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Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 13 & 14, 2020: Erromango, Vanuatu - A Garden of Eden Without the Serpent

We had a really rough motor sail for the first 6 of the 8-¾ hours trip from Tanna up to Erromango. And we didn't even catch a fish for the effort. Fortunately, conditions settled down for the final leg of the journey and we were able to thoroughly enjoy a lovely sail into Dillons Bay at Erromango. We were the only two boats in the anchorage. Immediately, small outriggers began to drift our way. They were filled with village children coming by to have a look at the visitors. They quite boldly drifted right up next to Destiny and although they seemed adventurous and gutsy to us, when we attempted to talk to them we found them terribly shy. They enjoyed sitting and watching us while drifting around the entire boat, I guess to have a good look. We smiled our brightest most welcoming smiles and said "Hello" in our friendliest voices, yet they just sat looking at us. They eventually drifted over to have a look at Moasi.

We were tired from the trip, but invited Ian and Julia over for sundowners. We indeed enjoyed a beautiful sunset while we munched and visited. Everyone wanted to call it an early night. Frank and I read for a bit. I finished my book and was in bed by 8:30 PM.

On Tuesday, we awoke to find a group of dolphins frolicking all around the boat. We enjoyed the show from our cockpit while having coffee. Then I popped below to make some banana muffins and kept hearing Frank in a one-way conversation outside. He later told me some locals had come out again for a look, and although he tried to chat with them, they just sat and looked at him. I'm sure he enjoyed being on stage while he had his coffee and muffin.

Late morning we hitched a ride with Ian and Julia into the village. Unfortunately, the Lonely Planet guide doesn't do Dillons Bay or the island of Erromango justice. Mostly from what I read about the place, they concentrated on this island's violent history - which certainly is full of murder and mayhem and lots and lots of cannibalism - and focused on the telling of Erromango's widespread devastation wrought by the 2004 cyclone. A very small paragraph was dedicated to Dillon's Bay.

We arrived at the shore and were greeted by several men, including a fellow named Jason who we were told is the adult son of the elder chief. A very nice man named David helped us secure the dinghy and then introduced himself to us as our guide. Jason gave us his personal blessing and asked us to follow David for a tour of their village. We were hugely impressed by this beautiful well-kept village of Dillon's Bay, which David explained is affectionately referred to as John Williams Bay. Mr. Williams brought had the Presbyterian faith to Dillons Bay in 1839; he was welcomed by the (then) chief and warned that the locals were hostile and that the missionaries should not venture far from their boat. Ignoring this good advice, John Williams went inland anyway and was murdered and eaten. After they killed him they laid him upon a rock to chip his outline onto the surface (isn't this what modern crime technicians do at murder scenes?). The outline can be seen even today. So from what I gathered of David's telling, in order to honor the missionary's sacrifice and to appeal to God for mercy and forgiveness of killing and eating him they made their village his namesake, and named the beautiful river after him, The William River, that runs from the mountain bringing them crystal clear drinking water which they also use for their crops, and for swimming and bathing.

During our walking tour we were greeted cheerfully and often by the men, women and children. Everyone appeared so happy. Everything is very tidy and well maintained. We visited the school (grades k-6) and met all of the children their teachers and the head mistress, Annie. Julia produced sheets of stickers and as we met the children we gave each of them a sticker, which they placed on their faces, arms and workbooks. They giggled and followed us about whispering and dancing around. We got as much a thrill from the visit as they did. At the end of our visit Annie walked over with bags of produce for us from the school's garden.

Next, David took us for a walking tour of the river and the farmlands. It is early springtime here, so the flowers were abundant as were the newborn chickens goats, cows and pigs. Butterflies flitted about, songbirds serenaded us and the rocky river gurgled past. We felt like we had landed in the Garden of Eden. It was a paradise! All around us the trees were bursting with fruit. The papaya (paw paw) trees were very large and overflowing with their bounty. The colors of the plants and flowers were stunning. The worst part of this entire experience was that I did not bring my camera.

He took us next over to show us his planned site for a future yacht club. It is currently under construction and is probably going to be the most beautiful yacht club in the south pacific. We were wishing we could revisit Dillon's Bay after its completion. He ended out little tour by handing us a basket as large as a suitcase overflowing with paw-paws and local citrus fruit. We took him out to the boats where I loaded him up with bags full of golf caps and clothing for his village and some bandages and medicines for the clinic. Wow, what a great little piece of paradise we had found there.

After Ian took David back to the village we all weighed anchor intending to go to the northern-most anchorage of Erromango, some 3 hours up the coast, have lunch and then take a long rest so that we could depart around midnight for Port Vila.

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