Santo island has several ‘blue holes’ – a small lake in the middle of the jungle with a fresh water underground spring. As you can guess from the name the colour is an intense and vibrant blue. We went to look for the blue hole on Malo island, about 2 miles from where we were anchored. We drove the dinghy across the bay and into the river that connects the sea with this particular blue hole. The river got narrower and the jungle more dense as we continued. We spotted several groups of locals swimming or relaxing near the river (it was Sunday). After about a mile the river ended up in a lake and then we found another smaller river leading us to the blue hole (thank you Sel Citron for the hand drawn map!). As we got closer the water became a milky blue. Apparently the mixture of fresh and salt water gives it this intense colouring. It was quite spectacular and we had a refreshing swim in the blue hole. On the way back we spotted more locals lurking in the bushes, almost invisible. For a moment we wondered whether cannibalism really is gone, apparently the last recorded case was as recent as 1969…
It’s a tough life… We are waiting for a small parcel to arrive from the US (replacement part for the transmitter of our outside VHF) and decided to anchor near Ratua private island to get away from town for a few days until it arrives. It’s only 9 miles around the corner and stunningly beautiful: turquoise water, sheltered anchorage, beautiful corals for snorkeling, and lots of turtles!
Dolphins! We still get excited every time they turn up. Such intriguing animals that always put a smile on our faces and get everybody on the foredeck. They like to do tricks for us: loops and jumps as they swim in front of the bow. As we entered Palikulo bay, just east of Luganville on Santo Island, they turned up to welcome us into the bay. There must have been at least 20 with a few baby ones included. Palikulo is a large bay with plenty of hazards making navigation tricky. Several rusty shipwrecks litter the coastline and there are many coralheads which are not marked on any charts. We’re used to the charts being inaccurate in these regions and we have google earth overlay to make sure we don’t run aground. But in Palikulo bay the strangest thing happened. These dolphins didn’t just come to say hello. They were trying to direct us into the bay, leading the way through the unmarked channel, zigzagging between bommies and reefs. Truly amazing. As soon as we reached the sandy spot where we could drop our anchor they disappeared. Perhaps this vast bay is their home and they are used to showing yachts the way in?
In Luganville we anchored just west of the town centre and caught up with three kidboats: sv Perry, who we hadn’t seen since Fiji, sv Field Trip, our sister-ship which we last saw in New Zealand, and sv Aorua, with Yves and Tama onboard. As soon as we dropped anchor the kids jumped in the dinghy and went to see their friends. Sarah and Mark whisked all the kids away to the beach later in the afternoon. It’s been a fun few days catching up with everyone.
Luganville is the second biggest town in Vanuatu but don’t expect a buzzing city life here! The town has a tropical, sleepy, laid-back feel to it. We’re here to catch up with our friends of course, but we’re also waiting for a small parcel from the US: a replacement part for our outside VHF which is currently only able to receive but can’t transmit. We have a back up system inside and also a portable handheld but it would be good to get it working again. After several attempts to pay the company in the US (our bank kept declining the transaction because ‘someone’ in the US was trying to use our credit card) and many phone calls later, we finally managed to order the part and it should be on its way. Fingers crossed it gets here soon!
Quick stop in Port Vila for some provisions and to complete the rest of the clearing in formalities. We also visited the national museum of Vanuatu which features some beautiful carvings and interesting artefacts. Then it was off to Santo as we heard a few kid boats we know are there! As soon as we were offshore we caught a BIG wahoo. Probably the biggest fish we’ve caught to date. Thanks to George and Harry from Port Vila, the fishing upgrades obviously worked.
In the afternoon three visitors stopped over and they stayed for the night, huddled closely together on the pulpit. They weren’t shy at all and we could even touch them. The overnight sail from Port Vila was very calm and with a full moon at least it wasn’t so dark. The heat of the day brought on thunderstorms at night, the light flashing all around us. We sailed past Ambrym island and could see the volcano glow in the distance, a mesmerising sight…
Finally some internet, so below are a few photos of the village in Port Resolution, the anchorage and of course the volcano… Also check out our video from the volcano trip on vimeo: https://vimeo.com/186240586
Tanna Island was named so by James Cook. It was sort of a misunderstanding. He apparently was trying to ask the locals what the name of their island was and pointed to some earth. They responded with “tanna” which means “earth” in the local language. A similar thing happened with the name of the bay we are anchored in. When Cook told them he was from a “boat” called Resolution they thought he meant to call the bay “port” resolution. So we are now anchored in “port” resolution, named after HMS Resolution.
You can see why such misunderstandings happen when you take a look at the national language, Bislama. This English-based pidgin (with a hint of French) is used throughout the entire archipelago of Vanuatu (83 islands). The kids thought some of the phrases were hilarious. For example: “Mi no likim” means “I don’t like it” and the numbers from one to ten are: wan, tu, tri, fo, faef, sikis, seven, eit, naen, ten.
We anchored in Port Resolution, right underneath a very active volcano, on Tuesday morning, after a very comfortable crossing from Lifou. It’s the same one that attracted Cook to enter this bay when he saw it erupting and glowing from a long distance away. I love the thought of Cook entering this sheltered bay and can only imagine what a sight that must have been for the locals.
When we contacted immigration we were told the local officer was unavailable and the next day was a public holiday. We were welcome to go ashore and formalities could be sorted in a few days or when we get to Port Vila, the capital. Happy with this reassuring news, we left the yellow flag up and proceeded ashore. The village was very simple: wooden huts and a dust track for a road, everything very neat and tidy, a very pretty and traditional village with a mysterious atmosphere to it. We were handed papayas, a huge courgette, bananas… People seemed happy to stop us for a chat and the kids played some football with the local children.
Yesterday we visited volcano Yasur. Vanuatu has nine active volcanoes (seven on land and two under the water) and Yasur is the most accessible one. Stanley, from the village, arranged transport to the volcano with a pickup truck (the roads are very bumpy). We weren’t alone (some other yachties and also some tourists on a day trip from Port Vila) but it certainly wasn’t crowded either and everyone got a frontline view on the rim of the volcano. We saw Yasur spout lava and ash and felt it rumble, growl and explode with loud bangs. It was truly spectacular, a once in a lifetime experience. We watched the sun go down and then admired the red lava even more. The volcano didn’t disappoint and kept on puffing and exploding. After dark we returned to Port Resolution and clambered down the track to the beach, rolled our dinghy into the water and headed back to Rehua tired and satisfied.
(more photos to follow when we have decent internet)
Left Lifou early doors yesterday and are now anchored fore and aft in Tanna after a very enjoyable passage, little bit of swell coming in over the point, no matter, got a bit lumpy with tide against wind at the southern corner of the island but we are in a flattish anchorage in Port Resolution. one other boat here a huge yawl 90′ give or take, called Infinity? Will try to make contact later today. The volcano has been vomiting at a prodigious rate all the way up the coast so we don’t hold high hopes for summiting any time soon. no BBQ tonight Jeeves!