The festival was fabulous, but we also enjoyed some snorkeling in Lakona Bay. We hadn't been in the water in a really long time thanks to the challenging weather this season in Vanuatu. But during our week in Lakona Bay, we went out to the reef near the village and had a great visit with variety of tropical fishes of all sizes and shapes. We saw a giant wrasse – easily three feet long and quite chunky as well as lots of bat fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish of many styles and some pretty good-sized groupers. We then went to a rocky shore closer to our boat that Michael had taken a swim towards the previous day and discovered an underwater field of garden eels. So we went to check them out again. It was quite a sight to watch the hundreds of eels with their bodies coming out of the ground swaying in the current. They were much longer than eels of this type we had seen in the Caribbean.
After the festival "officially" ended, there was a "farewell" on Saturday morning. They gave out special awards for the canoe races and bow and arrow shootout. Michael got an award for being the assigned "bigfella" for the committee. He was the "official" liaison between the yachties and Levi, the head organizer. He got a beautiful hand made carved wooden knife. The other prizes were handmade crafts as well, including a fan, a hat, a basket and bag.
The "committee" of festival organizers wanted to get feedback on what we all thought about the event and how they could improve upon it. Each yachtie spoke and the unanimous sound was that there was little they could do to improve the show. We then got yet another meal and listened to the "bamboo band" one more time. They did put on a great show.
On Sunday morning we were planning on leaving and offered to transport some of the Bamboo Band back to their village. We told them we could take six and as many instruments as we could fit. Another boat was also going to take six and some of the instruments. Sunday came and the other boat backed out of the transport and instead gave them some gasoline. They feared the locals would get sea sick aboard. We then were asked to take twelve people but we anticipated a rough trip once around the top of the island heading right into the wind and seas and said we couldn't. Many of the band decided to stay at the village and perform some more for an upcoming "saints" holiday on Wednesday. So the instruments would stay and we would take six people. They came out to the boat and we got underway with Isiah, Mores, Wesor, Daniel, Ifrem and Cartraet aboard(the spelling is correct, we had them sign our guest book). Most spoke pretty good english and we learned about the band and life in Lemoga, their village.
While underway, we enjoyed seven dolphins playing with Astarte for a long time. The boys loved it and sang, yelled and banged on the boat to the leaping water mammals. The dolphins seemed to respond by staying with us for almost an hour. Like everyone else, they like the bamboo band as well. The dolphins put on quite a show. The good news is that it kept everyone occupied enough to not get seasick.
We also handed over some fishing lines and the pole for them to fish. They managed to get a pretty good sized barracuda as we neared the entrance to the reef near their village. They got it in, cleaned it, and took it with them. We heard the next day on our walk from someone who said the boys cooked it after church and it fed many in their village. We loved that! They were probably quite the heroes.
We are now anchored behind a large reef near Losalava Village. Because of the large reef, there is a little less of a roll than in Lakona Bay. The first night was a very restful night. The next night there were some wind bullets coming off of the hills and we had a small roll going – but still not so bad. We took a walk into the village yesterday and met the chief and got our permission to walk around and snorkel. The plan is to be here for several days or until the wind comes less from the south and more from the east – or with any luck, the northeast. Then we can make our way back south and start our trek back towards Port Vila for departure in late September for New Caledonia.
For now, we'll enjoy this part of Gaua – and if ambitious may take the long hike to a huge waterfall near a lake. That's if the old knees recover from all the dancing at the festival!
At 8/25/2015 7:45 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 14°12.47'S 167°34.19'E
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