Posted by: Carol | August 13, 2010

Erromango

Today, Saturday August 14, we are settled in a beautiful anchorage by the island of Aneityum, the southernmost point of our explorations before heading back in the direction of Port Vila.  The bad weather the guys have been tracking on the weather reports has arrived and we are socked in with a grey cloud of rain overhead and a glassy gray sea below, rocking gently in the swell.

A rainy day aboard AVATAR is actually welcome – just like in Tucson a good excuse not to feel obligated to go outside, enjoy the sunshine, and pursue a good time.  Instead we are on the third load of laundry (full size washer and dryer, one of AVATAR’s perks), comfy and dry in the great room looking through the plate glass picture windows (another of AVATAR‘s perks) at the soggy scenery outside.  And the boat is getting a nice freshwater bath, rinsing off the saltwater and volcanic ash from our last stop in Port Resolution where the volcano Mt. Yasur spews ash up into the sky to rain black sandy grit down on us when the wind blows the wrong way!  A perfect  day to read a book, edit photos in Lightroom, or type a blog!

July 31 – August 6

Continuing on in catch-up mode – we spent a couple of nights by Moso Island and Mike and I squeezed in a shallow practice scuba dive, our first in almost a year!   We kept our eyes open for the rumored dugong that was hanging out in Esoma Bay but didn’t spot him – a dugong is a nine foot one ton sea creature often called a sea cow, gentle and benign, that feeds on sea grass and is similar to but not the same as a Florida manatee.  That night aboard AVATAR we turned on the fish finding sonar to see if we could locate him, but only discovered a turtle floating near the boat.

Then back to Port Vila for some final errands, including a trip to the post office to mail the prints I made of of Tom and Robson.  I wound up buying some Vanuatu stamps – illustrated with reef fish, whales, dolphins, nudibranches and other sea life, as well as images from World War II including the sinking of the President Coolidge.

And then we embarked on the real focus of our trip, which was to visit the islands to the south of Efate, especially Tanna, home of  Mt. Yasur.  Our next trip to AVATAR later this fall will give us time to explore the islands to the north before finishing up in New Caledonia.

First stop was the island Erromango.  We anchored in Dillons Bay by the village there and were greeted by the ubiquitous dugout canoes, including one paddled by David who introduced himself as the local tourist guide and magically appeared every time we headed in to shore.  Our first guided tour was to limestone caves in vine and root tangled cliffs along the beach where the bones of his ancestors were interred in pre-missionary days before the missionaries convinced the natives to bury their dead in the ground.  Clambering up the cliffside using the roots and vines as hand and footholds, Mike and I did a pretty good Tarzan imitation.  It wasn’t horrendously difficult but I had made the mistake of wearing my Crocs and they are eminently unsuitable for this kind of adventure.  I’ve graduated to my lace up hiking boots for future land expeditions!

Another guided tour with David – we meandered through his village and up the river saying hello to everyone we met (close to a hundred?) and photographed nearly everyone in the entire village at David’s request, with the thought that I would eventually burn and send him a DVD of the images to share with the villagers for an evening’s entertainment thanks to the communal generator.  I printed out some 30 snapshots before we left and will work on the DVD when I get home – presumably the address is David, Dillons Bay, Erromango, Vanuatu!  The ladies had been cooking a feast of laplap, Vanuatu’s national dish, a mixture of root vegetables (taro, manioc and yams) plus coconut milk and meat, wrapped in green leaves, tied into parcels with vines, and baked in a ground oven under hot stones.  They saved us a bundle to take back to the boat for dinner – actually it was quite good, especially with the grilled filet Rod had brought from New Zealand.

A couple of outstanding scuba dives at Erromango – fingers of limestone reaching out into the sea are covered with a healthy tapestry of all kinds of coral and reef growth, winding gullies separating each finger of reef.  We saw several turtles including one who let us approach within arm’s length and a huge solitary dogfin tuna in the deeper water.

A pod of spinner dolphins lives in Dillons Bay and we could see them at all hours of every day, gently cruising in the shallow water, splashing and playing, sometimes leaping full out of the water and spinning (longitudinally, the only variety of dolphin that spins along its axis instead of somersaulting fore and aft).  Mike and I spent a couple of hours one day snorkeling in their vicinity – our strategy not to swim towards them but float quietly by the reef; as a result they would approach reasonably close to us.  We could see their fins and hear them breathe if we raised our masks out of the water to peer along the surface, and twice they came by underwater close enough for us to see their bodies flash by in the blue depths.

Erromango was a great stopover and we have plans to drop in on the village again on the return to Port Vila.  Rod signed up for a wild pig hunt which involves dogs, big knives, and lots of running through the bush.  I’d take pictures but no doubt it will be hopeless to keep up…he has gone into training for the event and at every island stopover now he goes out jogging to build up his stamina.

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Responses

  1. wow! sounds incredible! Your pictures are rich with color and beautiful people. My imagination leads me to think there could be BIG snakes out there!

    The tarzan take is too funny!

    Gotta go, screeching hawks are inviting me out for a walk in the woods!

  2. As usual your photos and written account of your adventures is a delightful treat!!
    Thank you for taking the time to share.

  3. Looks like you guys are really enjoying yourselves. Better that National Geo.

  4. Hi Angie,
    One of the terrific things about bushwhacking in these Pacific islands is that there is NOTHING (on land at least) poisonous. Unlike Tucson, no need to watch out for snakes, scorpions, and other baddies. Can’t quite say the same thing for underwater – best rule don’t touch. We had a sea snake spend the night inside the outboard engine of the dinghy – gave both the sea snake and Rod quite a start when he started up the motor!
    Cheers,
    Carol


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