Posted by: Carol | August 12, 2010

Catching Up!

Sorry folks – I’ve been very remiss in the blogging department – we arrived in Vanuatu nearly 2 weeks ago and still I am falling into bed around 8 pm each night, occasionally as early as 7:30 pm, absolutely worn out from fresh air and lots of activities!

July 26-30
So to start from the beginning, we flew from Tucson to Port Vila via Auckland – all told a 32 hour trip from doorstep to swimstep! All went smoothly except for a 2-hour delay out of Auckland on Air Vanuatu (co-share with Qantas) while they diagnosed and repaired a part on the aircraft. With long layovers in both Los Angeles and Auckland, we made the decision to join Air New Zealand’s Koru Club which gives us access to their international lounges where hanging out is a lot more comfortable than an airport departure gate. The Koru Club lounges have a comfortable ambiance with sofas, chairs and tables, TVs, wifi, a buffet and free flowing wine – even showers if desired.

The country of Vanuatu is an island chain of some 83 islands in 860,000 square kilometers of ocean, located about 1,000 miles east of Brisbane. Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu, located on the southwest coastline of the island Efate. AVATAR awaited us on a mooring in Vila Bay’s beautiful harbor, a scenic and busy place with a cruise ship or two passing through, a couple of Australian naval boats in port to help celebrate Vanuatu’s Independence Day (July 30), a sightseeing helicopter coming and going, kite surfers, open dories loaded to the gunnels ferrying locals to work and to school, a small island a stone’s throw from shore with its own private resort, and a large quantity of yachts here for the cruising season. 80% of Vanuatu’s tourism traffic comes from New Zealand and Australia, both only a 3 hour plane trip away.

By the time we unpacked and stowed our suitcases it was time for dinner – just a dinghy ride to shore where an open air restaurant awaited by the dinghy dock – packed sand floor, thatched roof, live music and great food (I had grilled lobster) as we celebrated our upcoming inaugural cruise aboard AVATAR and the next chapter in our cruising lifestyle!

Early to bed and late to rise, next day we explored Vila on foot, stocked up on veggies in the waterfront market, checked out the handicrafts, and wandered through the city streets which had a good variety of shops – I was even able to buy Hewlett Packard ink and photo paper for our printer! And then before the day was too far gone we upped anchor and headed out of town, feeling the better part of valor was to stay away from the city’s Independence Day festivities. This was only the 30th anniversary of Vanuatu’s Independence from a combination of French & British rule and it is celebrated with enthusiasm, the biggest holiday of the year. We saw fireworks for days.

We sailed northwards up Efate’s west coastline towards our first destination – Moso Island, a small satellite of Efate. Moso Island has one village of maybe 250 inhabitants on Esoma Bay located at the mouth of a mangrove lined freshwater river. Mangrove lagoons are one of my favorite dawn kayaking destinations, so next morning I paddled away in pre-dawn gloom with camera in hand to explore. After a couple of hours meandering in the peaceful shallow waterways I started back towards home, but was approached by a local man paddling his handmade dugout outrigger canoe on his way back from a fishing expedition. He introduced himself as Tom, chatted a bit kayak to canoe, posed for a few photos, and introduced his brother Robson who also arrived by dugout. Then the brothers headed off to their gardens to stock up on food because tomorrow was a Sunday and no work is allowed on Sundays.

It takes a local man with help about 3 months to build one of these outrigger canoes entirely by hand and is the most common mode of transportation for villagers. A few locals have “speedboats” – open boats with motors, and a truck or two, but the canoes are universal. Every time we arrive at a new location we are greeted by the occupants of one or more dugouts who paddle up, offer to trade produce from their gardens, circle and inspect AVATAR and invariably comment “nice boat!”.

Tom asked me to mail him the photos I took of him – the address was “Tom, Moso Island, Vanuatu” and he assured me it would get to him no problem.

More later…

PS – Nick sent us a news report a couple of days ago saying that Port Vila had suffered a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that didn’t cause serious damage but did send the residents running for high ground in fear of a tsunami.  We weren’t there at the time and didn’t feel a thing wherever we were when it hit!



  1. […] and Mike Parker have updated their cruising logs with a series of entries from Vanuatu. Click here to see their latest. Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 23, 2010) « Previous Post This entry was […]

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