July 26, 2008
We have been in Port Vila for the past three days. There are a number of boats that we know here, including those that got stuck in New Zealand until early July by the horrendous weather of all of June,and only recently arrived direct from New Zealand.
Before our passage to Port Vila, we had one day in Dillon Bay on Erromanggo Island. Two locals in a skiff (Wilson and George) invited us to view the children’s day celebration on the island that was being hosted by Upongkor village just up the Williams river. They offered to take us to the village and we accepted since it seemed tricky to navigate the river mouth without local knowledge. Before heading off, we bought two large freshly caught lobsters from them. Having no good place to keep live lobsters on the boat, George just cut off their tails for us to freeze.
We leisurely walked around the village waiting for the 2pm start of the celebration, and spent time talking to villagers and schoolchildren. The wait was for children from the village on the other side of the island who had not yet arrived. To get to Upongkor they had to hike for a full day, with an overnight spent in the mountains. As we toured around, Wilson pointed out the rock on the Williams river on which the outline of it’s namesake, the missionary Reverend Williams, had been etched in stone before he was cooked and eaten.
At 2 pm, the children and chaperons of the other village processed over the river and onto the public square, led my the Opongkor children singing songs of welcome. In the square, there were welcoming speeches by local dignitaries (in Bislama) as well as a long fiery sermon by the local minister.
Like children everywhere, the speeches made the children fidget and inattentive. There were more songs and the day ended with Kustom dances by the men (with bow and arrows and other weapons), and then the women in grass skirts. I took lots of video and photos and promised to send a DVD to the village as soon as we got to Port Vila.
When it was time to return to Sabbatical III, George and the skiff were nowhere to be found, so Wilson took us in a tiny outrigger canoe. Wilson plus two big white persons is a bit of an overload for the outrigger. Laura put the camera bag on the bottom of the canoe in front of her. Sea water entered the canoe as Wilson paddled us back to the boat, and our Canon mini-DVD digital movie camera was ruined. We are very disappointed as we had hoped to film dances and other rituals we will encounter as we make our way north through Vanuatu, and because we cannot send a DVD of the children’s day celebration to Opongkor village as promised. We have a little low resolution Flip video camera that we bought just before we left Rhode Island, so we still have some video capabilitiy.
We were up at 3 am that night to begin our passage to Port Vila. After getting past the considerable wind shadow of Erromanggo, it was a fast if somewhat rolly downwind sail with poled out genoa plus mizzen. The town of Port Vila looks fine but a little shabby. There is one nice supermarket (Bon Marche II) about a 15 minute walk from the dinghy dock. There is fruit and vegetable market in town that is open 24 hours a day, except weekends. In the market, there are a few dozen vendors selling manioc, taro, and sweet potatoes, plus coconuts, bananas, pamplemousse, and some prepared foods.
We have not solved the internet problem yet. There is no wireless in the harbor, and connect time is quite expensive if paid by the hour. We may buy a weekly pass from a place near the Bon Marche II but they are closed over the weekend. We tried to buy a SIM for our cell phone from the central office of Digicell, but there is not a SIM or cell phone to be had in the country. They are just all out. We will remain at least through the celebration of Vanuatu’s National Day on July 30.