Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 16, 2008 - Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

On Saturday morning we woke up early in Asanvari to make our way over to Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. Just before we upped anchor, the village baker, Columbus, paddled over in his outrigger and passed up a fresh loaf of bread to us. As Sten cracked open its thick crust a curl of steam brought the smoky scent of the wood oven in which it had baked to our noses. With our tummies full of fresh bread and a farewell salute to Chaotic Harmony, we headed west.

There was not enough wind to keep our sails filled, so we had to run the engine for much of the day. Since we were making energy, we ran the watermaker to top up the tanks on the way. Late in the afternoon, we arrived in the Segond Channel, the Allies' base for their efforts against the Japanese during WWII. Along the way to Luganville, we passed Million Dollar Point, where the US dumped all of the equipment from its local military bases into the sea at the end of WWII when negotiations to sell the lot to the English and French Condominium government broke down. Above the surface it just looks like any other stretch of beach, but below, the sea bed is strewn with massive quantities of military support equipment, including bulldozers, trucks, jeeps, airplane engines and that most essential supply of all - crates of CocaCola.

The main anchorage in front of Luganville is exposed to the swell, so we picked up a mooring across the channel from Luganville, in front of the Aore Resort. Just as we were getting settled, Barbara and Cory from Increscent Moon (whom we'd met and had over for cocktails in Pentecost) and Giff and Patty from Phoenix stopped by on their way back from diving the Coolidge.

We've been catching too much fish, so we haven't made much progress on our freezer full of meat from New Zealand. I know, I know, there are worse problems to have. But I can't stand the idea of having to surrender it to Australian Customs in three weeks - such a waste of money. So, I've put Sten on a strict program of catch and release fishing only. And we've been asking everyone and anyone to come over to help us eat through our freezer. We immediately invited Increscent Moon and Phoenix over for pizza night - on the menu: sausage and onion pizza. Since the resort, which styles itself as being cruiser friendly, was charging an obscene amount of money for non-guests to take hot water showers, and since we had plenty of hot water from running our engine and watermaker all day, AND since we wouldn't have full water tanks at all if it weren't for Patty and Giff's donation of their spare watermaker pump head, we coerced them into accepting our offer of hot showers on board Mata'irea.

I thought I was a provisioning rock star, but Barbara on Increscent Moon showed me that I was strictly minor league. After weeks without seeing a market, we'd run completely out of eggs and fresh fruit and vegetables. The only thing we had left was a few onions, which would be going on the pizza. Barbara arrived for dinner bearing the most beautiful salad comprised of fresh lettuce, carrots, avocados, scallions, Japanese radishes, peppers and star fruit. Patty and I were both in awe. Within days of her arrival here, Barbara had sussed out where everything was to be found in this sleepy tropical town. I mentioned that I needed dijon and she pointed me towards one of the many small Chinese shops, and even where to find it in the store.

Sunday was a work day on Mata'irea. We spent much of the day doing almost a month's worth of laundry. I'd hoped to have it all done by the resort, but those hopes were dashed when we learned that they were charging $20 a load. That's pricier than Papette, which is just offensive, because nothing, anywhere, ever, should be more expensive than in French Polynesia. So I filled the tub a dozen times and stomped on, squeezed, wrung out, and finally passed through the window garment after garment to Sten, who hung them on the lifelines and monitored their progress, looking for dry ones to remove so he could hang some more of the neverending pile of wet ones. In between rounds of checking the progress on lifelines, Sten shortened our new main sail battens, which were just a little bit too long for the batten pockets. He also adjusted the preventer lines, which were the right length when we first spliced them, but have stretched out over the past year. After a day of boat work, we were very happy to head over to Increscent Moon for dinner and let Barbara mother us a bit.

On Monday morning we easily extended our expired visas at immigration (apparently, we're not quite happy these days unless we're illegal) and restocked our vegetable bins at the market in Luganville. We met up with Increscent Moon at the local cafe for a lunch of bacon cheeseburgers, milkshakes and fries (now this is living!). Whenever we get into a new port, Sten and I are always craving burgers. After satisfying that craving, we'll check out the other dining options. But if there is only time for one meal in town, it has to be a bacon cheeseburger.

Santo is covered with bits and pieces of rusting machinery,
such as this Caterpillar 5 3/4" bore genset

2 comments:

Indigenous-Ni-Vanuatu said...

I am from Santo, and it is great to see your postings, about your trip to Vanuatu, interesting to see things coming from a Western perspective. Interestingly, you mentioned about giving up your bought meat from NZ to Australian customs, fair enough, however, my question is that how come you have not given up your meat also to Vanuatu customs? Presumably Vanuatu is a sovereign country, hence, it also has custom rules and regulations like Australia which requires foreigners and Ni Vanuatu alike coming from overseas with such goods to declare?

Good luck with the rest of your trip.

Danika said...

Hi,

Thank you for you comment. I'm glad you are enjoying the blog.

We just arrived in Australia. We had no raw meat when we arrived
here. Quarantine did indeed clear us out of our cooked meat and half
of our spice cabinet.

You asked why we didn't give up our New Zealand meat to Vanuatu customs. Well, because they didn't ask for it. We told them we had it and they told us to keep it on board.

Most countries'customs and quarantine officers do not try to clean out your freezer and provisions for you. Internationally, there is an understanding that cruisers will not take their prohibited items ashore. It is understood that we will only consume prohibited items on board and therefore these items are not a threat to a nation's biosecurity. None of the Caribbean countries quarantine officers come on board to check your stores. Panama doesn't. The Galapagos Islands don't. French Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji don't either. Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia are the only countries I know of who do come on board and take away excluded items.

There are many cruisers who avoid places like Australia because of
their draconian quarantine policies. We personally know three boats who visited Vanuatu this season, but skipped Australia enroute to Indonesia because they didn't want to deal with Australian quarantine. They went to PNG and spent their dollars reprovisioning there instead of in Australia. If Vanuatu adopted a policy like Australia's, fewer cruisers would visit Vanuatu.