Arriving in Vanuatu we are reminded that cruising is a lesson in adapting quickly to new circumstances. A question we are often asked is how long it takes to get get familiar with new places and to build up some kind of social network as we move about. The answer is; not long. 24 hours after arriving in Port Vila we felt quite established! We had met a local family with a child Camilla's age that loves riding. We had met a Swedish boat with an American captain and a Norwegian stewardess and two Norwegian visitors. We have hooked up with some of the boats we have met earlier, participated in a village fair and had a Friday night special at the riding stables. It is all good, and very social. Guess we are all in the same "boat" so to speak and it is easy to make contact. The kids are becoming experts at it.
The sail from Fiji was good as we made good speed and did the 536 miles in 3 days and 12 hours. That meant arrival after dark for us, but our charts where quite accurate (not common in these parts of the world) and the light into the harbor was working, so we felt fine about it. The next morning Quarantine came onboard and confiscated our fruits and vegetables before clearing us in to Vanuatu. We where allowed to go ashore! This was a huge relief as we where told this was Vanuatu's national day and we had to wait until Monday to be cleared. Three days onboard at anchor seeing land but not being allowed ashore was not tempting. The kids would not have appreciated that very much.
The first people we meet ashore was the Cygnus Montanus crew; Silje, Luke, Rick and Silje's aunt Ellen and Uncle Åge. They told us about a Friday night show at the riding stables so we decided to join them. It was quite an experience. The riding stables where very nice with great horses. Camilla was ecstatic after many months with no horses in sight, or horses of low quality. The stables was equipped with a bar/ restaurant so we got something to eat and met quite a few locals. Then it turned out that Siljes Uncle and Aunt are horse experts and specializes in Chiropractics for horses. Stables in these pars of the world don't get a lot of help. There is no vet on the island and certainly no Horse specialists. So it was extremely popular when Ellen and Åge was introduced, and where happy to give a hand with the horses. The next day we all therefore returned to the stables. Camilla to ride with Silje while the rest of us watched Åge go to work on a few horses. Horses are fragile creatures and need a lot of maintenance something it might be hard to understand seeing how big and strong they are. Åge found a hammer and a screwdriver useful as tools getting the bones and ligaments back in place. It was amazing to see that it actually worked. Horses limping down to the paddock walked untroubled back.
Vanuatu is a Melanesian country consisting of many smaller and larger islands stretching from 20 degrees south up to 10 degrees south. Their neighbors to the north are the Salomon Islands and in the south west New Caledonia. The people here are Melanesians and are therefore from the same origin as the people of Fiji, but Vanautu has a unique culture that feel both ancient and exotic. It is markedly different from the islands further east. To learn more about it we organized a "school excursion" with the family on Fafnar to the Vanuatu Museum. It was very educational. We met Eddie who was our guide and taught us about sand drawings as an ancient form of written language and about many of the fascinating customs of the Vanuatu peoples. The intricate patterns in a sand drawing was used to convey different messages. Eddie showed us the sand drawing for "I love you" as well as "I'll be back soon" and a warning sign that war was to be started. The patterns where very intricate and to remember them a song was often connected to the drawings. Eddie sang for us and played for us on native instruments. The music was very melodic and "mild" compared to the more pronounced "beat" in the music further east.
There are app 105 local languages on the islands so the common language used today is Bislama which is a Pidgin English. It seems like most of the words are spelled phonetically. The grammar on the other hand seems to be all back to front so it is not easy to understand. The Sports Bar in Port Vila is e.g called NUMBAWAN which reads Number 1. On the egg box it reads "Plis givimbak box". So many different languages and cultural ceremonies tell us that the people here did not travel much between the islands, but developed quite isolated from each other. The very fertile soil probably made them choose the safe life as a farmer, over the risk of fishing and trade.
Later it was our turn to show Eddie some of our culture when he came onboard Coconut. He had never been on a boat before. He was curious to know if we traveled by boat because it was cheaper than flying.
Equipped with our new found knowledge, we then set off the next day on an island tour. We drove all around the island, quite an undertaking as the island is big and the roads are poor. We stopped to see the beaches and the remains from the USA World War 2 presence here. Most of the equipment was ditched when the war was over. There was no thoughts about re-using it. Guess everyone believed in a peaceful world, and no more wars. The highlight of the trip was a trip up a river in a dug out canoe to a cultural village. Here we were welcomed by the chief blowing in a Triton shell only to be "attacked " by the natives in traditional costumes as soon as we stepped ashore. They then sang and danced for us and served some local food and Kava. All very touristy, but good fun all the same.
Rugby has been a key ingredient in our stay here as the world cup is on. We have been up at 5am in the morning to watch it live at the local sports bar. It has been very very exciting. Great rugby and a lot of drama. We were all happy when England finally managed to get their act together and send the Frogs out of the cup. We were so pleased. More so because the French sailors in the harbor left the English not much of a chance, pointing out to us that the English players all had weight problems and had a general lack of athletic merit, while the French players on the other hands... Then they went on to invite us to the French Consulate to watch the game with them. (they got the nerve..) Say no more, the screams of victory must have been heard all the way to the consulate from the Sports Bar. The French where not seen again! Guess it really did hurt when Argentina won against France fighting for 3 place.
South Africa's victory over England was amazing. Not so much because SA won, we sort of expected that after they trashed England earlier in the World Cup. No it was more the fight England put up. England went from being an embarrassment to world class during the cup. They played the way a world champion should. It was just that SA was that little bit better.
Wherever there is economic "progress" it seems unavoidable that there is increased differences between rich and poor, the have not's and the haves. With Australian money pouring into Port Vila this is quite obvious. As everywhere else this situation brings with it the inevitable crime. Three boats have been robbed here in the harbor this week. The thieves' made it off with PC's, money, passports, music, cameras etc. It is not nice. Fortunately Yachting World, the local yacht center, has taken the situation seriously. The organized for a boat to patrol the area in the evening from sunset to 10 PM. The police is not taking it that seriously. According to one of the boats that had unwanted visitors they where mostly interested in having their picture taken on the boat. The Police did however talk to the local Chief about the problem. He will then do his investigation. The Chief is still the local boss here.
Waiting for weather is the main theme here in Port Vila as al the boats here are waiting to get to Australia for hurricane season. The weather just haven't been cooperating. The last few days we have seen 30knots, big seas (5-6 meters) and rain. This is supposed to go down, but then there is a low pressure forming south west of New Caledonia. That is not good news as it brings headwinds. It could also bring something worse at this time of the year if it develops. We are after all heading into Cyclone or hurricane season. Luckily Port Vila has a very secure and well protected harbor. We do not experience much of the wind or the seas. We do get the rains however.
The family we met on our first day here, Chris and KT with their daughter Monique and her younger brothers, invited us to their house to spend a lazy Saturday while waiting for weather. They visited us on the boat to see how we lived and now it was our turn to see how they lived. This included a visit to the local Kava bar for Chris and I. It was very different from Fiji and Tonga where everyone sits in a circle and passes the brew around. Here you get your drink at the bar, go outside to drink it and sat down inside afterwards to enjoy the effect and have a chat. Kava makes you relaxed but has no dramatic effect as it is very mild.
This site was last updated 10-11-2007 07:16:16