2019 Vanuatu Asanvari on the bottom tip of Maewo Island
Asanvari on Maewo Island
Motoring head to wind in calm conditions on another lovely day the twelve miles to Asanvari on the south west tip of Maewo I wondered how Shirley was getting along distributing the glasses and bras amongst the ladies of Narovorovo; did they feel uplifted and did their new sharp vision enable them to perhaps read a book or make culinary chores like chopping and slicing a lot safer? I hoped so.
The directional arrows that were once painted on the rocks suggesting the best anchoring area in the bay were long since worn away so we used the combination of chart plotter, the sketch in Miz Mae’s booklet and common sense and dropped the hook just to the left of the beautiful waterfall that cascaded over smooth rock a few metres back from the shore.
On our way to the beach we detoured to the waterfall first as there was a fascinating bath-house style building there set in a pretty garden and we were curious to see if it was open. Ken had been over there first, collecting fresh water and we landed and scrambled up the side of the walled garden to see the fall close up. The photos speak for themselves and I wonder who the ‘Douglas’ was whose name was just legible on his tombstone hidden in the foliage.
The Spring Water Bar looked as if the chairs could be spread out and iced drinks served up on request at a moments notice. Boatman Bruce came over and said he had taken the barman to another island that morning but he would be back later. In fact he was because he lives in the little hut, we saw his light on until well in to the night.
Nichola Rhind from the yacht Miz Mae, who wrote the invaluable little guide book based on her own findings around 1998 and to whom we are indebted and grateful, suggests this is one of the most beautiful and colourful villages in Vanuatu and we would agree. In fact I think we must be seeing the most beautiful villages altogether as once again it felt as if we were sailing in to Kew Gardens, the grounds are cared for with such thorough love, albeit largely by the cows and chickens, but carefully laid out gardens with hedges and fences showed the human design.
‘On arrival please introduce yourself to Chief Nelson, or in his absence one of his sons, Nixon or Jim.’ Albert strode down the beach to greet us and we learned that Chief Nelson had died, that was 21 years ago after all, one of his sons lived nearby and another in Port Vila.
Albert gave us freedom to wander anywhere and called over young Martin to lead us through the village to the school area. There were plenty of children around to help with the dinghy as they were on their lunch break. Passing homes along the path people would called ‘Hello’ from the dark interiors and we saw their crops in different stages of ripeness, papaya, bananas, pineapple and root vegetables, so there is always plenty to eat.
The soil track opened onto the football pitch where some children joked at Martin with his adult followers and then we walked between school buildings to the open playground area and surrounding homes. Teacher Fred, the headmaster, came for a chat while one young boy clung to his leg, maybe his son.
The late Chief Nelson was a benevolent leader of his people and made sure that the village ran in harmony with the surroundings but also in tune with the times. He could see the value of tourism and would organise Custom Dancing and Kava Ceremonies at the request of paying tourists. He even organised for visitors to get married in the Anglican Church on the beach for 22,000 vatu (£157.14) which included the ceremony, custom dancing, food, the church service and singing. One of the many questions I didn’t have time to ask was do they still offer this service?
Through a natural gap in the bank behind the beach we came full circle back towards the anchorage and met Erica who runs the well cared for Guest House and ‘Yacht Club’ built in chief Nelson’s time. Like so many of the small tourist enterprises we came across, built and run by Vanuatuan people, guest houses, restaurants, bars, resorts and this yacht club appear set up in a state of readiness for the off chance some custom will come by. They could do with some advertising if they want more regular business.
On a table in the neat, coral floored and well shaded club there was some fruit and local carvings of dugout canoes with outriggers for 5000 vatu (£35) which would be a good days income if they sold just one. Erica asked if we would like an evening meal but we declined. She told us how her husband is away in Australia picking grapes for at least nine months of the year but sends little money home because not only is his salary low but then the farmer takes off accommodation and living expenses. Was it worth the separation?
The visitors to her guest house recently have comprised government officials from Vila who stay for one night once a month, so if she could entice more visitors then her husband could come home, but no doubt she has thought of that. It just seemed she could do with some marketing help and a connection in places that encourage people who like the more out of the way holidays maybe with a study bias.
In the afternoon we cooled off with a snorkel and found a different reef state to Miz Mae’s experience. Twenty years ago there were thousands of fish, coral heads supporting large ferns and numerous hard and soft corals but now there is evidence of cyclone damage and virtually no soft corals or ferns. All the bays on the leeward side of the islands may have protection from the south easterly Trade Winds but they are often in the direct firing line of the cyclones spinning down from the equator between November and April.
That evening it was Bron and Ken’s turn to come to us for a curry and games of trionimoes. We offered our old inflatable dinghy to Ken as he would spend the time re-gluing the seams and it could replace his battered fibreglass tender. Would you believe, no sooner than the words came from my mouth than our new in Lagos, Portugal tender decided it wanted some attention. While in NZ we had two major seams opened up and re-stuck so they wouldn’t fail and now leaks are gradually working their way around the remaining seams. The glue used in temperate climates cannot withstand the heat of the tropics for long.
Not only that but both lifting points at the back on top of the floats where the side ropes are attached decided to split within days of eachother and to cap it all the bung decided to go AWAL while we were towing it between anchorages. But super repair man Rob has been busy and all is fixed at the moment, we’re just running out of glue!
Ken likes his early starts and we certainly do not mind them as it often means we arrive in a place and can explore, visit, chat and snorkel in the same day in readiness to move on the following morning while the weather is fair. Were we to stay longer we could arrange guided walks into the jungle to the other side of the island or to waterfalls but with little cash we were happy with the quality and content of our visits.