Friday, June 20, 2014

Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Latitude: 15 degrees 54.83 minutes
Longitude: 168 degrees 11.26
We departed Santo after some time in Peterson Bat (Oyster island) and then anchored off another little island in Diamond Passage for a few nights. We made it out of the tricky reef and bommie pass to get out of Peterson – but had a higher tide then we went in so it was all okay. We left at 1700 (5pm) on Wednesday evening for an overnight passage to Pentecost. The wind was, as usual,right on the nose, so we had to tack to get here. That ended up taking us a lot longer than we had anticipated (should have left earlier) and we ended up doing more motoring than we had hoped, to get here before dark. We are anchored off the village of Londot where tomorrow we will go in to watch the Land Diving. More on that after we see it!

The anchorage here is in quite deep water – 14 meters (46 feet) with a steep drop off. We had to get relatively close to shore for the shallow water and to get a bit of protection from the wind. The holding is supposed to be solid– which is good news because you don't get into the water here to check your anchor. These black sand beaches are known to be areas where there are plenty of sharks. And these aren't the small reef or black-tipped sharks we are used to seeing. These are supposedly very large and mean tiger sharks, bull sharks and other scary ones. Nobody swims here – they go to the rivers which are plentiful for their water activity. The men who go out fishing in these tiny dugout canoe outriggers are exceedingly brave in our mind!

Pentecost Island is beautiful. It has high hills and is incredibly verdant – green everywhere. You can see that it was a volcanic island because of all the valleys and ridges. Just beyond Pentecost, we can see from our anchorage the island of Ambryn. There are two active volcanoes on that island and this morning we could see ash and smoke coming out of one of them. This is a very active area for volcanoes and earthquakes. We did hear an earthquake the other day while aboard Astarte in Peterson Bay. There was this loud "rumble in he jungle." Didn't feel it aboard – but sure heard it!

We rowed ashore amongst the "bullets of wind." These are what we used to call "willy waws" in Colombia – big gusts of wind that come up suddenly off the hills and can be pretty intense – though short-lived. We were met on shore by Franklin, a young man who spoke very good English. He then took us on a tour of the several villages along the bay where we are anchored. He speaks four languages. Each village has their own language even though they are relatively close. Some words are the same – but the cadence and pronunciation may be different. So he speaks his village language, Bislama (Vanuatu's national language), English and some French. Vanuatu (New Hebrides at the time) was run by both the French and British in a rare moment of cooperation (well sort of). So there are schools in various villages that are either French or English. Franklin pointed out that on one side of a river the schools are English and on the other side they are French.

Franklin was a great tour guide and enjoyed practicing his English language skills while teaching us some Bislama. He is a student at a technical school on another island (Ambae) and is home for a month before he returns to the school in July. He is studying to become a mechanic/machinist. He took us to see some kava growing and showed us one of the several local kava bars – a lovely structure. He told us some interesting stories about various ancient legends and even some funny local happenings (the story about a white guy in a namba! - the whole namba thing will be explained in a future entry).

For all you World Cup fans, Franklin also told us that he and about 100 villagers climbed a high hill at night with tent, television and generator to be able to watch the matches. They watched at 3:30 in the morning – and the hill is the only place to get reception...that's dedication to football (soccer). He was all excited about having watched several matches as he enjoys playing the game himself.

We were on shore looking for a guy to confirm our attendance at the "land diving" event tomorrow. We may have to go back this afternoon to see him – as he was not at his home earlier.

So far, we are really liking Vanuatu and looking forward to watching the land diving tomorrow.

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