Tuesday, October 05, 2010

We are in Port Vila again, the capital of Vanuatu. We are waiting here until the weather co-operates and we can leave for New Caledonia. We have had several great adventures since the last time I posted a blog. The first one was when we went to a blue hole upriver from an anchorage just north of Luganville on the island of Espirito Santo. The blue hole is exactly what it’s name describes, we traveled about a kilometer up the windy river, the channel kept getting narrower and narrower. At the end the channel was just wider than the dinghy and the rest of the river was covered with vine like floating vegetation. Then the river opened up into this wonderful wide circle and the bottom fell away to about 10 meters. It was crystal clear and the water was fresh. We had a great time swimming, there were quite a few young people swimming and they came over and we took pictures of all of us under the water, when we came up we laughed and laughed. We had fun experimenting with the camera as well. There was a huge tree at the edge of the water and people were swinging and diving in and having a great time. I figured they didn’t want to see a 55 year old grandma make a fool of herself so I didn’t give it a try.

We sailed off to another island, Maewo and there we headed off into the hills on a 5 hour hike to see a cave that was filled with bats. Other cruisers had told us what a great time they had there so we set off. It was a challenging hike as it had rained the day before and on the way down the ground was just goo, I would slip and slid down the hill. Our guide was excellent though and he had a hand for me whenever I needed it. The cave was huge and there were hundreds of bats flitting about inside. There were so many that their radar didn’t work in it’s usual superb manner and a few crashed into us. At the end of the cave it opened up and the sun shone in. It showed a cathedral of rock with a huge opening at the bottom. We threw rocks into the hole and they would bounce down forever, apparently there was another cave opening at the bottom. You would have needed lots of very good climbing gear to find out what was at the bottom of the cave. After we came down from the hills we had a swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. (If you click on the pictures they will enlarge and you can tell that the specs on this picture are bats)
The anchorage where the village was is called Asunvari and it is gorgeous spot. There was a nice curving bay with a sandy beach on one side, where the village was located and then the waterfall at the other end. The land to the back of the village was a steep rock face which is covered with lush vegetation. They had a yacht club there and we had a meal, the fellow that had prepared it had been a chef in Luganville and he knew how to cook. We had dinner with a couple from a Spanish boat. They had been in Pago Pago in American Samoa when the tsunami hit last year so we were regaled with first hand accounts of what happened when the wave hit the harbour.
When we went ashore in Asunvari the chief of the village approached us. He needed to get to Port Vila to see a doctor and asked if we would be willing to take him. We had planned to make a number of stops on our way back to Vila, but we decided this was something that we could do so we agreed to take on a passenger on our voyage back to Port Vila. We sailed for 36 hours straight experiencing quite changeable conditions but managed to get to port before dark. Jif (chief) Nelson spoke pretty good English but we struggled to come up with conversational topics that interested all of us. At one point I asked about local legends and he came up with three stories that he shared with us. He used to work as the skipper of a commercial vessel that visited the islands around his home. He also skippered a traditional sailing canoe that was sailed from his island of Maewo to Port Vila. He told about visiting a bunch of different islands and I think other crafts joined in from the other islands and they all sailed to Vila. It was a unique experience having him onboard and we appreciated the bananas and papayas that he gave to us to compensate us for the food he ate on the trip.
We are enjoying the company of cruisers we have met up and down the island here in Port Vila, but time is running out in the season and I am anxious to get to New Caledonia. We may leave on Thursday but I am not sure if the weather will co-operate.