Friday, September 16, 2011

Pentecost and Ambae, Vanuatu

Local kids trying out the kayaks

Taro farm

Freshly caught freshwater prawn from taro field

Cook Rock

Mmmm.... laplap

A landdiving tower set up for tourists

The landdiving rope

Land diving tower for tourists

Church being built right in front of the land diving tower- interesting clash of old and new

Ambae hospital

Ambae's answer to Home Depot
Calm hot trip over.  Anchor in 30’ off Cook Rock close to shore, black sand.  Gravel beach stretching endlessly along W side Pentacost.  Wali village, a little south of here, is the site where the big cruise ships come in Apr-Jjune for land diving.  Villagers uniformly unfriendly, except Thomas who is very nice.  Meet him on way into town, he greets us, shows us his chickens and thatch home, and then rushes off, saying ‘I have to go fix the cell tower generaror.”  Everyone else, even kids, frown at us.  Bible translator missionary couple live there with nice cat. 
In the morning we go to Thomas’s taro fields to catch prawns.  I have some sores on my foot that the flies won’t stay off, and he teaches me to use the paste in old coconuts as a fly deterrent on wounds.  Works great  Lots flies here. The taro fields are an amazing, vast work of hydroengineering.  Must have taken generations- they have an entire big river tamed to flow down through hundreds of walled-in flooded taro fields.  In the afternoon we go to a village south of here for a festival.  There’s kava, sports, lap lap (taro cakes, taste like cardboard), icecream.  Maybe 500 people there from all over Pentecost, teams from each village competing in sport for prizes.  I finally manage to get drunk on kava.  Wasn’t sure til today that the stuff actually did anything!  We invite Thomas for dinner on the boat afterwards. 
We leave Cooks Rock and make a day trip to Loltong.  Dead calm, cloudy, then squall blows thru just as we reach anchorage.  Murphy’s Law.  All whitecaps all the way in and doesn’t look good- mbe we should go straight to Santo?  But we head in.  Glad we stopped- we get in, wind dies, calm cozy lil anchorage inside a couple reefs with narrow passage and shore marks for copra boats.  Tourist signs for cave, shops, dances, very friendly family, young girls give us tour village, this is island government center.  Men’s meeting going on, band practicing “Forever Young”, kids play inside church destroyed by e quake, which looks like it‘s ready to fall the rest of the way down any minute, French school and English one outside town, lil bitty nursing clinic uphill on lil path with grass and uneven ground (how do the sick get up there?), 2 dark lil shops with same stuff as usu- canned fish and instant noodles.  Everyone ever very nice here, great place.
We invite some little girls out to see boat.  Show them some Antarctica photos of snow, and Cpt’s family.  They’re fascinated by his family and a pic of a big sailfish we caught.  They loved our kayaks, natural paddlers, went around teasing the little boys.  In the eve there’s a celebration that starts boring but then everyone starts dancing, grandma too, and they keep dancing in the pouring rain until dawn.  Pretty wild.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ambrym, Vanuatu

We head to Ambrym through super calm seas.  The air is thick and hazy with volcanic smoke for the next week.  The sun takes on a permanent red hue and everything more than 1/2mile from us disappears.  Ambrym is supposed to be a dangerous, magical island, in local lore.  We pass the pointed cloud-wreathed cone of an active volcano to east as we traverse the channel to Ambrym. 
Craig Cove is tiny and looks unprotected, but turns out fine.  Anchor in black sand in 30’.  Pretty healthy coral looks bright against a black sand background.  Lil handmade local ouitriggers are everywhere.  Sunken LCU on shore.  Lil store with rum and cokes, peanuts, and not much else.  We consider climbing the volcano but it is too expensive- $200US.

Tanna volcano
On the way to a picnic

Wrecked LCU

Port Craig

A typical Vanuatu house
Slit drums carved for tourists

Statues in a little ceremonial circle lost in the jungle

Ceremonial statue

Floating in the hottub

Hazy air around Tanna
We Paddle out around the N point of the anchorage.  Super steep beaches, Dip Point- where 1913 eruption lava flow destroyed hospital.  A dugong swims along ahead of us and surfaces occassionally.  We land at a black beach and go for a low-visibility snorket over healthy coral and black sand.  A grossly overloaded boat passes us, full of people on their way to a picnic. 
We go for a long walk through the interior.  We get some weird looks and many people are not too friendly in the villages. 
The next day we head out and stop at a lil anchorage on N Ambrym.  Very calm, then a lil N wind comes up.  This is a very cool volcanic area.  Black sand and rocks with bright red-orange mineral deposits and hot springs coming out all over the place.  Megapode eggs are harvested here, otherwise there is very little human presence in the area. We kayaked around the bay and trailed hands in water to find the spots with hot ocean water.  The was a big 2-3’ deep cove was like a hot tub, with a bottom of black sand that got hotter the deeper you dug your feet in.  More flies than anywhere else we’ve been.  Otherwise, heaven.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lamen Bay, Epi, Vanuatu

A nice place to go to high school

Typical Vanuatu houses


Island apple trees coat the ground with pretty blossoms, then produce a profusion of sweet, juicy, crunchy little crabapple-like fruits

Tidy paths on Lamen Island

A Fijian feast on Lamen Island

Hazy volcanic island in the distance
We leave Port Vila, passing the lighthouse on southern point that hasn’t been working for last 20 yrs cause of land dispute.  Lil swelly once we ot out of lee of Efate, passed a couple ships in dark. 
Lamen Bay is real pretty.  Limestone lining shore.  Village with a big local high school with the world’s best ocean view and beaut basketball court and sports fields along shore.  Students on holiday for 2 weeks.  Super calm day, so we paddle to Lamen Island.  On the way across we see a dugong and lots of tuna.  Very interesting place- tiny lil island, all covered with houses, amazing landscaping- all covered in nice decorative plants, 3’ high stone walls lining all roads, logs with coral stone beds, neat symmetrical thatch houses (unlike in Fiji, almost all the houses in Vanuatu are thatch), nice big concrete church. Got fruit and veg from friendly Kenneth and wife.  Lunch is roast Fiji pig with Fiji traveling minister on Lamen.