A Week in Port Vila

Mon 21 Jul 2008 22:57
Position: 17.35 S  168.14 E
(Rigel writing)
A breif recap of the busy week in Port Vila...
On Friday (a week ago) ten of us took a bus tour around the island of Efate. We were quickly out of Port Vila, and into wildnerness, travelling on the only road outside of the city... the one that goes all the way around the island. The roads were very rough (especially in the back of the bus) and it was remarkable just how little there was everywhere other than Port Vila. With the exception of a few small villages, the island appeared largely uninhabited... we rarely passed anyone on the road all the way around the 80 km loop. We stopped at a native village where we were shown some ways of their survival: methods of fishing, of weathering a cyclone, of building huts, etc. We also passed many remnents of the American military presence in WWII... an old airstrip, an old manganese mining town - completely overgrown by US-introduced vines and weeds, and Havanah Bay, where many US troop ships came for fresh water and supplies. All together a very scenic and interesting trip.
Saturday was the once-annual horse races. A makeshift track cut out of the woods next to the airport really did look like it was used only once a year. But even when we showed up, an hour before the first race, the event was booming with people. Booths and rows of vendors in tents sold all kinds of food. Many, many native ni-vanuatu turned up for the event. The organizers even brought one of the best race-callers out from Australia to called the races. We quickly found the Moet & Chandon tent selling Champagne for under $50 AUD a bottle, ("a really good deal" according to Sue) and the day went on like that. One of the spectacular events was the fashion show, where under various categories, competitively dressed contestestants were plucked from the crowds. These categories included young miss race-course, best dressed man, best hat, best pikinini girl, best mother-hubbard. Those last two categories were fantastic. Local women were dressed in exoticly colored and patterned "sacks" - traditional dress dating back to the arrival of missionaries here in Vanuatu: these priests dressed beautiful girls in sacks to hide their beauty.
Sunday was a World ARC luncheon, Monday John went "abseiling" down a waterfall (and returned to the boat grinning),  and on Tuesday Tony, Annette, and Sue all left for New Zealand.
John and I are venturing on together, however, and after a few busy days of repairs (theres always things to be done) we are currently making our way up to Santo, the northern most island of Vanuatu. We left Port Vila just this afternoon in the company of Southern Princess, and made our way out of Meli bay, around Devil's Pt, and up around the west side of Efate into Havanah Bay. We've anchored here for the night, and tomorrow morning we'll get a bright and early start on an 80 mile leg up to Malikula. There's not a cloud in the sky tonight, and the full moon is so bright I could read in it's light on deck.