Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fire in the Night Sky

A beautiful sight in the night.
One of the highlights of a visit to Port Resolution is the trip up to the rim of Mount Yasur volcano. And I mean to the rim! There are no fences holding you back! While the volcano itself is an experience, the actual trip to it is one of a kind! Those of you who have done it will be smiling at the memory!

Unfortunately, the volcano tour was cancelled on the first night due to heavy rain. It rained most of the time in Tanna this year. In fact, it seems that WARC 2015 has had a lot of rain on their route. El Nino effect? Fortunately, we have not, so this was the first real socked-in rain we have seen while enroute. We had rain in port in New Zealand, but that was more tolerable because we could get in the car and go to the movie or shopping.
Sixteen of us in one pickup truck!
Since some boats wanted to move along, they were willing to take the volcano tour in a lighter rain the second night. However, we were told it wasn’t worth it because it was too slippery and cloudy that they really didn’t see anything wonderful. And they looked miserable upon their return! We waited an extra day for the tour and it was worth it.

High on the lower ridge before dark.
The only problem was that there were supposed to be two transport vehicles and only one showed up. Werry, the owner of the yacht club, was our driver and he was really mad at the person who failed to show. We couldn’t understand words, but we could understand the emotion in his phone conversation! As a result, we piled six women in the cab of his pickup (it was a double cab) and two women and eight men in the back of it!

A view from the lower ridge
That is only half of it! The “road” to the volcano is a 4.5 mile two-wheel track up and down the mountain and full of ruts and holes. Add to that scene the heavy rainfall filling the ruts and making it very slippery. Needless to say, it was a very rough ride – especially for those in the back. There was nothing for them to hang on to and they had to dodge low hanging branches. At times, I felt like we were going to tip over when Werry was trying to avoid deep ruts and washout areas. I can’t imagine what it was like in the back. Somehow, we made it there and back in one piece, but all of us had numerous bruises and pains!

Dante, as in Dennis, ...
The discomfort was well worth it once we got to the top of the volcano. It was a steep climb up and quite slippery. Dennis and I separated as I didn’t think I could make it up to the higher rim. But when everyone else left me, I decided to give it a try. Except for one very muddy area when I fell and slid down a short distance, I made it to the top – but only because several people helped me. Every time I tried to get up, I slid further down so a couple of the gals helped me get up and then a sweet Frenchman, Victor, from one of the yachts, held my arm until we got to the top. Unfortunately, my bad leg did not want to cooperate in this climbing exercise and I felt like a really old lady!!!
The view from the higher ridge
The volcano is a double cauldron so one side would fire up and explode with a bang, then the other. Against the night sky, it made a spectacular sight. The wind was very strong up there and was blowing us toward the cauldrons. At times, I felt like I was going to be lifted off the ground! We were only three feet from the downhill slope into the cauldron because the ridge was very narrow. Unfortunately, my camera battery ran out up there because I had taken so many photos of the children earlier in the day. Oh, well.

The ride back to the yacht club was just as nerve-racking and uncomfortable as the one up to the volcano, but at least those of us in the cab warmed up. We were all happy to disembark the pickup truck and get back on solid ground. That was enough for a long day.

This is what we saw as we sailed away from Tanna the
next morning on our way to Erromango

Later we learned from sailors who went to Mt. Yasur the next night that it had blown large boulders out of the crater into the parking lot after we left! That is what happened in Hawaii, too. We had been at the volcano during the day and after dinner, then just hours after we left, it blew! It has been closed to visitors since. Is it us?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Traditional Dances; Native Customs

On the way to Mount Yasur to see the volcano, we stopped at a Kastom Village where the natives put on a dance performance and showed us some of their ways. This is a way some villages raise money for the community. We have had a number of these experiences in the various islands throughout the Pacific Ocean. It never gets boring as they are all different.

Again, like in our Welcoming Ceremony, the whole community participated in the program. The little ones were very cute as they were taking their dances very seriously. And they look so darling in their costumes.


The word “costume” makes one assume garments. Not so much here in the land of sunshine! Actually, the Kastom male dancers here in Tanna would be what is called Big Namba. This is because the materials used to cover their penises is much more than that of the Small Nambas that we saw last year in Avokh Island in the Maskelynes off Malakula. Regardless of the quantity of plant materials used, the only area of the male body covered is the penis. Some male faces were painted.

As for the women here, they wore the skirts made of plant fiber and some face painting. Needless to say, that living without bras to support their breasts had taken its toll. No one was perky! Of course, they have also nursed numerous children, too. And they breastfeed children until they are two! When the ladies danced, they held their breasts with their arms – I am sure for comfort and not out of modesty.

Following the dancing, one man demonstrated how they light a fire without matches. It was quite impressive and I was surprised at how quickly it lit. Several members of the group tried to do it without the same success. There was a display of carvings and Dennis asked how much they were, but no one replied so he figured they were not for sale. Later I asked Werry, our driver, and he said they were for sale. There is that lack of entrepreneurial spirit again.

I think we need to go back to these villages and teach them how to get money out of the tourists’ pockets! Actually, there was a donation bucket, but only Dennis and one other put anything in it. I just don’t understand people. Yes, we had paid for the performance in the tour, but what are a few Vatu to us when a little means so much to them! We try to leave some cash in each village we visit, even if we really don’t want the items we may buy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Life Among the NiVans

Without games, toys and electronics, kids find ways to
play games and have fun. They loved the balls we brought!
In Vanuatu, the languages are English, French and Bislama. Bislama is a form of Pigeon English or what we might call Pig Latin. Actually there are as many languages/dialects in Vanuatu as there are islands – something like 83! There was not much intra-action within the islands so each developed its own communication style. They do not understand one another any better than we understand their native language. And since Cyclone Pam, the aid workers have found a tribe living in caves in northern Tanna that no one knew existed and they have a completely different language!

The little ones are not too sure of "white people," but the
older ones are eager to follow us around and watch us.
Both the French and the British held land in Vanuatu, which was finally given independence a short while ago. In fact, we will be celebrating their 35th Independence Day while we are here. We have heard that they are “wasted” for several days and it is not always best to be in Port Vila. We will be on one of the northern islands by then. It should be a quieter celebration there.

A number of new house are under construction.
Last year we made friends with the tribe on Avokh and saw a little of their lifestyle. We noted that they are less developed in the business of tourism than many islands we have visited across the Pacific. In addition to taking clothing, food, tools and educational materials to Avokh, we are also documenting ways other islands attach tourists (i.e. yachties) and glean a few bills from their pockets! There is little in the way of entrepreneurship here. They believe in the “Cargo Cult” left over from the wars when the USA left a lot of things behind. Now they truly believe if they pray for something, it will come from the skies just like all of the stuff dropped from planes years ago. In a way, we are reinforcing their thinking by bring stuff for which they pray! Self-motivation does not seem to be a high priority in success.

Port Resolution, like many of the villages we have seen, has a market where handmade items and fruits and vegetables are available for purchase. Usually a visit to a village means an audience with the chief along with a gift, a village tour, sometimes a food tasting and almost always a stop at their “market.” This market could be a building or it could be a table or mat on the ground. The villagers hope you will make a purchase – and we always do just to leave a little money in their hands.

Serah's Café and family
Since Port Resolution is a tourist destination for people wanting to visit the active volcano on Mount Yasur, they have a cement block building for their market. I bought a blow horn seashell for 1100 Vatu or $11 USD. Someone had been enterprising enough to find the shell, clean and polish it and offer it for sale resulting in a little money in his pocket.

In addition to a few shells and shell jewelry items for sale, there were carvings, woven baskets, purses and fans, and a limited supply of fruits and vegetables. I am sure in other years the food items would be plentiful and the yachties would buy. We took photos to share with our friends on Avokh as we are encouraging them to find ways to get a little money to purchase the things they need.

A typical island kitchen: no running water, no fridge!
A lovely young woman, Maria, took us on a walk through the different villages so we could find specific people for whom I had messages and letters to deliver. On our walk, the full picture of the damages from Cyclone Pam became evident. Many houses were destroyed; we saw new construction everywhere. Construction materials are somewhat limited until the leaves come back to make roofs. There was a lot of fallen tree wood available to building and canoes.

Men fishing in canoes under the direction of someone
in a tree on the hill using his cell phone to tell them where
he sees the  fish! A form of modern technology!
Dennis went with Patrick and his wife to see a garden. The islanders spend the days working in the garden as it is their main source of food. We might picture a garden as we know it: tilled soil, neat rows of plants, few weeds as they are pulled when small, a sprinkler running, etc. Here a garden is plants among the bush! There is no tilling: there are no rows. The weeds are the jungle and demand daily attention or they will take over the garden in no time.

White Sand Beach; there is also Black Sand Beach in the
area below Mt. Yasur volcano.
I stayed with Patrick’s children and Maria as I chose not to do the climb to the garden and back. We went to the edge of the cliff to watch the men fish in the bay. Several of the men were up in trees with their cell phones! Not for better reception, but to direct the men in canoes with nets as to where they could see the schools of fish! They go out in the canoes at certain times related to the tides to catch fish as they flow into the bay or back out of it with the tidal water.

Patrick's family
Patrick also let us see the new house he was building. The construction was very sound and made of materials from the land. It is just one large room where they sleep. It appeared that their mats were under a plastic tarp to keep them dry. When the house is finished, a kitchen will be build nearby. There are no dining rooms and no furniture of any type. Sit, eat, and sleep on mats. That’s it!

Inside their new house

It was very disheartening to see so many of the large old breadfruit and mango trees fallen or broken up as we walked through the villages. It will be a year before they produce fruits. There were no hanks of bananas growing anywhere. Some palms had a few coconuts which provide coconut water for the thirsty. At least, we saw water pumps there in Port Resolution and it looked like they were getting clean water as well as collecting rain water. I wonder what we will find in little Avokh?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rain, Rain Go Away!

Just another "bad hair" day! This is the last place we four
WARC 2014 gals will all be together for at least a year.
Sherry with three UK gals: Pat, Susie and Joyce
One of the highlights of the visit to Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu is the interaction with the villagers. The World ARC has been coming here for many years and has formed a bond with this community. The World Cruising Club and those of us who sail with them participate in the festivities which include a Welcoming Ceremony and Gift Exchange, a Village Tour and a Feast put on by the villagers at the Port Resolution Yacht Club. In addition, the sailors participate in work projects in the community.

Stuart and John have been good traveling companions for us.
We have gleaned much knowledge from their experiences.
We enjoyed the dancing of the Welcoming Ceremony as it was different from other places we have been. Here both the men and the women and some of the older children all participate in the dances. In this village, the dancers were more fully clothed than in some other places. The dancing is done in a specific area of the village.

Following the prayer, the dancing and words of welcome, we all proceeded to the lawn of the yacht club to continue the celebration. The women had woven hats and necklaces for us and placed them on us as we entered the festival area.

Once we had all gathered, the children sang for us. I must say, the faces of these beautiful children will always be imbedded in my memory as will the sounds of their voices. They are so sweet! It was a steady drizzle of rain and the wind was cool, but they just kept singing with all of their hearts. It was a special moment.
The rain continued to pour all day, but the festival went on as if it were a sunny day! It was probably more uncomfortable for us with all of our wet gear! It was chilly so I imagine the villagers were also cold as they were not as covered.

Following the singing by the children, the gifts from the villagers were brought out and piled on the lawn. Then the gifts from the WARC boats were brought out as well. It was quite an impressive pile of things!

The village women made these neck pieces and hats for all.
The leaders of each group spoke a few words and then the village gifts were passed to the sailors. I was simply overwhelmed by the generosity of these people who have so little!

We received two handmade baskets filled with fruits and vegetables – most of which I had no idea how to cook! I felt like we should be giving this food to them. Maybe the WARC paid to have it brought in, but even so, these people need it more than we do.

The school children sang a number of songs - in the rain!
The gifts from the WARC were very specific requests for cooking pots, machetes, dishes, food, etc. The list had been distributed to the WARC boats earlier and was generously fulfilled. In addition, items for the yacht club, including mattresses, were brought by the yachts from Fiji.

The village divided the gifts up by tribes, with the chiefs then subdividing it so everyone gets something. This World ARC tradition has been going on for a number of years and it is quite a moving experience. I am glad we sailed here to participate in it as it will be a lasting memory.

The presentation of village gifts for us.
Our gifts for them.
My special carry out guy!

I love the basket and fan. I almost had to take out Pat to get it!
Oh, dear! What have we here - and what do I do with them!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vanuatu: Recovering from Cyclone Pam

A rainy day doesn't stop the locals from fishing.
The passage from Musket Cove, Fiji to Port Resolution was soggy! We were caught in a trough between two tropical storms mustering cyclone strength. One was to the northwest and the other to the southeast. The result was a lot of clouds and constant rain in the middle where they met! That was where we were sailing for three days. While it was never dangerous, it was somewhat miserable. Then add to that my seasickness! I am sure you are tired of hearing about that – just as I am tired of experiencing it!

This guy welcomes yachts, but keeps the goods for himself!
Once we wiggled our way into the bay at Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu and got anchored, the rain continued for four more days! Everything on the boat is damp or wet – including us. Since it is officially winter here, the winds were a little cool - fleece weather. Together the wind and rain made us uncomfortable. But then I looked at the villagers in their minimal clothing and the houses that don’t really keep out the rain … Who am I to complain!

Typical island transportation with fishing net.
We are very glad that we joined the WARC for the trip to Tanna. It felt like being with family again, but more importantly, the World Cruising Club and all of the World ARC Rallies before us have a vested interest in this village of Port Resolution. It is one of the projects supported by WARC participants. Of course, this year was especially important following the cyclone.

The children are always the welcoming committee on the
beach and they love to have photos taken.
Tanna was devastated by Cyclone Pam. We were pleasantly surprised to see how green it was after seeing photos from March where every leave was stripped from the trees. The leaves are growing back, but it will be another year before the trees produce fruits: breadfruit, papaya, coconuts, mangos, etc. In the meantime, people are living on very little. Rice is a staple, but not readily available now that the aid has ended. Gardens are producing some crops, but the main root vegetables will not be ready for harvest until November.

On our way to see the tribal villages in Port Resolution area.
As in all areas, there are those who “have” and those who “have not.” Here it a political thing, as well. With a scarcity of food, those who have access to the land will not allow others for garden on it. Those who do not have land access are starving. The wild taro crop will not be ready for months and there is little other than fish to harvest.

We knew things would be minimal, but I didn’t realize how severe it would be. The people are proud and they do not ask for things, but willing accept what is offered. In their tradition, if you give them something, they must give you something. They seemed somewhat embarrassed to accept a gift from us and we declined a gift from them. We have enough, but their giving spirit shows on their faces.

Another Hallberg-Rassy owner, Katie and Jim, who are currently in Turkey and Greece, sent us money to buy things for specific people in Port Resolution. We had a wonderful day of walking through the villages with a young lady named Maria to find the individuals and deliver notes from Katie and Jim, in addition to the items we bought for them.

Tanna village
When we moved
out of our house, I packaged up fabrics (from my many unfinished projects), thread, elastic, needles, sewing machine needles and other items to give to them. We had purchased canned meats in ring-pull cans (can openers are not a tool in their kitchens), powdered milk and rice to share. I wish we had bought more. We were going to go shopping before we left Fiji, but our quick change of plans nixed that! We had collected various tools and clothing items in New Zealand and distributed some of those here. In general, Tanna is more “developed” than Avokh Island where we intended to provide the most support, but Tanna was hit hard by Cyclone Pam, so it seemed right to share here, too. Of course, we don’t know what we will find in Avokh Island up north.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Taking Care of Business in Fiji

What a happy weekend with family for a great event!
Unfortunately, we missed seeing the Lau Group of islands, which are very primitive, due to our trip to the USA for Nicks PhD graduation. The family time was well worth it, though! So our main business in Fiji this time was to have the boat hauled out and the antifouling paint applied to the hull. We need fresh paint to clear in to Australia where they are super-strict about the biosecurity. I find this amusing in a way because Oz (as Australia is called out here) has more dangerous creatures than any place on the globe!

The other item of business was dealing with a black pearl pendant with a local businessman in Nadi. Ali, our driver, takes people to merchants where he gets a little commission. That is fine. What wasnt fine was the representation that the piece of jewelry was white gold! The pendant is, but the chain wasnt even silver! It turned black on my neck.

While he did replace the chain with what he said was a silver one, I have great doubts since he took it off a rack that is sitting out in the open. First of all, if it is a sterling silver chain, it would tarnish in the open air and secondly, I dont think it would be out of the case. When I challenged him on whether or not it was sterling silver, he said it was silver. I asked if it was silver plated. He said it is silver! We will see when I start wearing it. I think I will be buying my own white gold chain. He had a lovely one, but I was not about to give this guy more money!

When we have a driver; we run numerous errands: Vodafone top up, provisioning, pharmacy, fresh market, etc. so we get it all done in one trip. It costs less than renting a car for the day and Ali knows where to go and how to deal with the traffic. And it is much less stressful for us!

We sailed over to Musket Cove to participate in the World ARC events before the 2015 WARC left for Vanuatu. It was fun seeing our friends who are leaving us and heading to Australia with the WARC, plus meeting current WARC sailors. Our intent was to hang out at Musket Cove for a few days and then explore other islands.

The Musket Cove Resort entertainment.
In an overnight decision, we decided to go to Vanuatu with the WARC! Feeling a little torn about not hanging on the hook in Fiji for a couple of weeks and participating in the WARC events in Tanna, we went for Tanna. So we quickly readied the boat for the three day passage to Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu. We were not fully provisioned as I had planned to return to Lautoka at the end of July to stock up for the Vanuatu month! Hopefully there will be good provisioning when we get to Port Vila in a couple of weeks.

So off we go again   No sad goodbyes in Vuda Marina as we did not go back there. Fortunately, we were able to fuel up in Musket Cove. I do wish I could have said goodbye to all of the ladies at Vuda Marina and Millies group, but I think it would have been emotional knowing that we wont see them again. Vuda Marina was a home away from home. Vinaka!

This will now give us more time to work with the people on Avokh Island in the South Maskelynes of Vanuatu. We have a boat full of things for them and plan to install solar lighting in their community building. It looks like we will be in Vanuatu for over two months - if they let us!