Hannah reporting from Vanuatu again

Hannah and Chief Saitol, Banam Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu
Hannah and Chief Saitol, Banam Bay, Malekula, Vanuatu

Hannah’s blog: A review of the past few days, starting with July 15, 2009
On our first full day in Loltong, the enchanted-looking bay with encircling green hills, we went ashore with the two other boats in the bay, Midnight Sun and Sorcery, both from New Zealand. After a quick jaunt to see the village chief, Richard, we got back in our dinghies and zoomed over to the far end of the bay to a neighboring village. Unlike others we have visited in Vanuatu, this village was built way up on a hill. As we huffed and puffed and schvitzed our way up, a few school children, heading back to school from lunch break, offered to show us the way there. The school was up on the top of the hill, with beautiful views and a much appreciated breeze. There we met two Ozzie volunteer schoolteachers who showed us around the place. Although they’d only arrived two weeks before, they already seemed jaded about the way the school was being run and their ability to make much headway. It’s got to be difficult to get kids engaged when the former  schoolteacher had a habit of writing lessons up on the board in the morning for the kids to copy down, and then calling it a day. As the new teachers put it, school starts whenever the kids arrive, and it ends, well, when they leave. The kids do enjoy school, however, and often stick around until 6 or later in the evening. After watching all the kids do warmups on their sports field, Mom, Dad and I split off from the other couples and did a short walk up a forested footpath leading out of the village. Along the way, we ran into various ni-Vans– chopping kava, carrying massive bundles of banana plants, two very elderly ladies watching little naked toddlers. We spent the rest of the day swimming and kayaking, and enjoying our scenic little cove.
The following day, we went ashore again to take a better look at Loltong village. What I like about this village is that the kids are more precocious than in other places. Whereas in most places we’ve been the kids look shyly from afar, in Loltong, each time we beached the dinghy, a little posse of cute partially-clad kids would crowd around. They played an impromptu game of tag, with me constantly being “it”. They also took to shooting us with little seeds blown out of hollow papaya fronds. We walked around the village and met the paramount chief, William and his wife, Beth. They were a very friendly couple, with kids who have moved away to become doctors and businessmen in Fiji and the US. Afterwards, we took a longer, steeper hike up a path that climbed up a ridge overlooking the bay. We met a 75-year-old woman, truckin up the path in flip flops, twirling an umbrella to keep the sun off her face. She turned out to be extremely outgoing and sweet, the wife of chief Richard, and she talked and laughed with Mom and I all the way up the extremely steep path (which, by the way, she walks up every day, nearly an hour each way, to tend to her vegetable garden). After a while we bade her farewell, and headed back down.

Laura is taking over now – poor Hannah is tired. It is 7:00 P.M. and this is about the time she starts to fade here. Too much heat and too much sun! Anyway, to continue the saga, on the edge of the village we met Jeffrey, a very warm and friendly man whose father worked for the U.S. navy during WWII. Jeffrey was very positive about America and was disappointed to hear that we were leaving the next day. Just a few minutes later we met his son, Dickie, as warm and hospitable as his dad, who offered us fruit to take back to the boat. He climbed up the tree next to his house and started tossing pamplemousse down to Mark. He apologized for only having a small bunch of bananas and a single papaya for us (in addition to all the pamplemousse he had just picked for us). Luckily we had brought along some gifts in our backpack and could repay him with children’s clothing and books (for his two sons). That night we had made arrangements to have dinner prepared  by a local woman and listen to a string band. When we came to the village in the evening (with our friends from the two other boats), we found that the string band had been called away to play at a funeral in the village up the hill. Dinner, however, was still on, and we were greeted by songs and smiles by Mary (our cook for the evening), and several village children. It was a terrific dinner – with all sorts of local dishes – and continuous singing by the children. Some of our favorites were “Satan is the loser man” and “We are one big family”. The kids were just so pleased to be singing all their Sunday school songs for us that they didn’t want to stop singing, even when we all said, it was fine for them to go out of the little hut where we were having dinner.

The next morning we left very early to make the 55 mile run to our next anchorage on the island of Espirito Santo. It was a totally windless day so we had to motor, but it was sunny and pleasant. We sailed past the island of Ambae which has a huge volcano on it. We wanted to stop there for a night or two, but we had to keep going as Hannah leaves so soon. We arrived in Peterson Bay, Espirito Santo at 4:00 p.m.on Friday, bumping lightly into a coral head as we entered the anchorage. It is a beautiful place, but somewhat unprotected in the outer anchorage. There is a terrific protected anchorage just around the corner with a small resort, the Oyster Island Resort, that we will move to tomorrow at high tide. The pass to get in is just a few inches deeper than our boat at high tide so timing is important if you don’t want to get stuck. July 18: Collin, and his wife Mary, the owners of the resort, came out in their skiff to guide us through the narrow and shallow pass into the inner protected anchorage in front of Oyster Island. It was a bit nerve-wracking and we went through with only a few inches of water between us and the bottom. It is such a terrific anchorage, totally protected from swell, but with a nice breeze. The resort is very small (8 bungalows) and extremely low key. We went there for dinner and ended up sitting with Collin and Mary, and Collins father who is visiting from New Zealand. It was a lot of fun. They are sailers, and just have this resort as a kind of hobby. They also have a farm in New Zealand (where they raise sheep) as well as run a vineyard. There is still a lot to write, but now it is Monday morning and Hannah leaves tonight so we are off to organize her trip to the airport.

H. & L.

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