Oyster Island, Peterson Bay, Santo, Vanuatu 15:23S 167:11E
We haven't moved far since last report. Departed Luganville about a week ago on a flat calm morning with sunshine and sparkling water; motored due east for about 4nm before turning north. By the time we got onto the northerly course it was blowing 25knots, we struggled to take down the awning and then motored into a short steep chop. Gusts to 38knots on trip north and eventually we made the outer reef of Peterson Bay. Anchored and went ashore to check depths and tide times to make it through the inner reef which eventually happened with Southern Princess just touching bottom on the way through. Inside the inner reef we found a place which had some telephone mobile signal and dropped anchor with Storyteller about 100m away. And there we have stayed.
Been having trouble with the outboard which occasioned three separate trips to Luganville. The local Yamaha bloke, Ralph, managed to scavenge part of the carburettor from a similar motor and we are just about fixed. The motor is still missing a beat here and there but we will address that when next we are in Luganville to pick up Steve & Rhonda.
Oyster Island Resort is a cute place with about 7 bungalows and a central bar, restaurant and eating area. Taaso is the cook and he makes superb Soufflés apart from other foods. The mangroves around the island produce pacific oysters so most meals start with half a dozen Kilpatrick and last night the whole baby snapper was great.
July 31st saw our 43rd wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a bottle of Moet left on board by Avelyn & Ian Massam when they departed in Vava'u, Tonga. Thanks guys it was put to good use. After the Moet and a further bottle of champagne from the stocks of Storyteller, we repaired ashore to Oyster Island, with John Gilder & Rigel Bricken off Storyteller together with Anne & Don Myers off Harmonie. Oysters, lobster and all the trimmings it was a fine meal and a fun night. Don wanted coffee so we stopped by Southern Princess on the way back and out came the single malt. None of the boys felt real well in the morning! Irene went to bed and Anne while claiming not to have been counting suggested at least 4 single malts each had passed our lips! Forty Three Years Married; Irene reckons you only get 15 years for murder and is just now completing her third life sentence!!!! Is she trying to tell me something?
Kathleen & Graham McGregor, our mates from Perth have joined us for a week. Graham has a filthy cold and doesn't really want to do much so we will swing around the anchor here for the week I guess. Fun to be with them again, the last time we saw them was in Malta in April 2007 when they travelled to Sicily with us. The visit to the native village below is a far cry from Mount Etna and Taormina for lunch. This visit is a marked contrast.
Took a trip up the river feeding Peterson Bay to a blue hole. This is a fresh water spring producing millions of gallons of water coloured with limestone and calcium. Tastes wonderful!
Grant, the manager of Oyster Island, took us to visit a real Ni-Vanuatu living village and not a tourist village. It was educational to see how they lived and it is not something I would want to do. Apart from the chief's house (concrete floor) they were all mud floors and after the recent rain, damp underfoot. Chief Villi took us through the village gardens and they have an amazing array of food and medicinal plants. Plants for chest colds, headache, mosquito and fly repellent, sick belly and the trots. Some are infused, some are rubbed on the skin and others burned to provide protective smoke. They use an inhalation for the common cold.
Chief Villi was hard muscled and not an ounce of fat, loin clothed, has fathered 10 children the oldest 21 and Chief Villi only looked about 35 years old! The original Ni-Vanuatu were bushmen and mostly vegetarian. Meat was saved for ceremonial feasts and if they were kill a pig or cow they gorged themselves until all gone as they had no refrigeration and did not have skills to smoke the meat. They were bushmen, living inland so that they were protected from marauding seamen. When the missionaries arrived they encouraged the bushmen to move to the coast as they were now protected from the attacks and slowly the diet has changed to include fish and some meat.
The blue hole - a primeval place. You see some strange transport in Luganville. A home made three wheeler.
A copra drying shed. They take the fallen coconuts, split them in half and hollow out the white meat. This is then placed in a drying shed and 'cooked' to start the oil producing process. Copra sells for A$560 a tonne and they are now using the oil as a bio-fuel. Some diesel motors here in Luganville are using coconut oil exclusively. The white meat is placed in racks in the smoke house and fires are lighted from underneath in these metal tubes made from used 44 gallon drums. The husks of the coconuts are used for the fuel.
Looking for the Ni-Vanuatu village we got right off the beaten track. Santo has 5.5 metres of rain per year and the bush is lush. The juxtaposition of the electricity metres feeding into a traditional village is incongruous and while providing lighting, they have no television or any other 21sr century luxuries. This is the main entry into the village.
A lovely young lady was our guide with Chief Villi. Grant and Chief Villi. The loin clothe is his normal attire. The wee bald spot starts to give away his age.
The cooking house. A beaten mud floor, damp under foot after recent rain. Some of the villagers sleep in this room on mats. The fire, one of several and no smoke hole in the roof so that the atmosphere was close and smoky.
The nursery. The young guy to the left has his first toy. A bush knife and he was handling it quite naturally. The second toy they are given is a shanghai (slingshot) and they are expert shots killing small birds for the cooking pot. The fellow on the right, in the tree, is picking a native apple and he threw several down to us. He was about 40 feet in the air and quite at home. The apples, while a little tart in flavour were very refreshing.
Grant took us to visit his fathers farm and a dip in a pool which was like a champagne bubble bath. Once again fed by a spring, the water was cool and tasted wonderful. To the right the vanilla plantation. Vanilla is of the orchid family and the roots are above ground in a mix of coconut husks and shells. Vanilla is a well paid cash crop with these vines being 3 years old and due to flower and produce for the first time next spring. With not many flying insects around, they are all hand pollinated, a lengthy job, however an even longer job is when they pick the beans; during the day they are laid out in the sun to dry, then at nightfall they are packed into small boxes, covered in blankets and surrounded with hot water bottles to keep them warm until they can be placed in the sun again the next day. This goes on for three months! No wonder vanilla beans are so expensive.
Taaso and his superb Contreau soufflé
Yesterday we discovered that there is a small resort, 'Turtle Bay' at the other end of Peterson Bay and today we had lunch there. The owners, Matt & Patricia are an interesting couple. Max is English, a clown in a circus and has his own Luna Circus in Margaret River in Western Australia which operates for one month a year in January. During the Australian winter they run Turtle Bay and Matt does a few circus shows in NZ & Australia when the 'money is right'. They seem to live an easy life.
NEWS FLASH: ASOLARE one of the yachts sailing in the World ARC ran aground on Moore's Reef about 200nm west of Cairns a couple of days back. The following report from Blue Flyer.
"At 0400 Peter was asleep and
Tim was on watch 2 days ago. Peter was woken by a crash sound and then a few
seconds later the boat stopped dead with an almighty crash and lay over on her
port side. Peter fought his way out of his cabin, past all the hanging clothes
that were now hanging across his door, blocking it.
The boat is a wreck and is probably being cleaned
out by anyone in the neighbourhood. It is an insurance write off and has
probably begun to break up by now.
Google ASOLARE CAIRNS and you can see the pictures.
That's all for now and 'be kind to each other'.
John & Irene - Southern Princess