passed dirty homesteads with trash thrown all about, cows and pigs tied up anywhere and everywhere. Mangy dogs and puppies roamed about. The homes were thatched and near shambles. There were many areas of smoldering fires, near piles of dirty dishes and pans with chickens and roosters jumping in and around it all. We ventured into one village where I swear they were not done "eating man", as the locals spied us warily following our every move. I felt utterly creeped out. Frank went to talk to some of them, asking directions but their response seemed evasive and made me feel very discomforted. They whispered a lot and looked at us as though we were not welcome there. I hardly find it possible that they have not seen white people around here yet perhaps we were an anomaly to them. I just wanted to run back to the boat. When we returned to Destiny I felt a strong need to take a bath. After a short rest, however, we joined Crystal Harmony for sundown and were just enjoying a lovely sunset and placing our order for fresh lobsters from a local fisherman when we noticed a young man in a crude outrigger canoe approaching Destiny. It was the banana guy. Frank jumped into the dinghy to go meet him. He returned a while later telling us that he had just traded some caps and t-shirts for several dozen green bananas. So the young man had come through after all. We enjoyed our visit with our friends and went back to dunk the bananas in the water. (This is a must with all local fruits and vegetables to get the critters off). When I picked them up, however, I noted that they smelled more like a cow pasture and not at all like bananas. They looked pretty ratty too but we thought a good dunking might take care of it. By the way - these bananas hung on the back of our boat for a week, went from green to black and were still hard as a rock. They went overboard shortly afterward.

On Wednesday morning, Tony from Crystal Harmony stopped by with our lobsters. They were V$500 each ($5.00!). What a deal. Soon afterward we weighed anchor, heading south to Palekula Bay in order to join back up with the rally boats. We had a wonderful sail most of the way down arriving early in the afternoon and just in time for another rain squall. We sure had hit it lucky in Hog Bay with two blue-sky days, and now it was time for a little rain and rest, which is my excuse to sit around and read a good book.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

No comments: