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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

September 14-25th Last Stop in Vanuatu - Port Vila Area

Our attempt to anchor at the "top" of Erromango was denied. The bay was very small and extremely exposed to large swells and high winds, in spite of good information our friend Ian had received. We therefore, in spite of our need for rest and fear of entering the mainland of Efate at dark, turned northwest for an overnighter. We got tossed around for about 2 hours before settling into a good cruising angle. Although tired neither of us slept much as we kept a sharp watch for traffic and other obstacles. The high winds became an asset putting us into a well-marked anchorage just outside the entrance to Port Vila at around 3 AM. We dropped the hook and fell into bed. The next day we got settled into the mooring field and then spent the next several days taking care of business. First priority was getting our Aussie visas at the Australian High Commission. We were disappointed that rather than renew our visas from the previous year we had to re-apply for all new visas which entails completing a 12 page CV and application, submitting proof of good health, health insurance coverage, financial independence (bank statements and pay stubs) and submitting to a criminal and whatever else background check. Did they think we were buying a house or something? It is arduous to say the least, but we had done this drill before so we sucked it up and began the process of gathering support data. As has been the case since leaving Fiji, internet is a luxury in Vanuatu and can be accessed but not easily, readily or cheaply making our information and proof gathering a bit burdensome but we got it done in two days, dropped off our passports, forms and documentation and then took off for the weekend out at Mele Beach Resort for some fun.

We met up with Bold Spirit, Just In Time, Ivory Quays, Scallywag and Windflower out at Mele Beach. The little restaurant there provided all sorts of water sports, great brick oven pizza, a big screen TV and pool table. Bold Spirit told us about a great place a few kilometers up the road called "The Warhorse Saloon". The owners are from Littleton Colorado! They had sailed here a few years ago and loved Vanuatu so much they stayed, bought an old establishment and named it after the Warhorse Saloon in Parker, CO. Of all things! We had a great time there. It felt like home.

After the weekend we returned to Port Vila where we spent a week just kicking back and enjoying the opportunity to eat out, do a little shopping and reconnect with friends. Frank played several rounds of golf. I had "girl time", shopping and visiting museums. A couple of times we loaded the laptops into our backpacks and went into shore in search of internet mostly to pay bills and see what emails were waiting for us. These days all we get is junk email and it kills us to have to pay by the hour or the "byte" to sort through that stuff which is getting worse than the paper junk we used to get at home. Cyber junk - it is a wonder we can't see it flying through the air!

The face smash I took on the way to Tanna from Fiji was beginning to worry me. My nose was still very tender and pressure was building in my head. Gloria from Scallywag, who is a nurse, told me I should get an x-ray to make sure there is no head trauma going on. The problem was that the medical facilities in Vanuatu leave a lot to be desired. One cruiser named Tony on a boat called Xanadu II had been sick for a week and was getting weaker and sicker after three visits to the doctor there. They kept running tests on him but couldn't give him the results because there is no local lab. Everything has to go through Australia and after waiting over a week for his results his liver and kidneys began to shut down and his fever was running 105 degrees. He finally booked a flight to Auckland where he was diagnosed with Malaria. This did not give me much confidence in the Vanuatu medical community so I continued taking strong decongestants and anti-inflammatories hoping for the best.

We were ready to get going to New Caledonia. Port Vila seemed to be sucking the money and the energy out of us this year. The heat was getting to us and the dust and dirt were contributing to my sinus troubles. It seemed that just since last year, Port Vila was taking a down turn. Some muesli that I bought at the nicer grocery store in town was crawling with little black bugs that looked like baby roaches. Even our cruiser friends seemed to be getting run down. Disappointingly we bided our time until the rally departure date for New Caledonia, which finally arrived on the 25th. We slipped from the mooring at 5:30 AM and were off!

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