September 2011

Part Eight

Hot Springs

Pt. Resolution

Tanna, Vanuatu






September 25, 2011


There are few ways for the people living around Port Resolution to make money. They live simply and don't need it for many things. They grow their own fruit, vegetables, chickens and pigs for food.  They also fish from hand-hewn dugout canoes.  But they cannot educate their children themselves.  For that they need money to pay for secondary school in Lenakel. And it is not cheap.

One way the people at the head of the bay, in the village named Ienapai, earn money is by guiding visitors to the hot springs on their land. 



An entry in Capt. Cook's journal of his second voyage notes: "Wednesday August 10, 1774. While the Launch was takeing (sic) in ballast on the West side of the harbour, one man employed on this work scalded his fingers in takeing up a stone out of some water, this circumstance produced the discovery of several hot springs at the foot of the cliff rather below high-water mark." 



Having lived on the flank of a dormant volcano for several years and spent time soaking in a hot creek and several different hot springs there, these were not a curiosity to us.  But we are always intrigued by the forces that create them and enchanted with the colors of the earth surrounding them.



One day we parked the dinghy in the usual spot and walked around the bay to the end of the black sand.  As we approached the first hot spring Sarah came down to greet us.  Were we interested in seeing the hot springs?  Yes.  It costs 600 vatu each, about $7.50 USD.  Okay.  We are happy to hand the money over for a good cause.



Sarah showed us which pools were hot along the shore.  Then she dropped a couple of eggs in one and said they were for later.  She took off, barefoot and pregnant, at an easy gait that moved more quickly that it appeared.  She slowed not a bit when we got to a steep hill and scaled it effortlessly without ever reaching for a hand hold.

As we walked along through the bush we chatted.  At one point she turned around, smiling, and said, "I like that you talk to me."  I looked perplexed and she said that most people don't.  They talk among themselves or keep quite.  I explained that some people consider it rude to talk too much, especially to people they don't know. But, we are from California and talk to everyone.  She laughed and said they are more like that.




We descended a flight of steep steps cut into the hillside.  A wobbly railing gave a sense of security. At the water's edge we went left, hopping from rock to rock to avoid the incoming tide.



We passed a few sections of hot water before we came to a small cauldron of boiling, steaming water.  This is the fumerole we see not far from Tenaya.



Not far from the vent were the remains of a ladder.  Sarah said that is the old access to the fumerole but it was washed away during one of the cyclones earlier this year.  The boys of the villages had chiseled the staircase as an alternative.








As we returned to the first spring I asked Sarah if that is where they washed their dirty clothes.  She said not usually.  They use the springs in the bush behind the village to bathe and wash.  I asked if we could see those too.  She said yes but not now, tomorrow would be good. Okay.  What was the cost?  Oh, no cost.  I will just take you there.  We only guide to these springs you've just seen.



When we arrived back at the beach our eggs had been moved to a cooler pool by another woman.  I guess we took longer than usual.  Sarah peeled them and handed one to each of us.  Cooked to perfection!



The next morning we dinghied to the head of the bay and found far fewer coral heads than where we usually beach it.  We met Sarah on the beach and she led us back into the bush.  Talking as we walked, we learned there are four families living in the village and each family gets to guide for a month at a time.  Any money they make goes towards education.



Sarah told us that cyclones had ravaged the island in both January and February of this year.  People had died.  Afterwards there was not enough food because all their crops had been wiped out.  She explained it all very matter-of-factly.



We wound our way up a series of paths until we were heading up a narrow canyon. It was absolutely gorgeous with lush tropical plants crowding every bit of earth.  A small stream gurgled down the center and the air hung heavy, cool and humid.   The water temperature varied from chilly to hot.  At one point I put my hand against the mud wall to steady myself and was surprised when it was quite warm. 

Sarah showed us the original cool spring and said that the sections of warm water nearby were new.  They had appeared since the cyclones.  The earth had not been hot in that location before.  Now it was a lovely place to bathe.  I couldn't help but think how the people in Winnie's village would envy this.



While walking back to the village Sarah asked if we needed any coconuts.  I said Anthony and Philippe had brought us 4 so we were in good shape.  Did they bring hard or soft?  Soft.  So she collected three hard ones for us. 



She rounded up another boy named Anthony to peel them.  Jim began taking pictures as Anthony whacked the coconut with his bush knife, his eyes never leaving the camera.  How he didn't lose an appendage is beyond me.



We asked if they would like to come out to the boat.  Yes!  And could Sarah's friend, Sheila come too?  Of course.  So out we went.  We snacked on Coke and banana bread before I gave them a little care package. 

Sarah asked if we had any books but since we use mainly our kindles now we didn't have any give-a-ways.  Wow, what a change from a couple of years ago when we always had a bag or two!  I found a National Geographic which Anthony snatched up and never took his nose out of, even during the dinghy ride.  I made a mental note to subscribe and bring them back each year for gifts.



Go to September 2011 Part Ten - Three days in a remote village, Tanna, Vanuatu


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