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.


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