Friday, July 18, 2014

Exploring Epi Island

Latitude: S 16 degrees 35.78 minutes
Longitude: E 168 degrees 09.77 minutes

It was hard to leave Awei in the Maskelynes, but before we did, we took a long Sunday stroll. We circumambulated Awei Island. The walk didn't start out that way – it just ended up as the best option! We went ashore to give the Chief a bit of fuel and take a walk to see the flying foxes in the trees along the ridge. There were six of us – Bill and Sue from "Lady Nada" and Sandy and Tim from "1 Giant Leap." Chief Savron met us onshore and then decided to show us the way to the bat trees. It was a bit of a steep hill and a little slippery thanks to the mud and leaves, but we made it to the trees and the bats weren't too happy with their afternoon nap intrusion. They took to flying around and making a lot of noise. Then as we went down, the chief suggested that we walk back along the reef, but unfortunately a few folks had on good walking shoes (not water shoes) so thought that wasn't a great idea. We went with option B which was to walk around the entire island to the village and then along the village path. It was a great walk – though a bit like an obstacle course – over rocks, under trees, over tree stumps – a good adventure and the six of us really enjoyed it. A good finish to Awei Island.

The next morning (Monday), we headed off early to make our way to Epi Island and Lamen Bay. It was about 28 miles away to the southeast. But the winds were more southerly so we were able to sail the entire way. There was lots of "crazy water." This is the southerly flowing sub-tropical current meeting upflows, tidal conditions and wind waves creating strange eddys and whirlpools and waves. One minute you'll be steering your course and then suddenly you'll be heading in an all new direction with the autopilot trying its hardest to compensate.
We made it to Lamen Bay and anchored off a reef in about seven meters of sand. This looked like it would be a rolling anchorage though and lots of our friends who had been here warned us about that possibility. The good news is that there are lots of turtles and dugongs in this bay. The turtles greeted us immediately – several very large ones seemed oblivious to our presence and would stay on the surface for along time checking us out.

We went ashore with the "Lady Nada" crew (they were kind enough to put their dinghy in and play chauffeur. We did a good walk on shore and found the baker (Joseph) so we could order our breads. He (actually his wife) bakes them in 50 gallon oil drums turned ovens. He has about five drums in a hut and heats them with wood. It is quite an operation. The breads are large sandwich loaves for only 100 vatu each. Joseph made the bread tins himself. We could also buy some fresh eggs from him.

We walked around the tidy village and to the airport. We stopped by the Paradise Bunglaows and Sue asked if we could come in for dinner that night. Tasso, the owner, said yes so we made arrangements for dinner at 6 pm. We had to bring our own beverages as he was out of beer!

We continued our walk – we had to walk long enough to wait for the bread to be done. We went back to the beakers and sat with Joseph to chat as we waited. He's 72 and a very interesting man. We got our bread and eggs and went back to the boats. It was a very rolly anchorage – so the walks ashore were quite welcome.

Our dinner out was quite wonderful – not many restaurants on these islands – and the price was right. For 1000 Vatu each (about $10 US), we got steak, fish, rice, a sweet potato salad that was magnificent and a banana thin pancake. Dessert was a piece of lemon meringue pie AND a piece of banana cake/pie. It was really a lot of food and very nicely prepared with spices, marinades and local foods. Two Chinese women came in while we were dining – they got off a boat that came to the Bay from Port Villa. They were headed to Santo – but they were so seasick they had to get off the boat at the first stop. So they came in to stay in the Paradise Bungalows and we chatted with them for a bit. It is always so interesting – you meet so many different people.

We stayed two nights in Lamen Bay, but it was very uncomfortable sleeping due to the constant roll. Plus, the weather was right to head further south and some unsettled weather was predicted for the upcoming weekend. So we headed out at 0930 to make the trip to Havannah Harbor on the island Efate. More later on that sail and the new anchorage.

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