Hot Springs and Megapodes

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Sun 27 Oct 2013 01:13
The rain finally stopped and the furious wind abated for long enough to let the swell outside our safe harbour to relax a little.  we were all desperate to leaving Port sandwich, and quite frankly we didn’t care and certainly couldn’t decide where to go next.   Zinnia made the final decision as to where to head, based on, the shortest course very smart decision on her part as we were directed to Bououma Bay, Ambrym.
We are parked off one of the isolated black sand beach far enough away not to be worried about Ni-Van dress protocol. –This not only boasted peace but also natural hot springs.  We spent the next for days poaching ourselves.  The family where in raptures daily  so much so I finally raised from my sick bed to convalesce each morning at 6am in the 100m long 1 meter deep zen-like Japanese natural pool.  The pool is fed through the sand, coming down through volcanic vents.  expelling scorching hot only slightly sulphas clear water.  This water each morning as dawn arrived and the air temperature is a little cooler then stream rises all around you and then wafts in the early morning breeze.  The Blissites were blissed-out and able to shed all our frustrations of the past weeks.
Whilst in Villa we met a wonderful young American hippy couple on a S/V Genesis Earthling (could it really be anything else?) and who had tipped us off about hot springs and Megapodes.  Said Podes are thought to be endangered but whilst Colin and the kid had been mucking around on the beach a local boat rocked up with a chief and a white fella and kids who live in a near-by village.  So we had our first encounter with Megapode egg digging.  Rather odd to see a revered Paramount Chief head, body and upper legs down a hole looking rather like a terrier digging for rabbits.  Before Colin had a chance to question the rights or wrongs he was asked to engage in a bit of burrowing.  He too now looked like a character out of Winnie the Pooh,  soon realising like all things Ni-van is hard-core ‘poding’ is flipping hard work.  I really hope there isn’t an out cry on account of our foraging but judging by the quantity being harvested in Ambrym it a appears locally to be a very healthy population.  We obviously need to do more research and understand the situation locally and globally, it would be nice to see a ‘closed season’ on the harvest, but that’s probably wishful thinking.  Having now tasted these strange fouls eggs I have to stay they should be farmed, forget quail these things are the crème-de la crème of the egg world.
In this anchorage, out of sight of any village we were unbothered and blissfully alone and not having our every move watched and commented upon. Not watched that is, until this morning when we had just been for a dip in the hot springs ashore, with the steam billowing around our heads, and got back to the boat, when some Ni-Vanuatu appeared on the beach shouting and gesticulating. All rather unsettling. They passed on though and we went back to school and the usual. Later that afternoon they were back, screaming at the boat. "Shoot", I thought, "What now?" The one without the machete looked like he wanted water, so Colin hopped in the dinghy and went ashore. Far enough from the beach to be unreachable, and able to make a swift exit,  hurled requested water bottle. Dehydrated man caught it deftly, and then proffered a couple of megapode eggs as compensation for his efforts. Well, what a delight. These eggs of the scrub-duck are hard to come by as you have to dig down about 1.5m into the black lava sand/soil and at the bottom of your hole, if you haven't 1) put your finger through it 2) gone headfirst into the hole and had to be dragged out backwards, but your toes, or, 3) found nothing at all, there is a huge egg about the size of 3 chicken eggs. If then, this egg isn't about to hatch and give you a big shock when you come to crack it, they make the very best scrambled eggs in the world - bar none. Creamy, rich, orange, unforgettable. The locals ended up being quite lovely and sold me some more eggs for super. He said it was his land, and that they had collected 70 eggs that day – sustainable? Possibly not.
Along with our burn out due to hideous weather we where also feeling un-enamoured by God and his assortment of squads that prowl around these shores.  However there is always an exception to the rule and the guys we met on the hot spring beach. Cosmo and their eldest, Jezia nearly came to an early demise being far too dare devil jumping over extreme rocks.  We later sailed up to their village and hung out with them for a while,  Hougton, Gretchen and her sister are Missionary workers they and their 3 kids plus one soon to arrive have embarking on a 15 year project in Ramvatlem village, translating the bible from the original manuscripts into the Northern Ambrym language.  It a mammoth undertaking in any language and made harder by being in the middle of nowhere without electricity or running water.  Houghton is an inspiring young man with a very considered and interesting view on Vanuatu and the people without being in the least bit patronizing or pushy on the Christian message.   Our time with them really helped us to understand considerably more bout life here, and the enormous possibly destructive impact recent telephone networks are having on the local population.  However Gretchen had me in fits of laughter about all thing normal about being a mother, making challenging enough job seem totally normal to be doing it in such extreme conditions.  A more inspiring family you couldn’t with to meet.
We'll make every effort to get back there later in the year and have another go at poaching ourselves.
IMG_2561 Cruising cuts