And the Sun Sets on Vanuatu…

vanuatu-2016-04993Just a quick note to let you know that we are setting sail at Dawn’s crack tomorrow morning, bound for NZ. We are SO not ready to go – it’s still miserable in NZ and it’s just gorgeous here – but Bruce the weatherman has found us a window. The plan at this stage is to sail to Aneityum at the southern extremity of Vanuatu (our point of arrival back in July) and wait there for the green light from Bruce. That may be as soon as Friday, or we may end up waiting for the next window… Either way, I’m not sure we’ll have internet in Aneityum, so I am sending this while I still can!

We have had a lovely time cruising in Vanuatu, and have covered a lot of ground, from Aneityum to Espiritu Santo and east to Ambae and Pentecost, as well as Erromango, Efate, Malekula, Maewo and Nguna.  We’ve climbed Mt Marum on Ambrym and looked down into a crater of molten lava; swum with turtles and dugongs; dived the President Coolidge wreck and taken the Millennium Cave tour.  On Ambrym, the island of black magic, we attending the three-day Back to the Roots festival and all over the country we’ve met so many friendly and hospitable Ni-van locals.

We’ve been to some truly gorgeous places, including Port Olry and Hog Harbour (Champagne Beach) on Santo, where the scenery is straight out of your tropical island travel brochure, and Ambae, where we had the beautiful bay, depicted in the attached photo, to ourselves and witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen – the beach in the pic is black volcanic sand, by the way!

Boat-wise, we’ve had – for once! – a relatively problem-free season… though we did have to replace our Mass Combi inverter/charger, flying a new one up from NZ at a cost of around 8 boat units, total…ouch.

The only down-side has been the endlessly frustrating internet – or lack thereof. It has been largely non-existent, or at best dial-up speed, for most of the season. In the end, we pretty much just gave up, so apologies for our lack of communications and blog updates. My mission on passage is to get some blog posts ready to upload when we get to NZ… stand by to stand by!

We’ll be updating our progress and you can follow us at http://www.yit.nz. If we take this window, we should be back in NZ by around Thursday next week – it’s around 1050 nautical miles to Opua from here.

Sending Lemon lurve,

Kerry and Damian

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Serendipity in Vanuatu

October 14, 2012

Port Vila, Vanuatu

By: Kerry

A Toka ceremony is held approximately once every five years on the island of Tanna in the south of Vanuatu. It’s planned years in advance, but the actual dates aren’t announced until a week before – basically, when enough sacrificial pigs are accrued, it’s party time.

We were in Port Vila at the end of a week’s cruising with John and Christine, when we got word of the festival and, on the spur of the moment, hopped on a plane to Tanna. Our hosts, Eso and Rachel, picked us up in their ute and transferred us to a cabin on a cliff top with views to the distant volcano.

Our little cabin amongst the jungle

The festival had been going for a day and a half already, but tonight was the Big Night.

Eso woke us at 1.00am and we – along with a few extra family members who’d never seen a Toka before – piled into the ute and bumped our way over deeply rutted dirt roads through the dark to the festival grounds.

The ground was throbbing and a crowd of several thousand locals was heaving. Security guards (unarmed, apart from long sticks) emerged from the dark and led us through the crowd. Rachel and one of her daughters pressed against me, shoulder to shoulder as we were hustled through the crowd – rumour has it that any woman is fair game during the Toka, though I’m not sure who was protecting whom!

Through the night, hundreds of dancers performed: women dancing in grass skirts and face paint, with feathers and Christmas tinsel wound around their heads and necks for maximum bling effect; warrior dances, with men in grass skirts, face paint – and the occasional bit of tinsel – with charges and counter charges, chases, stomping and chanting. As dawn broke, the Toka – a feather-covered ‘totem pole’ – was carried in and the dancing hit fever pitch.

It was extraordinary to watch and to be a part of. There were perhaps only a dozen other foreigners, and at first we felt like we were intruding, but the dancers smiled and the ‘security guards’ shepherded us, unbidden, to the best photo vantage points and made sure we didn’t get trampled by the charging crowds.

We retired, exhausted, at around 10.00 am. Some of the dancers were also spent – I watched one lady, her face paint smeared, fall asleep on her feet – but others were gearing up for the climax: the slaughtering of the pigs and the following feast.

We didn’t hang around for the pig killing – after all we had a live volcano to visit…

At sunset, on the same extraordinary day, we were standing on the rim of Mt Yasur, perhaps the world’s most accessible live volcano, looking down into its volcanic crater as re-hot lava boiled and exploded into the air around us.

How cool is that?

PS Click in Images in the menu bar to see the full photo albums for the Toka Festival, and for Cruising with John and Christine

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