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Date: 24 Oct 2012 00:12:26
Title: Back in Luganville

Lat 15:31.47S
Lon 167:09.87E

After leaving Oyster island and a failed attempt to sail back to Port Villa, (big swell and upwind so we bailed) my fiance and I are back in Luganville harbour, anchored in front of the beachfront resort again. We are preparing to leave for our passage to Australia. Unfortunately there is no wind until at least Sunday so Mystic is stuck here until then. No wind does mean that the anchorage is nice and flat though! We are taking the opportunity to do some long overdue boat cleaning, but yesterday we hired a car and went up the East coast of Santo.

The southern part of the coast is covered in palm tree plantations. Either side of the road was thick with lines and lines of them - I have never seen so many palm trees! We're not sure how they collect the coconuts but assuming they are collected by hand, half the population of Santo must be up in the trees come harvest time!

Palm tree plantations line the road up the east coast

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Our first stop was at another blue hole, similar to the one where Archie proposed. This one was a bit more commercial, and we had to pay a fee to swim in it, but we were given a coconut each to drink and there was a slide and another rope swing. The water was again extremely blue, and even clearer than at Matevulu.

Archie jumping off the rope swing at Shark Bay blue hole

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My fiance and I :-)

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We continued up the road to the famous Champagne beach which is the beach featured in all of Vanuatu's travel industry promotional material. They wanted 2000 vatu ($20) off us for the privilege of seeing it so instead we went to the beach next door - Lonnoc beach, where we could enjoy an almost identical beach for the price of two cans of coke. It was a lovely spot, save for the drones of flies and ants that were on the beach.

Our engagement photo shoot on Lonnoc beach

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Until the dog ran in (actually we look happier in this one!)

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Further up the road, we found Port Orly, which again is supposed to have a nice beach but again they wanted 1000 vatu from us for access to it. We've seen enough amazing beaches on this trip and not ever had to pay for the privilege, so this was rather annoying. I think it stems from the fact that the owners of the blue holes charge a fee so they think they can charge for every tourist attraction. Unfortunately for them, the blue holes are novel and amazing natural formations, where as you can find a nice beach pretty much anywhere in the South Pacific!

Hide and seek at Port Orly

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On our way back we found another blue hole, that the Lonely Planet guide described as a blue lagoon. There were no fees to pay, no-one waiting for you to arrive, just a wooden stand that they use on cruise ship days, and a path down to the swimming spot. This was actually 3 pools that were connected, and we swam through all of them until we reached the sea. The effect of the fresh water mixing with the salt water underneath was cool - it makes the water look fuzzy, as if it's got oil in it or something. You could also dive down into the salt water where it was much warmer than the cooler fresh water at the surface. This 'blue lagoon' was pretty cool. I have no idea why no-one was charging us to visit this one! Daft!

The blue lagoon

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We returned to Luganville and dropped off the car, and then went to an outdoor screening of a film about the SS President Coolidge wreck. It is the 70th anniversary this week so there is a small exhibition on, which we went to, and also a nightly screening of films about the ship. After the film, which was pretty interesting actually, we had to find our dinghy in the dark. We'd parked it that morning in the river tied to a tree, with a stern anchor lodged around some old metal pylons in the water to keep her off the shore. Unfortunately we couldn't lift the stern anchor; it was completely stuck. We should have just left it there and found it in the morning, but Arch decided to swim for it. It's not fun swimming in pitch black water at the best of times, let alone in a dirty river with rusty old metal spikes in the water! He came up after freeing the anchor and my face dropped. He had a stream of blood about 2 inches wide flowing from his forehead all the way down his nose and chin. He was clearly in pain and shocked by the amount of blood pouring out from his head. We got a towel and some pressure on it and that seemed to stop the bleeding fairly quickly. I tried to find somewhere to get back to the shore (we had drifted off downstream) so that we could get into the light to assess the need for stitches. We decided a trip to hospital wasn't necessary, and back at the yacht I patched him up with some butterfly strips to try and close the gash in his forehead and minimise the scar. Apart from a big headache and a few other nicks on his nose and forehead he seems to be ok. Fingers crossed the wound heals ok. I learnt how to do proper stitches on my first aid course, but I am not about to take surgeons tools to Archie's face when my only experience was on chicken breasts!

Archie's injury without all the blood

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