Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Beat of the Tam-Tam

We remain in Port Vila on Efate Island in Vanuatu and have been playing the waiting for a "weather window" game for at least ten days. It isn't a long trip – about 300 miles to the entrance of the Noumea lagoon in New Caledonia, but it seems we can't get the right winds for the voyage. There seems to be a long string of very unsettled weather and weird systems flying through the area. Perhaps this coming Tuesday we can make our departure. We'll know more today. We need at least a full weekday's notice to depart to clear out of the country, get our duty free fuel and get the boat prepared for offshore.

While killing time in Port Vila, we have been looking for things to keep us entertained. Michael saw a poster on a bulletin board announcing a cultural event. Unfortunately it was in French, so he didn't get all the details. We presumed it was at the French cultural center and headed there (with some friends whom we talked into joining us). The French Cultural Center was all closed up so we trekked to the Vanuatu Museum thinking that it might be there. No, not there. Then as we walked by a grocery store, we saw the poster and had Catherine with us (she speaks and reads French) and we saw that it was at the Lycee Louis Antoine de Bouganville. We asked a local person where that was and he said you need to take a bus there. We said we'd walk and he said, "No, you'll get lost." We lost Catherine at this point, but four us us hopped a bus and got taken to a school on the other side of the town.

We did just miss the "stick dance" which was too bad as that is rarely performed. But we watched some other terrific "kustom" dances from various islands around Vanuatu. The costumes on some of the dancers were incredible. They had two very large tam-tams (slit drums) that were used to keep the beat for many of the dances. In a few dances, the men wore these ankle bracelets of seeds that created this magnificent rattle sound as their feet hit the ground. If we could understand the French and Bislama announcements correctly, we think one of the dance groups of "kustom" men had only performed in Port Vila one other time in 1979. So it looked like some of the dances we saw were quite unusual to witness. It was a great afternoon and quite an unexpected treat. It seems it was "cultural day" at this secondary school. The fun part of some of the dances was that a few audience members would jump up and join in the dancing if the performance was from the island where they too were from.

We have enjoyed time getting to know Mike and Catherine on the boat "Falbala" and have enjoyed a dinner aboard their boat. "Falbala" Mike bought a new toy (a remote control helicopter with camera inside) and he and "Astarte" Michael went to a park to give it a test fly.

We also reconnected with old friends that we met in Panama in 2012 – John and Sukanya from the boat "Millenium." They arrived into Port Vila from Fiji a few days ago and it was fun seeing them again. John is from Australia and Sukanya is from Thailand. They bought our old outboard (Yoshi) which after some repairs, they are still using! We had them over for dinner and were then treated to a Thai feast aboard their vessel last night! Yum! That is still one of the best things about cruising – meeting people, going our separate ways then reconnecting to share adventures.

More new pictures are on the photo page. Some of the incredible dancing we saw. Hopefully the next post will be that we are underway for New Caledonia.

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