About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Friday, July 7, 2017

Vanuatu makes a GREAT first impression !!!

Oh yeah, it was a pretty slow passage from NZ to Vanuatu, had to motor over 60 hours through this stuff!!!


Sorry for the lack of blog posts, but internet access has been so slow and sporadic.  So bear with us, this post may be a long one as we try to catch up!!!



We've now been in Vanuatu for about 3 weeks, and have explored some of the sights and village life on three islands.....Aneityum, Tanna, and now Erromango.  What a wonderful corner of the world this is.    Everywhere we go, we are met with warm, welcoming smiles, offers of help or handfuls of papaya, pamplemouse or bananas, and invitations to explore and learn about the rich cultural traditions that guide the Nivans' lives much as they have for generations.  It reminds us quite a bit of our 6 week visit to Fulaga in Fiji a couple of years ago, where we met and became friends with so many of the villagers.

ANEITYUM
We cleared into Vanuatu in Aneityum with the usual "Tres Amigos".....customs, immigration, and quarantine (bio-security).  They had just finished clearing in a cruise ship to the neighboring Mystery Island, more on that coming up! and indicated that we should come to a house in the village to clear in.  (Aneityum is not a normal port of entry, but visiting yachts are allowed to clear in at this southernmost (and most downwind!!!) island of the long island chain nation when a cruise ship is present).  

Another bad boy of the sea disgorging a city of passengers
3 cruise ships came during the week we spent there.....yikes, scary, and not at all our cup of tea, but happily the passengers, several thousand at a whack, are not allowed in the village or on the main island, but only to the Disneyland-like Mystery Island.  There were about 3-5 yachts anchored in the bay besides ourselves.  And we got a happy surprise one morning when our friends Rich and Cyndi on Legacy sailed in from New Caledonia a few days after we arrived, so we've enjoyed learning the ropes together and pal'ing around with them for some adventures.



Aneityum itself is a delight.








We were anchored in the main bay and site of the largest village, a few hundred folks live here.  Though there are no roads, cars, or electricity, the village is neat as a pin, and the people take a great deal of pride in the place.  We thoroughly enjoyed our walks through the village, where we were always greeted with smiles, "hello's" and other greetings in English, French, and Bislama, a local type of pidgeon English/French spoken throughout the country.  The people all speak a local language as well, often just spoken in their particular village or part of the island.  (Tanna, for example, has over 15 different languages spoken on just the one island!!!)

Here are a few shots from the village to give a flavor of life on Aneityum:


BRAVO at anchor off the beach


Interesting justaposition of hi-tech satellite link of the bank in the yard of a typical village house


The most remote outpost of the Occupy Wall Street movement!!!






We liked this mural map of the world, painted on the side of the school, with Vanuatu at the center


New house under construction


Cindi buys a Vanuatu phone sim card from Philip's store







We met a local guy while walking on the beach one day.  Roger was very friendly, spoke excellent English, and offered to take us on a walking tour of the village and surrounding forest and coast.  Previously a dive master in Port Vila, the capitol of the country, Roger was a fantastic host.  The tour through the bush was terrific, as we scrambled around the many "plantations" in the hills around the area growing papaya, coconut, taro, yams, casava, manioc, etc.  The place is amazingly lush and green, though Roger explained that while most of their houses were spared by the cat 5 cyclone Pam two years ago, much of the agricultural plantings had been wiped out, though now seem to be rebounding nicely.


Roger's brother's home



Virtually every plant on the island has a use, whether for food, medicine, or boat and home construction.....Roger knew them all!!!





Wild orchids growing up the mountainside


Another village below.  Mystery Island in the upper right, where the cruise ship passengers visit


Who doesn't like freshly grated coconut???


Roger's brother is a great baker, here getting his groove on with a chocolate cake!


After the hike, Roger took us out to the reef for some good snorkeling.  The reef is a marine reserve, so fishing, even for the locals, is prohibited.  Seems to be working, as the coral, though somewhat storm and crown-of-thorn starfish damaged, was recovering well, seemed healthy, and there was a terrific variety of fish.  Great to be back underwater, our first time since the Ningaloo reef in Australia last year!  Nice, can't wait to strap on some tanks!!!

















The giant clams were beautiful!






Swimming ahead, Roger noticed some multi-lingual sea cucumbers!






We noticed some cracks on Roger’s fiberglass boat, so went in the next day with some fiberglass and resin to repair the damage.

Photo by Cyndi on s/y Legacy
Happy to be able to help, Adam attracted quite an audience, as the locals had never seen the process.  Turned into a good party.














Afterwards, we were invited to Roger’s home for dinner.  Wow, what a feast!  Fried fish, like snapper, teryaki chicken caught running through the garden that morning, manioc curry laplap, the national dish here in Vanuatu (vegetables, meat, or fish, mixed with coconut cream and wrapped in banana leaves, then baked), greens like spinach, and casava, yams, and taro.  Fantastic!!!  Roger, his wife and his brother are terrific cooks, and are hoping to open a restaurant one day....we wish them the best of luck!




  We did take our dinghy out to Mystery Island on one of the days when a cruise ship was out there.  Crazy scene indeed.  Though they’ve done a good job with it, the whole thing was really like a big native village inspired theme park.  All the sunburned passengers, mostly Aussies and Europeans, walking around dazedly, bloated after days of eating unlimited vittles on buffet lines, looking at little trinket souveneirs to take home from their visit to “The Island Nation of Vanuatu”.  No one even lives on the island, yet for most of the passengers, this is the only port of Vanuatu they’ll ever see!!!  The ones we spoke with had no idea that there were even people living on neighboring Aneityum!!!  Amazing!  But made for some fun photo ops!

Ahhh.....tours for joy riding old people!!!  Or is that old joy riders???  Now we're getting somewhere!!


For 5 bucks you could get your photo taken in the cannibal soup pot (actually an old whaling pot).....we gave it a miss.....


Finally it was time to weigh anchor and head north about 45 miles with the prevailing trade winds to Tanna, the next island in the Vanuatu chain, after a brief overnight stop on the north end of Aneityum.  A sweet island indeed!!!



TANNA

The sail to Tanna (largely a motor boat ride, given the light trades coming right over our stern and very rolly seas) was just an easy day hop, and we happily arrived in Port Resolution, ready for our obligatory anchor beers with Legacy, who had arrived the day before.

The well protected bay of Port Resolution provided excellent shelter from the winds and swell (named by James Cook after his ship, HMS Resolution when he arrived in 1773 on his second voyage.  Cook was attracted by the glow of the volcano, Mt. Yasur on the horizon, as are sailors and other tourists today).

There is also a yacht club and a couple of guest bungalows with beautiful views overlooking the bay.  Though currently sort of closed since no one is staying in the bungalows, it's a fantastic place to bring the dinghy ashore and organize expeditions around the island with Johnson, Warri and Stanley.





 Hard to imagine a more perfect yacht club!!!





Local villagers are fishing with their dugout canoes all day, starting before dawn.  We traded with them for some fresh fish, like small tuna.....















Lunch of fresh caught fish and fried plantain, tasty business!!!

Just like in Cook's day, Mt. Yasur is a big draw to Tanna Island.  We were eager to head over to the volcano for the evening show.  Based on seismograph readings around the island, the volcano is currently at activity level 2.  It gets closed at level 3, so we were hopeful for a big night.  Yasur delivered the goods, and then some!!!

School's out for the day
 After a 15 minute truck ride from the yacht club we arrived at the entrance to the volcano park.
















Entering with other folks from around the world staying at bungalows and resorts around the island, we were led to a clearing for a safety briefing.....basically stay together, and have fun!!!  Gotta like that!

(a Japanese tourist and her guide were hit and killed by a blob of molten lava a few years ago, but happily the lawyers don't rule the roost here in Vanuatu!!!)







The safety briefing was followed by a native "kustom dance" to ask the gods for safety, and a flower necklace draped around each of our heads, also to ensure our safety....(I'm now typing this blog, so apparently these elaborate precautions paid off!!!!)







Another brief truck ride to the moonscape of the flank of the crater.  Then a hike up to nearly the rim itself.  The crew monitors the wind, to take us to an upwind vantage spot, away from the smoke and ash plume.  Then everyone finds their spot and the show begins!












Immediately, even before we reached the top, we heard, no, we FELT the first explosion.  Rocks and red hot lava was thrown high in the air, way over our heads.....yikes, this is the real deal!!!




I set up a tripod and settled in for the ride as the sun went down over the rim.....magical!  (most of these shots were taken with a very wide angle lens, to give an idea of how close we were to the action!!!)


















The evening was an amazing, "bucket list experience" for everyone.  The fantastic eruptive explosions, with the heat nearly searing our eyebrows, were intense and awe inspiring in their power and magnitude.  An experience we'll always remember.

Exiting the volcano park, we looked back to see the glow behind us

And a brief video of a couple of the explosions:

video


Circumcision Day

Driving back from our evening at Yasur, Warri told us about an event he would be attending the next day, and asked if we wanted to come along......a circumcision celebration for 3 boys in the next village, ages 6 to 10.  Said there would be a huge feast, lots of kustom dancing, and a general good time.  People from a couple of villages would be there.  Now, that's something we don't see everyday aboard the good ship Bravo, so of course, Cindi and I were in!

We met Warri at 6am for the drive to the village, in order to watch how the food was prepared for the feast.  The pig had been killed the day before (thankfully, as they use a club called a "pig killer", appropriately enough) and had been cooking all night in the pit dug in the center of the clearing, covered by banana leaves, rocks, and earth, along with taro, casava, manioc and yams, prepared laplap style.....marinated in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves.  Also, the boys had been circumcised 2 weeks prior to the party, then sent away to a "secret place" to await this ceremony.

Stanley explaining the events of the day to Cindi beneath a beautiful old banyon tree


Port Resolution anchorage in the distance.....BRAVO in the center.


Guests arrive.....over 20 in this pickup truck!


Building the pile.....notice the pig's liver hanging from the bunch of sugar cane.

The men were building two shelters, one on each side of the clearing.  Stanley sat with us to explain what we were seeing.  Apparently the parents of the boys exchange huge offerings with the families on the boy's mother's side and father's side.  We were a bit hazy on the exact dynamics, and suspect there was quite a bit of complexity that was by us.  But we watched as the one family carefully draped perhaps 100 beautifully woven pandanus mats over the oven, followed by literally hundreds of brightly colored lava lava's, or fabric sarongs.  The preparation took perhaps an hour.  Piles of kava were added to the heap, as well as other gifts and offerings.  The other family then took their turn, building their own pile, with heaps of laplap bundles and bags of fabric and rolled mats.  This was an enormous display of wealth.





The first pile grows, over the earth oven below.








Other family watches the pile that they will soon inherit growing bigger by the minute!





The boys, now becoming men, are paraded past the piled offerings.  They seemed pretty sprightly, considering...

Two piles ready to be exchanged


At around 10am, the father of the boys, who was throwing this bash, made a speech, and all of a sudden, the men from one family proceeded to dismantle their pile of loot and take it over to their side of the clearing, after which the second family followed suit.  It only took perhaps ten minutes!!!  Several women, all beautifully dressed in elaborate costumes then uncovered the earth oven and brought out the wrapped bundles of food.


















Opening the oven










Finally it was time for the dancing to begin.  With men in the center, women around the outside, they chanted and danced, telling stories in their local dialect (over 15 languages are spoken on the island of Tanna alone!!!)  The dancing went on for over three hours.






















Stanley's wife takes a break from dancing

We had some pork and laplap (delicious, with a rich, smoky flavor), and finally it was time to head back to the boat.  While we hadn't understood all of the day's more subtle meanings, it was wonderful to be able to witness this rich traditional custom kept alive and vital to the lives of these beautiful people.


Winding up our week or so at Port Resolution, we were running low on both cash (vatu, the local currency, is the only cash used in Vanuatu, and there really are no ATM machines except in the capital, Port Vila, and the other city, Luganville), and green vegetables.  With the Legacy crew, we found Warri available to take us on the 2 hour (each way) rough ride to Tanna's main city, Lanikal.  It was a good day trip over some amazingly rough terrain, traversing Mt. Yasur's lunar like plains as we crossed the island to town.





















Cindi shopping at the market








Quick stop at the filling station.  We had quite a truckload heading back to the village!!!


So that wraps up our too brief stay at the islands of Aneityum and Tanna.  We've thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of these warm friendly people.  These first two islands have been a terrific introduction to the nation of Vanuatu, and we think the next three months exploring the islands will be special indeed.  Stay tuned, as we report next on our adventures in Erromango and northwards toward Port Vila on Efate.















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