August 3, 2012
Anelcauhat Bay: 20 14'.38S 169 46'.66E
We don't do it often, but when we do, we enjoy revisiting a place. Aneityum, the southernmost island of Vanuatu, was no exception. Last year we met some wonderful people and captured their kind, fun-loving attitudes with photos of the delightful children.
Just after noon on July 20th following an overnighter from Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, we arrived at Anelcauhat Bay. Winds went from NE to NW and back to NE at 11-15 knots. Our log entry at 1300 states 'quite nice into-the-wind sailing'. At 0200 it dropped to 6 knots and the engine came on until 0800 when it picked up to 9 knots and we were able to sail at 6 knots SOG. Warm temperatures and lightning in the distance reminded us that we are once again in the tropics.
Anchored in the pretty bay, our eyes were peeled for Collen in his yellow canoe. Eventually a fast, new boat approached carrying three men and a boy. The oldest was Richard who was sent to run the first and only police station on the island. Now they are handling customs so came aboard and cleared us into Vanuatu. Later Collen paddled our for a visit.
The following day Yassi was on the island because a cruise ship was scheduled to arrive. This allowed us to check in with Immigration as well. It was fun to see him again and relax with a bowl of kava.
Yachties, it seems the police don't always make a timely visit to arriving yachts so you may need to go ashore and look for Richard or Timothy. The police station is located along the track running north from the Primary School. None of the buildings have signs; look for the white building with a blue and white checkered stripe. If the door is locked, just ask around.
In the meantime, walk a little farther to the bank and exchange some money. Fees are about 7,500 vatu but you may want to get enough cash to avoid going to the bank in Lenakel on Tanna. Trips to the volcano there are about 6000 vatu each, and to the John Frum Village is 1500 vatu. There are also a few traditional restaurants and a small store at Port Resolution. None take credit cards or even have much change. At the moment the exchange rate is about USD $1 to 100 vatu.
The bank is a green and white building with a large satellite dish nearby. They are able to exchange US, NZ and Australian dollars as well as Fijian and New Caledonian bills. Be sure to get small notes of 200, 500 and 1000 if going on to Tanna as it's nearly impossible to break 5000 notes there. 100 vatu coins are a good idea if you'd like some kava at a kava bar.
The lady at the bank suggested we give the small photo album of children we photographed last year to Seralyne because one of the girls on the cover was her granddaughter, Primrose. It didn't take long to find Seralyne. She owns Miko Guest House where Yassi was staying. She was thrilled! Along with big smiles and hugs, I received two delicious grapefruit and made a new friend.
A few days later Seralyne's son, Jonah, brought her and a boat load of kids out to Tenaya. Primrose was her usual active and adorable self while Linda quickly found a National Geographic and sat glued to it the entire time.
After that, each time I saw one of the children on shore, they would holler "hello" with big smiles and run up for a hug with the slightest encouragement.
It was fun to give a framed picture of little Kally to his parents, Norman and Annies. Last year Kally was a toddler, but this year he was able to appreciate his likeness behind the glass.
In 1844 a white man named James Parton bought the small island across the lagoon from Anelcauhat. He paid an ax, a rug and a string of beads for this place called Inyeug. His descendants owned it until independence in 1980. At that point all land was given back to the ancestral owners. Now the island, better known as Mystery Island, hosts thousands of cruise ship passengers each year. The locals make a decent living selling trinkets and tours to the mostly Australian tourists.
Word got out quickly that Jim is a keen photographer and Tenaya has a good photo printer on board. Keith is one of the tour operators on Mystery Island and wanted some pictures of the remains of the first Christian church in Vanuatu and of tourists in his boat going ashore. For that, we enlisted other yachties to pose because, of course, we not tourists. We are travelers. BIG difference.
Keith's brother, Kenneth, owns Island Breeze Guest House and wanted some photos to put up at the airport and in Vila. They are lovely bungalows right on the beach and very close to the kava bar at Reggae Beach that his family also owns. His is a very enterprising family!
From an early age kids wield bush knives as long as their limbs and climb high into the coconut trees. Their play is perfect training for active adult lives that include walking miles and carrying large loads of produce from their gardens. The men are talented football players and both men and women play volleyball with significant skill.
So the contrast between the locals' coordination and that of the yachties is immense. One day a French man crewing on a yacht to New Caledonia tripped over a root protruding from the ground and fell down. He broke a rib that punctured a lung. He was stable but uncomfortable at the clinic, where Simon, the nurse, was looking after him.
Worried, his brother the skipper called the French authorities in New Caledonia for help. After being assured his insurance would cover the flight, and a guarantee of a large sum of money if it didn't, the French navy sent a medical helicopter over from New Caledonia to collect the man. Because of the distance, two extra fuel tanks were mounted inside.
Since the helicopter would arrive after dark, the coordinator suggested driving some cars onto the football field and shining their headlights at each other to form a square in which the pilot could land.
Clearly the French are unfamiliar with this island. There are no cars. Everyone in the anchorage brought their brightest waterproof torches because the dense cloud cover was dumping bucket loads of rain. We waited to see if or when the whirlybird would arrive.
And arrive it did. Right on time. I believe the entire population of Anelcauhat was on hand for the spectacle as the large, gleaming white helicopter approached slowly and noisily over the anchorage. It hovered just shy the field before inching forward and settling down quite deliberately.
While waiting for the patient to be checked by the medics and loaded, we chatted with the crew. I asked if the accident had happened to me, being American, if I could receive the same services. "Non," one man said. "You are not French." Right. Mental note: don't get seriously sick or hurt in Vanuatu.
When there are enough yachts in the anchorage, Kenneth and his family put on a cultural presentation, including dinner and kava, at Reggae Beach for a nominal fee. Guests are each greeted with a leafy lei before Natu, a school teacher and Kenneth's wife, explains a bit about the local traditions.
All the while, ladies are preparing a feast of laplap and other yummy dishes and weaving baskets in the background.
A man makes fire using only sticks and coconut fibers. Natu explains the customary dances and ancestral dress before villagers form a ring and begin circling, stomping and chanting.
Later music booms from a speaker and all the yachties join in the dancing until it is kava time. Everyone, even the ladies, are offered a bowl.
Kava should be drunk on an empty stomach. Once the tepid, earthy tasting liquid flows down the throat, one's slightly numb lips should remain still to allow the kava to speak its faint, illuminating, magic in silence. When the kava is through revealing its subtle charm, it is time to eat something. The ladies put out a fantastic array of local food.
Vanuatu Independence Day is July 30 but the celebrations on Aneityum began on Friday and carried on through the following Monday.
Endless football matches and volleyball games were played and each day families and groups of men, women and children gathered to watch. Check out the fields and courts! On the final day I watched the play-offs with Seralyne, Primrose and Linda while Jim wandered about taking photos.
The football players all had team uniforms but some of the ladies only put on uniform shirts and skirts for the play-offs. One woman must have forgotten hers but it didn't stop her from playing... slip on sandals, basket slung across her shoulders and all. I'm thinking she'd be a great model for a Title 9 catalog!
A cruise ship came to town on Saturday during the festivities. Because the Seventh Day Adventists do not work on Saturdays and some of the vendors were celebrating instead of working, there were many empty stalls on Mystery Island that day.
I'd met Karina a couple of days earlier watching volleyball and Jim took some pictures of her and her two children. She was working at her stall so we paddled over with a framed family portrait. She was very pleased and asked Jim to take a picture of the two of us so she could remember me. How sweet is that?
Karina and Rennie both played in the play-offs so Jim got some pictures of them. My favorite of Rennie, though, is on Mystery Island laughing with her son, Jameson.
Two weeks after arriving, but still too soon, we packed up the kayak and abandoned the spadefish that had moved in under Tenaya to sail 61 miles north to Tanna.