Checking in and making friends.

Sun 6 Sep 2015 02:30
Approaching the bay, Port Resolution, the foothills of the volcano, Mount Yasur, above.

Next morning we sat patiently awaiting the customs men. It took us a while to realise that they wouldn’t be turning up at 9am. They would most likely get in to work in Lenakel on the other side of the island around 8, they would then need to make the journey in a 4x4 to Port Resolution so we’d be lucky yo see them much before 11. Meanwhile we were entertained by watching the fishermen. They seemed very relaxed about the whole fishing business, slowly moving around the bay, now and again working themselves into a circle and putting out their nets. We realised later that actually they were carefully watching for any signs of fish, quietly, slowly working themselves into position then gently letting out the nets so as not to spook the fish. But in between they found time to chat and joke, calling out to each other across the bay and sending peals of laughter across the water. One of the fishermen, Joe, brought us some limes, we were happy to give him some rice, juice and cans of corned beef in return.

Around 11am we spotted a 4x4 on the headland next to the Yacht Club. Joe confirmed that it was the customs so we jumped in the dinghy to go fetch them. They motioned us across to some rocks and clambered down the cliff to get into position to jump onto the dinghy when we came alongside the rocks. It was the first country we’d come to where the Customs and Immigration officials climbed down a coconut palm tree trunk just to check us in! They were lovely, of course, friendly, polite, appreciative folk. We had no vatu, the local currency (they wouldn’t give you any in Fiji unless you could show your air ticket/cruise ship ticket… telling them you were on your own boat had no effect!) and of course there’s no ATMs or banks in Port Resolution, but, after a phone call to check the exchange rate, they were happy to take American dollars.

Port Resolution Yacht club. In theory there’s beers to be had here. I’ve never seen them but there were some empty bottles. The second photo is of one of the Yacht Club bungalows for rent on the edge of the cliff.

As soon as we’d dropped the customs men back onto the rocks, to climb back up the palm tree trunk, we were heading ashore. There’s always a special magic about standing on a new land for the first time. Here we were, all checked in and legal, in Vanuatu. Magical. 

Finally we were able to go ashore.

The yacht club was deserted so we followed the road into the village, past the beautiful woven houses to an open space, like a village green I guess, where Serah had a little cafe for visitors: cruisers and the occasional backpacker brought in by 4x4 from Lenakel.  Surprisingly, she was able to offer us lunch at no notice, so we had a delicious meal of fish from the bay, rice and local vegetables. Serah and her husband are simply lovely people, they have worked hard to build the beautiful restaurant and kit it out, the cooking is excellent and presentation lovely. If any of you folk go to Port Resolution do go and eat there!

The beautiful village houses.

Serah and her restaurant.

The folk in Vanuatu commonly speak three languages, and often speak four. They speak their own, local language of course (Tanna has thirteen different ones we’re told, while Erromango, the larger island to the North of Tanna, has just one). Then they all speak Bislama, a wonderful Pidgin English, which sounds like just a strange way of speaking English, but is a proper language with it’s own grammar rules and all. For example, you change a verb to a noun by repeating it, so to talk is tok, but tok tok is a talk, as in having a good tok tok! Their third language is either English or French. This is because, and pay attention now because this is almost unbelievable: Vanuatu used to be run by both the French and the English at the same time!! Just imagine. They would have to agree on things! Consider the discussions that must have gone on as to which side of the road to drive (mind you, there’s not many roads and most of those are single track)? The French won that battle by the way. The schools are either French or English speaking so the kids learn a third language from age 5. Most of the communities have two schools, one for each language, and the parents choose which they want their children to go to, although a few places have just one bi-lingual school, speaking both French and English. Amazing.

Our guide to the beach. We’d have had trouble finding our way otherwise, these little paths wind all over the forest, simply made by people walking where they want to go.

After the meal Serah offered the services of her younger daughter, Jaly, to show us the way to the sandy beach we’d passed whilst sailing in. Our little guide was rather shy. Her school language was French but she understood a little English because it’s similar to Bislama. I spoke to her in my terrible French which elicited many giggles but no words. However, by the time we got to the beach we were firm friends and we had fun playing in the shallows whilst the breakers crashed onto the reef.

The beach, taken from on board when we sailed in.


So, that was our first day ashore in Vanuatu. A day full of wonderful sights, tastes, experiences. We already have new friends and and we’re starting to understand the way of life here, so different to European ways, harder in many ways yet easier in others. No wonder Vanuatu people were declared (officially) the happiest people on earth.

Having fun.