Big Water and Vanuatu Independence Day

July 31, 2010

We have not blogged for a few days. We do get sort of busy on the boat. On Wednesday (July 28), we went to the famous “Big Water” cascades at Naone. It took about 70 minutes by four-wheel drive pickup truck to go the 10 miles from Narovovoro to Naone. We had our friend Kelly from Talese village along, and went in his brother-on-law’s Walter Toyota pick-up. It was a very pretty, if bumpy, ride.

The “Big Water” cascades, although unfortunately named, are quite amazing. We started in the small village of Naone, at which we paid 1000 vatu each (only for us gringos) and got two women guides. The village is trying to make money out of the cascades, although our guides told us that we were only the third group this year to visit. Naone is very hard to get to.

After a walk through the forest and then the water taro fields (sort of like rice paddies), we arrived at the base of the cascades. It is difficult to describe the place. We took lots of video with our little Kodak “flip-like” video camcorder, which we will edit and post when we return to the US. The remarkable thing about “Big Water” is that you can walk up these cascades all the way to the top. The guides led us to areas of the cascades where the incline is less steep, and we walked up through the rushing water which was typically ankle deep. It seemed too steep from below, but the volcanic rock was rough and our shoes gripped the rock well. At places where the incline was too steep, steps had been chipped into the rock. Our guides brought their children, including a babe in arms, and two other small children. They just scampered ahead, and would peer over precipices without a word of warning from their mothers.

When we returned to the pool at the base of the cascades, Laura wanted to swim and one of our guides jumped in to join her. Aside from her concern about the giant freshwater eels that live there, Laura had a refreshing dip.

On the drive back to Narovovoro, we stopped at Kerembei village, which was having an agricultural fair. There were about 200 people at the fair, which is a mob in a place like Maewo Island that has no urban centers and a low population density. We ate some sweet yam and a noodle-egg dish from food stalls, and I had a cup of strong kava. Laura bought some woven pandamus bags, and we watched volleyball games. And, remarkably, it did not rain. We also stopped to admire the view from the cliffs at Navenevene.

Thursday marked the start of the two day Independence Day festivities, marking 30 years of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) independence from England and France. Narovovoro was hosting the celebrations Thursday and Friday (yesterday). A portable generator was installed to power big speakers, an amplifier, a DVD player, and a TV. They played reggae, rock, and local string band music at full volume, and played the occasional music video. There were volleyball and soccer tournaments, but only a limited supply of prepared food. We missed out on the Friday events because it rained hard almost all day. The rain did not seem to bother the local inhabitants, although Laura and I did not go ashore. They had prizes awarded to biggest yam and biggest taro root, best rooster, and a few other things, plus loud music until 5 am along with kava and a locally brewed palm wine. The amplified music was even quite loud on Sabbatical III as it is anchored very close to shore in order to stay of the the ocean swell.

The weather improved today but very few adults were out — many were tired or hungover from last nights party. We walked to Talese village to leave some children’s books with Sandy Su, a Peace Corps volunteer from Virginia, who is helping at the school. We went over to Kelly’s place to say goodbye, but wound up hiking up to Tom village with him, on a plateau up on the cliff. The recent rains made the mud path a bit treacherous. Kelly came back to the boat with us for a quick, and very late, lunch and some cold Coke.

We will leave this delightful place at 6 am tomorrow morning, heading for Lolowai on Ambae Island, only 10 miles to the west. We will meet my sister Fran and her husband John there on Wednesday. The wind and seas are finally abating after 10 days of wildness. We look forward to their visit.


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