The Banks Islands, Vanuatu. If the anchorage didn't have the consistent roll from a swell – this place would be near perfect. It is very remote – no internet, no cell phones no shops. But it has crystal clear water (we can see the bottom and we're in 25 feet of water and it is a black sand bottom), verdant green hills and some of the friendliest people we've met. They don't speak great English – though most of the inhabitants speak two languages – their native village language as well as Bislama the language of Vanuatu. Most also have a smattering of English. They have worked hard at keeping their village (and the two nearby villages) quite traditional. They are generous with what they have.
We were greeted by two canoes when we arrived and then on Sunday, another canoe came out and delivered a giant basket of vegetables. Steven spoke quite good English and we had him aboard for a cup of tea and conversation. We also try to "pay" for the goods we are given with trade items of things they may need. We gave Steven some vegetable seeds and a can of varnish. He is the handyman for the villages and that is what he had asked for. We in turn, received green peppers, beets, spring onions, eggplants, bok choy (White bone), radishes, a few small tomatoes and fresh basil.
After Steven departed, Ben returned (he was one of our original "greeters" with his son Wesley). On Sunday he was with his wife and another son Chesley. They brought us a lovely large stalk of bananas, some drinking coconuts and some long beans. Long beans are a crazy looking vegetable that is a very long, skinny bean. We're still trying to figure out the tastiest way to prepare these. They came aboard for a cup of tea but the boats roll got to young Chesley and he got sick. Poor thing...and poor us!
On Monday, we finally made it to the village and met the chief and got permission to be at the anchorage and walk around the village. His name is John Star (though we heard it as Johnston and kept calling him the wrong name – oops). Then we met Levi, who is the coordinator of the upcoming festival and the best English speaker. He is also a minister from a village on the other side – but this is his home village where his family owns much land. He is a remarkable young man. He only had an early education to grade 3 but his family couldn't afford the school fees to let him continue his education. He moved on to Santo to work and then returned to Gaua. He was given the job of youth advisor and started to study again as he had to write letters and do some paperwork. He succeeded in his position for seven years and then was selected by someone who saw his potential to go on to the Anglican ministry. He was sent to college which he completed. He is a strong believer in balancing the native customs with the church. He started the festival that this area has in order to teach the young children more about the native "kustom" and traditions of dance and music.
The festival starts tomorrow – wish there were more boats here to support them as we can see how hard the three villages have been working. As of Wednesday, there are four boats planning to attend the event and a fifth boat with a single-hander that we are not certain will participate. We are entertained daily by someone dancing along the beach in a costume and we hear the drums being beat, as the dancers are most likely practicing They do not want us to see the "preparation."
The other exciting news for us was our reunion with a dear friend. We met Angelika and Friedl in 2009 in Curacao aboard their catamaran "Tumshi." Michael and Friedl were part of a crazy boat rescue (fiasco caused by bad anchoring and another two "helpers"). Then we got together and decided to buddy boat with them from Curacao to the Venezualan island of Los Monjes then along the Colombia coast and on to Panama. They became good friends and we enjoyed their company immensely. They went on through the canal and into the Pacific – we stayed in the Caribbean. We haven't seen them since November 2009. Angelika is now aboard a different boat "Carl" as crew with the captain Harold. Last night we had dinner with them aboard Carl. They came to Lakona Bay yesterday just so we could connect (and caught a tuna that we enjoyed for dinner). Angelika is a great cook and it was a delicious meal – especially because they have been the Torres and Banks islands for the last three months – remote areas with few supplies. We toasted with their last bottle of champagne and really enjoyed the evening and reunion. Angelika looks terrific!
Tomorrow – the festival begins.
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