Thursday, September 3, 2015

Things Seem Back to Normal in Port Vila

Crops are returning to the market, but prices are higher.
We had seen and shared photos of Port Vila right after Cyclone Pam hit them hard. Yachts had been ripped from the moorings and piled on the wall then. The ladies’ waterfront craft market was destroyed and many buildings lost roofs and had damage. Although we were not sure what to expect when we arrived in Port Vila, things looked relatively normal and like last year.

The market selections are limited this year.
A few new buildings were going up in the main waterfront area, the mooring balls had been reinstalled (thanks to the help of the World Cruising Club and sailors donations), and it looked like business as usual.

The ladies’ craft market has been moved to the main market building. The positive is that they probably get more traffic from visitors to the food market stalls; the negative is that it lost it charm of being a living crafts village along the bay. It is very close and crowded with the items for sale so you feel like you are in a bazaar somewhere in Turkey as you squeeze by people and try not to destroy the displays.

This NiVan official building was destroyed by Pam
Things are not really back to normal in Port Vila, though! The businesses are functioning as usual. Some are closed and seem to be out of business; other new enterprises are setting up in the retail area. Since we were seeking solar energy resources to take to Avokh Island with us, we took a very long bus ride to find the right shop. A traffic jam on the way back opened our eyes to how the people who may be lucky enough to have a job in a business really live! It makes your heart break to see the villages where they go home to after a day’s work. They are pitiful – worse than I have seen in inter-city situations.
She survived Cyclone Pam, but is in rough shape!

We have noticed a change in the demeanor of many people. There is a sadness and a lack of eagerness to provide the service of their job. It must be a feeling of hopelessness for them as their pay is low and the price of food is high. Things are much less expensive in Fiji, where food is also more plentiful. The selection of fresh items is very limited, even in the supermarkets.

Where the local live.
A little experience comes in handy! We learned too late last year that you can take a bus for 150 VT instead of a taxi for a lot more. They all look similar: vans of different colors. The secret tourist don’t know is to look for the “B” on the license plate as it stands for BUS! Of course, those with “T” are taxis. And like in many places, the taxi fare varies according to what the driver thinks he can get from you. On the bus, you pay when you get off; then pay again after the next ride. The bus fare is always the same: 150 VT regardless of how far you go. We tend to walk to our destination, then find a bus to bring our loads back. There are buses everywhere and they are willing to give you a ride before the next one gets to you.

These villages are very poor.
Another "last supper" with our World ARC New Zealand
fleet before Firefly, Brizo and Starblazer head to Australia.
We will catch up with them next year or in 2017 in St. Lucia.
And like the markets in every island where you need to have your own bags, I have learned to carry my boat bag full of more sturdy bags whenever I go shopping so I can have a means of getting the goods back. I also carry plastic bags for carrying bread. Otherwise, you walk down the street with the loaf in your grubby little hand!

We did a lot of shopping for the Children's Day event in Avokh as we should be up there by then. Remembering that Vincent wanted to get to Port Vila last year to buy things for the special day, we decided to take things with us.

One of the fun parts of being in Port Vila is connecting with other yachting friends. Of course, most of our World ARC New Zealand fleet was there. The three German boats had gone to Australia from New Zealand. We miss them!

We tend to have group dinners whenever there is a fleet gathering in one area. So we were off to the good Chinese restaurant here in Port Vila for one of those "lazy Susan dinners" where they just bring on the dishes and everyone gets a taste of many things.

Like always, it will be hard to say "goodbye" to several boats leaving us. We will probably reconnect somewhere and will definitely stay in touch with email. Starblazer is rejoining the WARC as Joyce wants to be in New York City for her 70th birthday. Pat and Stuart want to get Brizo to Australia and return to the UK to spend time with a new grandchild. Paul and Susie are heading to Indonesia and Thailand with a summer back in the UK. We will catch up with them in the Indian Ocean next year. Martin and Elizabeth are still here with us working in the Maskelynes, but they plan to leave for Indonesia. Donna and Jonathan on Chez Nous are wrapping up their Sea Mercy work and will head to New Caledonia and then New Zealand.

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