Saturday, September 12, 2015

Michael: Suicidal or Certifiable?

After anchoring in the crater of Lolowai on Ambae Island, we moved out at a high tide and anchored overnight in a nearby spot that was quite lovely. Again, we were the only boat there and there was no village – so we had the place to ourselves. We would run early the next morning to Maewo (pronounced My-Woe but hopefully it wouldn't be!) - 19 miles away. That was a truly great sail – hard on the wind, but moving at more than six knots with reefed sails (sometimes hitting 7.3).

We went to Lakrere Bay, which is in the northeast corner of Maewo and home of "Big Waters" - a giant waterfall. We anchored in about 10 meters of what we hoped was a sandy bottom. There was a slight roll – but nothing horrible. Most of these anchorages are open roadsteads – just a slight indentation on the leeward side of the island. This was one of those – but we could hear the waterfall from the boat and hear lots of laughter from kids. That is one of the great sounds of Vanuatu – people laugh all the time here!

Once anchored and settled with a good a lunch, we launched the dinghy and went ashore. You go into this small cut that the waterfall runoff has obviously created over the centuries. We were met ashore by many villagers who helped us tie up. As is our style, we first asked to go see the chief to get permission to anchor outside the Naone village and to walk around. We met Chief Patrick, got our approval and then met Paul who we asked to guide us up the waterfall the next day. We sat for awhile by the waterfall and road which crossed it. It is a concrete "ford" which simply crosses over the river. This is the favorite playground for the local kids who ski here. The road gets slimy from the water – and the kids get a running start and then slide on the slick stuff. Some are quite flamboyant. They can do this for hours. They also dive off the waterfall over the road or from the nearby trees. They seem fearless. We had several canoes come out to the boat later in the day to visit.

The next morning, we went to shore at 0900 for our waterfall hike. Paul, our guide spoke decent English and was a good guide. Along with Paul, we had a parade of other villagers that joined in the walk. Paul carefully showed us where to step and helped me across many of the falls. These falls are called, in our Lonely Planet Guide, the eighth wonder of the world. They are terraced so around every corner, there is another waterfall to see. Some split off and create more waterfalls. They also have terraced gardens here where they grow water taro. This was fascinating to see and they are quite beautiful with the large leafed taro against the water.

We climbed up and up … over streams and falls and tracks. I (Barbara) decided at one point that it was too steep and slippery to continue going up. Michael did, along with the "parade" of guys that went along. Three girls stayed behind with me.

Now to today's headline. Is Michael suicidal or certifiable? He decided to jump off the waterfall at one point. It was about a 10 meter (33 feet) drop and off a slippery rock smack in the center of one part of the falls. None of the locals decided to do it – just Michael. I was against it (thinking of how I would get the boat back to NZ myself) – but he's an adult (sometimes). So Paul took him out to the center of the falls and after a few moments of near chickening out – he took the leap. He was glad to have his shoes on because when his feet hit the water – it was quite a shock. He survived and swam to shore – suffering a bit of a sore arm and proud as a peacock.
We made our way down and back to the boat with three women with whom we had arranged to trade some vegetables and fruit. They brought us two papaya, some bananas (orange inside and very tasty), drinking coconuts, and a big bag of tomatoes. They left loaded with pots and pans, some clothes, vegetable seeds and towels.

We had also invited a few of the guys who walked the trail with us in the morning out to the boat. That is a question many locals ask – "Can we come see your boat?" These three guys were full of questions and made a movie and took many pictures of their visit to Astarte. We gave them a few magazines and book on sailing and they couldn't put them down – even when we went ashore later – they were still looking at the magazine and book.

That afternoon, we went to shore with a frisbee and two floating "noodles." We went for a swim in one of the pools and then started to play frisbee with the kids. It was a blast. If the frisbee went flying into the water, without a second's hesitation, a small boy would run, then leap off the side and into the water to retrieve it. It was so fun to watch and listen to them laugh. Some kids were doing their "skiing" on the slime, others were riding down the hill on bits of old surf boards and boogie boards. They are polite and honest here – and when we were leaving, we had every intention on leaving the "toys" behind – but they tried to return them to us.

This was a very special place for its beauty – the waterfall was incredible and the people. Lots of great images are left in our minds.

Plus, Michael had his "e-ticket" ride and lived to tell the tale.
At 9/11/2015 8:27 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 15°22.60'S 168°07.99'E

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