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Date: 18 Jul 2013 11:08:53
Title: Vanuatu 1 Australia 0

The wet and blustery weather has continued for our whole time in Vanuatu and
we feel we haven't really gone out and explored the islands. Port Vila is
quite a lively town, the only proper town in the whole country and we stayed
a week, relaxing and meeting up with friends. I've been to a few markets in
my time, but the market in Port Vila would be hard to beat with some of the
most unusual vegetables......massive roots, the size of a large suitcase,
edible palm tree trunks four feet high, hands of 'bananas' each one the size
and shape of my forearm. And then also the more recognisable, a dozen
coconuts, all tied together for a couple of dollars, lemons and limes, but
no potatoes, carrots, tomatoes or any of the other things we recognise. The
ladies sit around, with children and babies sleeping, waiting for customers,
happy and smiling. The people have an almost African look, they are
Melanesian, black skin, very different from the Polynesians from Tonga,
Tahiti and Maori. And the language? Apart from the 100 different tribal
languages the common language is Pigin English. Trying to understand it and
to see the signs...even official government signs, in Pigin, is a delight.
It's sometimes hard to hold Sussanne back when we hit land and her
enthusiasm at the party celebrating our safe arrival in Vanuatu boiled over
onto the dance floor at the marina restaurant and she pulled a muscle in her
leg and has been hobbling around for a week. It's been a good excuse for her
to relax at my expense and I've been running around looking after her since.
(ed...if you read this it means Sussanne didn't read the blog before I sent
it)
One of the must see things in Vanuatu is the volcano on Tanna island, so a
group of us chartered a small plane and took the one hour flight south. It
is supposed to be the most accessible active volcano in the world and only
in the un developed world would you be able to experience it so close...no
health and safety or guard rails. We took a 4 wheel drive car to within a
few hundred yards of the crater and then walked the remaining way. Standing
on the rim of the crater, looking down at the smoke and steam and then a
massive explosion with red hot magma spewing hundreds of meters into the
air, was awesome....and quite scary. It must be pretty dangerous. We were
spellbound...and ready to run. What made it possible to get so close was the
constant trade winds which blow from the South East and which blows all the
ash, magma and debris away from the rim where we were standing. If the wind
changed direction we would have been history.
We were anxious to see more of the country and left Port Vila for a nearby
anchorage where we could visit a small locally run turtle release project.
The hawksbill turtle are on the edge of extinction, about 100 mature pairs
worldwide, a few of which return after 30 years from hatching, to lay eggs
on the beaches of Vanuatu. The project collect some of the new hatchlings as
they try and return to the water, grow them for 2 years and then release
them to improve their chance of survival from 2 per 100 to 75. But the
weather continued to be grim...especially after hearing about the heat wave
in England. Grey skies, wind, rain, completely miserable so we decided to
head for Australia. We set off at first light next day, hauling anchor and
motoring out around the protection of the headland and were hit with a blast
of wind and crashing seas, which put the boat on a very alarming heel. We
persevered for a few hours and then after a crew conference, all (that is
Sussanne) agreed to abandon Australia for a day or two and head for the
protection of another island. We arrived in the dark after 10 hours of
excitement, soaked and tired. Australia will have to wait for another day.

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