Land of mercenaries, misfits and molesters

Sun 16 Aug 2009 03:41
Position  15.22S  167.11E
Couldn't resist this title which is how some of the locals describe Vanuatu. You certainly come across some pretty wild characters up here in Santo, which has some of the best cattle grazing land in the world--rich soil, plenty of rain, no need for pesticides. Given that we are so close to the equator it's surprising that there are very few venomous creatures-- just up the way in the Solomons there are crocodiles, not to mention a violent, politically unstable society.There is some malaria here, but so far we haven't seen a mosquito. Most of those in the Rally have decided against taking anti-malarials as the side effects are pretty unpleasant.
Since we arrived at Oyster Island a week ago we've had a pretty hectic schedule of social and cultural events.Oyster Island itself has grown since we were here last year and now boasts some simple but stylish bures. What the house guests must think of all the yachties anchored here I hate to think. We were quite surprised to find the little resort booming, largely due to word of mouth, I suspect.
It's a perfect spot for meeting up with visitors as the 'mainland is only a couple of hundred metres away in a local long boat, and from there it's only a half hour ride to the airport to town. There is now a weekly direct flight from Brisbane to Santo, which makes this a much more accessible destination for Australians.
We arrived a full day ahead of all the yachts who had very little wind on the trip over from Fiji. Since they arrived there has been much shuttling of jerry cans over to Luganville, the town on Santo which still has many of the Nissan huts built by the Americans.. The wreck of the President Coolidge together with Million Dollar Point, where the Americans dumped all their heavy equipment at the end of the war, make Santo one of the world's premier dive sites. Supplies are limited in Luganville, but the quality of the fruit and vegetables is great. I bought a woven basket full of kumara from a woman who was breast feeding her baby under her stall. the women and children simply sleep on mats under their stalls in the market. At the butchery I stocked up on dvds for the children on a neighbouring boat who had a sleepover with us one night during the week.
One of the highlights of the week was a vist to a village near the farm of the owners of the Oyster Island Resort. Although we have visited many villages in remote parts of Tonga and Fiji, we have never seen anything as  simple as this village where the people lead a totally subsistence existence, with no use for money at all. No Christian church, no school, no cars or bikes, the men and boys all wearing loin cloths, this is as unspoilt as anywhere in the world, yet only 20 km or so from the town of Luganville. We met with the medicine man who explained the medicinal use of many of the plants in the lush gardens of the village. One old chap said he was already shaving when the American planes were overhead during the war. Nobody knows how old they are, of course. Grant, the young Kiwi manager of Oyster Island said that they never need to provide food for local workers who are staying overnight at a work site--they simply pick bananas and other fruit and nuts and catch a few fresh water prawns in a stream. If workers in the resort get sick of their job, they have no problem existing without an income as food grows so abundantly. These people have in no way been touched by the global financial meltdown. 
As a total contrast we visited a nearby resort run by and Australian circus performer who had been part of Circus OZ.  After turning on a great buffet meal for about 80 people he put on a hilarious acrobatic show for and hour or so, all on a pouring wet night.
Heather Shiels left the boat yesterday and we are expecting Ian and Avelyn any minute, so I'd better finish making up their bed before they arrive. After a few very wet and sticky days we now are cooled by the south east trade winds--great if you are sailing north, but not good if you need to head south to Port Vila.