Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BULA!!! Fiji 2014

Our 5 day crossing from Efate, Vanuatu to Vuda Point, Fiji went pretty smoothly and to plan.   We made some southing in order to have some wiggle room if the SE winds filled in too much before making it into the lagoon.     Friends, Walt and Jane LaCompte of SV Callisto, have been there for a year and were waving to us from the seaside restaurant as we motored through the channel into the marina.     Glad to finally be there, we set about getting quotes to get some work done, but were taken back by the prices (too high for our pockets) so began to come up with alternate plans to do the work ourselves or with off-site businesses and labor.    The rest of the time we got the boat ready to put in the cyclone pit for the season.   And there she sits until our return next year.

Port Vila and Tanna, Vanuatu 2014

We spent nearly a month in Port Vila.   It was the first time since Ghizo that we had actually socialized with other cruisers.     We were on a mooring but moved to the wall when Lemara offered a hefty discount to us so it would be easier for me to get on and off the boat rather than deal with the wobbly dinghy dock.    It actually wasn't all the easier, however, we did get to plug in and were right next to toilet and shower facilities.   First time being on a dock and plugged in since January of 2012 when we were at Danga Bay,  Malaysia.

Moses, Dora, Lemara and Willy will make sure you are safe and comfortable.

We decided to fly to Tanna and see the volcano, known as the Lighthouse of the Pacific.   It's a must see and the tour we took was actually pretty awesome.  Before going we saw the fire dance performed by a group of young people as part of an  Australian run NGO.

 Think safety indeed.    We were right on the edge of the volcano.    The sound was impressive to say the least as the volcano seemed to draw in air and rumble as the lava rolled, spit and fired up.   Nothing quite like it.

Back in Port Vila we awaited the weather break we needed for the 5 day trip to Fiji.    As I said, we spent a month there and finally got that break when a low traveled along the east coast of Australia pushing back the SE winds.     In the meantime we went to a charity horse race event.     With all the hoopla there were actually only about 7 horses and riders competing.

The day before we left we squeezed in an ATV ride around the island stopping at a touristy turtle feeding sight.

Malekula, Vanuatu 2014

Malekula is an island that begs for a lot of time.  Unfortunately, as the winds continued to increase in strength right from the direction we wanted to go and we were feeling the crunch of having to get to Fiji to get hauled and catch our flights home, we could only make one stop at Banon.   Certainly not the highlight of Malekula, but a pleasant place nonetheless and we were met immediately on the beach by villagers who offered to take us up to their waterfall.   First we had to get permission from the waterfall chief.

Our guides carried machetes which were a big help in cutting through all the vines that clutched at our ankles along the trail.   We were not allowed to jump in the pool, though, as it was the water source the village drank from.    They identified flora along the way.   Here our guide opens up a cocoa bean.

Ambrym Island, Vanuatu 2014

We had planned to hop around all the islands in Vanuatu but the weather was not all that agreeable and we would have had to anchor along the windward sides of the islands.    Although we missed a few things we did get to go to Ambrym, the island known mostly for its Black Magic and for Tan Tam carvings.    We anchored just beneath an active volcano and off the villages of Ranvetlam and Ranon and since we were in the lee of the island we had a very peaceful anchorage.   As usual, we were visited by locals who invited us to go to a wedding ceremony.   We followed them on one day to see the wedding preparations which included visiting relatives and friends bringing taro root and cows and pigs for slaughter and baking bread.

The walk on the trail to Ranvetlam was beautiful, by the way, with several banyon trees along the way.

The next day we went back to the wedding itself.     When the happy couples (two brothers got married on the same day) emerged they didn't seem too happy to us.   I think they just don't show much emotion during the festivities.     I jumped into the gift giving line and when I deposited our little gifts on the pile a little girl doused me with powder as a kind of blessing and thank you.   The couple got lots of buckets.   You can't have too many buckets, I guess.  The string band was a lot of fun to listen to.

We stopped at a hot spring a little farther down the island.    This creek was so hot you could not walk in it unless you were closer to the ocean where it was cooler.

On one afternoon we got to see a Rom Dance on the beach.    The locals, I should mention, charge a hefty fee for certain festivals and events.     While the wedding was free, a festival in another village on Ambrym was $80 each to attend.     The Rom Dance was $50 each.    We decided it was a once in a lifetime event so we did it.     It is a way during the cruising season that the villages can share their customs and earn some money.

 Fred, from Ranon, is a well known tan tam carver.