Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yee-Ha – Ride 'em Cowboy!

New photos up...check them out (especially butterfly fans).
As our loyal readers know, we like local events and try to go to them whenever we can. We heard about the "Santo Rodeo" and decided it was a "must" - especially after the fun we had at the rodeo in New Zealand. So without our Texan buddies, we ventured off to the Colmar Plantation near Kavu (as opposed to kava) Park near Luganville. It was an adventure getting there as the PT's (Public Transport) trucks were in rare supply on the road. We hiked quite a way and came upon a family of eight also waiting on a truck and also heading for the rodeo. As we passed them we knew now they would be the first to get a ride and they would certainly load up a truck. Sure enough, a truck finally came by and they all loaded in – but being Ni-Vans (the nicest people around), they made the truck stop to pick us up and squeeze us in. It was a loaded back of the pickup!! But the driver did great collecting 200 Vatu from each and having 15 riders!

We got to the park and followed the stream of people heading to the field. There were lots of pick-ups and a few larger trucks with people sitting on the roofs of each of them. A dirt field surrounded by a fence was the venue and you either had to stand alongside the fence or find a place on a truck or in a tree for a view. The first event was a race through some poles – two horses and riders each, on a side-by-side course. Some of the horses were not excited about the event and downright refused to obey their riders. That got the crowd cheering and laughing. The next event was similar, only this time the riders had to grab a flag off the post and return to the start, drop the flag in a barrel and then go and retrieve the next flag.

Then there was some interesting horse and rider doing a musical interpretation. Hmmmm....sure not like the Pendleton Round-Up. Luckily there seemed to be only one competitor on this day. Next was the "Barrel Racing" - often a women's event – here it was all men who took it very seriously. Each rider did the cloverleaf track around the barrels against the clock. The crowd loved it with the people on each side trying to out-cheer each other as the rider came nearest the barrel where they were located. The crowd was at much fun as the event – mostly Ni-Vanuatu and a few ex-pats.

Then, the announcers invited all the kids into the field where they competed in a foot race to buckets filled with water and apple bits. They had to "bob" for apples and then race back. The prize was the apple they plucked from the water (and trust us, the price of apples here is quite high so it's a good prize!) The kids were hysterical and had a good time. We thought some would actually drown themselves in the bucket of water!

Then the "real" rodeo began. The bronc riding – bareback and saddled. The ring was pretty small and the announcements were constant to stay away from the fence – especially the children ("pikinini" Bislama – so the announcement went something like "olgeta pikinini away from fence. Very dangerous. The horse he killum yu dead). Sure enough, every bronc was kicking the fence as he came by – after dumping his rider within seconds. We never saw anyone make the eight second mark – even the imported cowboys from New Caledonia.

The cowboys were mostly local Ni-Vans who work on the plantations and ranches here on Santo. Santo has a large Vanuatu Beef industry – and the Vanuatu beef is quite desired. They cannot keep up with the export demand. It is one of Vanuatu's largest exports. So these are working cowboys – not professional rodeo cowboys. There was not a cowboy boot to be seen nor any big belt buckles! Instead, you had round-toed work boots or flip flops! Some leather cowboy hats – but no Stetsons. Lots of baseball caps or no hats. Most had pretty nice saddles, but many were just blankets over the horse. The reins were pretty worn rope in many cases. Many cowboys had lots of earrings or braids with beads – the new Marlboro Man certainly has a different look here. But they were all fit (except Pierre a French rider who's poor horse was disadvantaged by the weight of the rider), and very intense on the competition.

We met our friends Sue and Bob from "Mawari" at the event and it was fun to see them again and listen to Sue who is a "horsewoman" - having even worked a traveling rodeo in Great Britain in her teens. We all enjoyed the local fare for lunch and the beer price was the best we've seen – 350 Vatu for a Tusker. Other than some rain for a bit which muddied the field, it was a great fun day. The event went on two days – but we passed on the Sunday adventure...though it would have been fun to see bull riding in that small about staying away from the fences!!!

Sunday was a busy day – Michael had spent the entire week working on the new dinghy cover – and it was now on "Pukupuku." He still wasn't happy about the fit and planned some modifications. So Sunday, we went up the river and did some laundry, took our showers, cleaned water maker water filters and rinsed the cover from salt water.

Today, Monday, Michael re-sewed the bottom extending the seam for the tightening line. We are still waiting for the winds to moderate to make our way north to the Banks. It has been a very windy season in the islands. The winds are a steady 20-25 it seems and if it moderates it is only for a day or two. This is a great anchorage and with the river so close and town easy to get into – not a bad place to hang out.

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