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.

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