Posted by: catamarantwooceans | June 23, 2011

Vanuatu with Gili

AFTER MORE THAN TWO WEEKS WITH NO INTERNET – HERE IS PART ONE OF OUR VANUATU TRIP. NEXT PART IN A FEW DAYS!

8.6.11 – Wednesday – Gili landed in Port Vila airport after spending 33 hours on planes and in airports. Boy! Was she tired! Dinner and sleep were the only items on the agenda that day.

9.6.11 – Thursday – At 0800, with Gili still asleep, I took the dinghy to the “Origin” gas company depot to fill my empty tank. From there to the harbor customs office to get a cruising permit. Back on the boat at 0900 my lady was already up and about and wanted to know where we were going. Actually I did not plan anything for that day, thinking that she would rather just relax in the marina. But we could also relax one hour motoring distance in the anchorage of Mele island!

It was also time to say goodbye to Volkmar. He has found a nice lodge near the Parliament building and I helped him carry all his belonging over there. He is looking for another boat to go in the direction of Thailand, from where he plans to go by land, joining the Siberian express train all the way to Austria. Volkmar is a good crew member who became a good friend. I can only restate my admiration for the way he willingly took part in all the boat maintenance projects, from antifouling painting to electrical repairs. I wish him all the best and… who knows; we may yet sail together again!

10.6.11 – Friday – The plan was to go from Mele to Havannah bay, catching a fish for dinner on the way. Everything was achieved apart from the fish thing. There is a jinx that we have to break here.

We entered the bay through the “Little entrance” between Lelepa and Moso islands. At a certain point we were motoring with absolutely no wind; I was looking at the clear blue water and said:”why don’t we stop right here for snorkeling and lunch?”. We anchored between coral heads, I jumped into the water to check the anchor and snorkel a bit and then, looking back at “Two Oceans” I saw that I completely forgot that we had the mainsail fully up! Oh well, this was quickly corrected and in good time because just then the wind piped up to over 10 knots. In one of the coral-heads I noticed a black banded sea snake. Those are very poisonous so I kept my distance.

After lunch we went on to anchor in the Sena bay. This time I did not go by the guide’s instructions but just found a suitable place over mud in 6 meters depth. Checking the anchor I saw two big sting rays burrowing into the sand with only the tail and their eyes protruding.

Very quickly we had some visitors. Carlo, who is a known character in the area came by to chat as well as the Trinity church minister, Mr. Thomas Tabata with his wife.

Carlo

I asked Thomas how many people lived in his village. “About three hundred” “And how many churches?” ” Four, we have four churches”. A lot of spiritual action for such a small place!

minister and wife

11.6.11 – Saturday – Just as we need to go north the forecast says: wind N-NE 10-20. We decided to go to Emai island anchorage which is well protected from this sector. We tacked into the bay, with Gili complaining a bit. She does not like tacking! At one point we lowered the main and rolled the jib and during that the port engine alarm for water temperature sounded. Continuing with the starboard engine I peeked into the port engine room. A puddle of green cooling liquid! This system was worked on in NZ so really it should not do those tricks! Later in the anchorage I filled the system with water and started the engine to see where the leak was. No leak discovered! I ran the engine at different settings, from slow running to cruise power for 25 minutes. No leak! The only possible explanation is that I did not close the cover well enough and lost the water gradually.

The fishing jinx was not broken yet.

We took the dinghy ashore to visit Woralapa village. A crowd of kids welcomed us and helped us drag the dinghy up the sandy slope. They were giggling with excitement at meeting those strange white man and woman.

Gili with Kids

I brought some notebooks, colored pens and chalks for the kids and gave them to the chief’s son. I bought some stuff at the local store plus some “Lollies” – lollypops –  for our juvenile entourage. As in all villages in Vanuatu, a group of men were sitting on the beach, socializing.

socializing

12.6.11 – Sunday – I was not happy with the port engine matter and decided to give it another check. Closely monitoring the pipes with the engine running I finally located a tiny leak emanating from a connection of a pipe leading from the coolant heat exchanger to the water pump. Hey, shouldn’t there be a band on that pipe? A quick look at the engine manual confirm that there should be a band there.  I fish one out of my hardware store, put it in place and the problem is solved. A hazy memory of finding a corroded SS band in the engine room and not locating its source some time ago comes to my mind. Did it really happen or is it just my wild imagination?

We left Nguna and sailed to Emae. Coming close to the southwestern tip of the island the reel gave out the sound we were waiting for. The jinx was broken with a smallish skipjack tuna.

We anchored on a sandy patch surrounded by coral. Nice snorkeling!

In the evening I tried a new, at least for me, method of fishing over a reef. To the fishing line I tied a plastic bottle filled with just a little water to give it weight when casting, leaving a length of line from it to the hook and sinker that will have them dangling about a meter over the bottom. One fish was caught and although it escaped, it proved that the system can work.

13.6.11 – Monday – Early to bed – early to rise; I woke up at first light, 0530, and decided to start the day with a swim, during which I saw quite a few potential meals in their underwater domain. This is a good hour for fishing, thought I, and put the “bottle system” into operation. Ten minutes later I had a nice red snapper on board.

Snapper

After breakfast we sailed to Revelieu bay on the island of Epi. The GPS waypoint given by the Tusker guide was, once again, a bit off. We inched forward towards the beach, looking for coral heads and could not see bottom even when the depth gauge showed 6 meters. “O.K, that close enough for me”. We anchored right there and when I dived to check the anchor it became clear. The bottom was black volcanic sand, and difficult to see. I could have come much closer to shore.

We went ashore, carrying our standard gifts for kids and met chief Baron who took us around the small village. First he took us to see the Namakal, the meeting place, with the beautifully carved Tam Tam.

Chief with Tamtam

Tamtam

He then took us to his home, to show us his guest book, where passing yachties make an entry. He told us that he had five children, three boys and two girls who reside with their mother in Port Vila, perhaps having a shop there (?). He was very happy, like so many  in this country, to meet people from the holy land. Certainly it was the first time somebody put a Hebrew entry in his book!

When it was time to leave he gave us a lot of fruit, grapefruit, papaya and bananas.

I’ll reciprocate fully tomorrow.

14.6.11 – Tuesday – First thing in the morning I brought some goodies to the chief and then we took the dinghy to the reef on the south and snorkeled. The reef is not in a very good condition but we saw a lot of fish so it was nice.

Our next destination, Lamen bay, lay only 7.5 miles away and we had to motor since there was no wind at all. Lamen bay, according to the guide, is a very interesting place. The main attraction is a Dugong, also known as a “sea cow”, a marine herbivore, residing in the bay. Secondly – there is the Paradise Sunset resort, with it’s own airport, an excellent restaurant and thirdly – beautiful walking trails, especially the one to the waterfall.

Ashore we found a big village that had a relatively well stocked store. Then we went looking for the resort. What we found was very different from our regular idea of a “resort”. This was not a luxurious place but more of a backpackers lodge. We tried to find the manager, in order to inquire about a possible meal there and a guide to the waterfall but no one was around. “Taso is probably in his garden now”. Oh, well, dinner at “Two Oceans” will probably be at least one notch up in the culinary scale. We did walk around some, enjoying the fantastic flora.

Big leaves

Wednesday – We sailed wing and wing to sandwich bay on the island of Malekula. This bay goes deep into the island terrain and is very protected. The jungle is, of course, all around. One of the anchorages is near a plantation belongs to a gentleman called Izekiel, about whom I’ve been told by Wendy and Ken of yacht “Cop-Out” in NZ.

We anchored in front of his place and went to the compound, which comprised of a few houses, one of which designated as a house of prayer. Chicken were all over the place, clothes hanging to dry and smoke coming out of what seemed to be an oven for copra processing – but nobody answered our calls.

Ezekiel's home

We went further down the road, astounded, once again, by the richness and size of the vegetation. On the way back we saw a man, introduced ourselves and found out that he was John, Izekiel’s son. “My mother is in the garden and my father takes the cattle every Wednesday to graze, he will probably come home later”. As we were walking towards our dinghy we saw a man coming down the road. “There he is” said John. He briefed us that his father, who is 81 years old, is hard of hearing and that we will have to speak up. We met, talked a bit and were invited to come back the following day at 3 pm.

Ezekiel

16.6.11 – Thursday – We sat down to plan the continuation of our trip. A few needs dictate our plans. First – we have to be back in Port Vila on the 24th for our 0700 flight home on the 25th. Secondly – we need to replenish our food stocks which are running low in several departments. We also had to fill our water tanks. The initial thought was to go to Lugainville on the island of Espiritu Santo – the second biggest town in the country – where you can get all you require. But ES is two sailing days away and then two days back and we are short on days. So we decided to stop in Port Stanley, 30 miles away, where a village called Lorsup, having a population of about a thousand, is supposed to have good shopping. Giving up Lugainville will save us two days and solve our time problem.

And now for the water project. The other boat in the anchorage, a catamaran named “Antsari”, which I already met in Tahiti, passed by in the morning on their way to the bay near the village. He told me about a potable water tap near the wharf over there. We put two 25 liters Jerricans and some big plastic bottles we had and dinghied over.

On shore we found a notice board which announced that on this very day there will be a village party at three pm, with all tourists and yachties invited. There will be local dances demonstration, Kava tasting, local music group and a feast. We don’t want to miss that! We met Mary who owned the house and the tap. A little payment and some bartering took place and in two trips we had another 120 liters in the starboard empty tank.

Next we went looking for the village’s store. We went quite a long way on the main and only road until we found it. Actually there were two of them, back to back in the same building ( a mall?). Gili is complaining that the stores “had nothing” and compared to the “Bon Marchee” in Port Vila it is true. No milk or meat products, no conditioner for her hair. One has to remember that they cater to the needs of the local population and then all is clear. We bought a few things in each of them and headed back.

At 1500 we motored to Ezekiel’s. The thought that he may have forgotten all about our visit was quickly dispelled. The man, holding the hand of a three or four years old grand-daughter greeted us warmly at his gate and outlined the plan of the visit. “First we’ll go to  the house of prayer and then to my house”. He led us to his Chappelle, had us take off our shoes. Holding each of us by the hand, he asked us to close our eyes and started talking to God. In Bislama he told God about the visit of the couple from the land of Israel, getting into details like the time we arrived, our names etc. This was ended by a big “Amen” and then we went inside.

House of pray

The work, materials and probably more than just a little money invested in the Chappelle was really remarkable. Ezekiel is a true believer and his religion makes him happy.

His wife joined us and we entered his modest, simple home. This was our opportunity to give them some things for their home, which is the polite and right thing to do. There is a delicate balance of present giving without forcing the host to reciprocate beyond his means. The way our gift was received showed us that we did O.K.

It’s incredible to somebody from the advanced, western world, with all the creature comforts at his disposal, to understand how the people here live. We did not see any bed. Perhaps they sleep in one of the other huts. There was a big table on which they kept cooking utensils and only two chairs. We did not see any electrical lighting or appliance nor evidence that they had running water in their abode. There is a striking discrepancy between fact that the family owns a big parcel of land, a real estate with a plantation and a herd of cattle and the actual living conditions.

Ezekiel opened a door in the center to have some light and brought three picture albums. Many of the photos were of the immediate family, some yachties who visited during the years and some unidentified, European looking people, some of them in what looked like wedding ceremonies. I did not take pictures in that room, feeling somehow that it was not appropriate.

At a certain point I hinted that we wanted to go to the village party. Ezekiel went to a mat on the floor, pulled a sack off and revealed a big pile of fruit; Bananas, drinking coconuts, grapefruit and limes. His lady brought us a bag of fresh eggs. This was so much more than we needed and we made an effort to make them understand how much we appreciated what we did finally take.

Gunning the Yamaha at high RPM we scooted to the village’s wharf. A group of lads were loading copra sacks on a motor-boat. “What, no party?” They just laughed and kept at their work. “If you want to eat you must catch some fish” said Gili “I took nothing out of the freezer”. So, no Vanuatu village feast, no dancing or Kava but back to “Two Oceans” to hunt our evening meal.

As time passed and only a small fish was caught, Gili did take some fish out of the freezer and prepared them for steaming. I was seating cross-legged in the cockpit meditating, with the baited hook in the water. Just as I finished and got up there was a strike and the rod bent. I was working the rod and reel and then saw the big, ugly head of a grouper break surface.

Grouper

Tomorrow I’ll ask Ezekiel whether there is no danger of fish poisoning in the area . Tonight it’ll be steamed fish in soy sauce with white wine, ginger, sesame oil and scallions on a bed of rice. No restaurant can match Gili’s cooking!

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Responses

  1. Hi barzam.
    Envy,Envy!!
    And great enjoyment to read .
    Kim


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