Monday, 31 August 2015

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th

Luganville July 23rd until August 8th.

The time just slipped away during these two weeks. We were on a mooring at Aore resort and spent much of our time enjoying the touristy things on Santo, boat maintenance and generally socialising with resort guests and other yachties.

Highlights included the Santo Rodeo with local plantation stockmen competing against one another. The European plantation owners had good horses with saddles but the stockmen rode bareback on their ponies with hessian sacks for saddles. These sacks usually slipped out from under their bums before their event was finished. This was a free event and the local people flocked to the event to enjoy the fun.

International Children’s Day was on Friday July 24 and this was a public holiday with lots happening for the kids throughout the nation. The Vanuatu people are very loving towards their offspring, particularly when they are infants and the local park was decorated in their honour with lots of stalls and games. Some shops open for kids only to shop!

Independence Day was to celebrate 35 years of self-government and the day was celebrated in every town and little village throughout the nation.

In Luganville the local police and army were on parade to the tune of a brass band and the local politicians were in their element making speeches to the assembled throng. We watched for a while then wandered off and missed the police playing with their AK47’s but we certainly heard the noise!

Di spent quite some time snorkelling with new friend Sue (off S V Mawari), off the resort beach. Sue is a fantastic photographer and she showed Di many interesting underwater fish and other creatures including large cuttle fish. It is so nice snorkelling in water that is crystal clear and 27 degrees and the varieties of fish were never ending. 

The main highlight for us during this period was the day trip to the Millennium Cave.

After a 45 minute ride over 10 million pot holes we arrived at a small village where our bus managed to get stuck in the greasy conditions, so we walked the next 2 km to the main village where we were met by 4 guides. Our party was probably 20 people and to get to the cave we walked for another 2 hours over a very slippery, muddy track which was very steep at times.

However the walk was worth it as the Millennium Cave is a very spectacular 400m long limestone cavern, about 10m wide and up to 50 metres high inside with a small river running through the full length. Our party waded through the cavern in water about waist deep in places with torches for illumination and bats for company. Quite an eerie experience.

Once we emerged from the cave we found the cavern river joined a much larger river. We stopped at this point for lunch. We had left our backpacks with some of the villagers at the top of the gorge before the climb down into the cave and they had lowered them down into the gorge on ropes.

Once we had finished lunch they hauled them back up and carried them back to the village.

Our group then enjoyed another 2 hours canyoning (clambering over rocks) and swimming downstream through some spectacularly steep gorges with numerous waterfalls flowing into the river.

We finally emerged from the river at a point below the village. The trip back to the top of the gorge consisted of a climb up a waterfall then a series of bush ladders. A lot of very tired but exhilarated people finally re-entered the village where we were given hot drinks and fruit to restore our energy.

One of our group slipped early on and fractured his wrist but, with the assistance of some guides managed to complete the walk. Luckily one of our party was an Orthopaedic Surgeon and he strapped the wrist then accompanied the patient to the hospital after the event.

Di and I were very stiff the next day, but a day round the pool and some liquid therapy soon restored us to normal.

We were now into departure planning mode and spent a couple of days refuelling (carting 20 litre drums in the dinghy across the channel to the local service station), then restocking food from the local stores.

Clearing out of Vanuatu consisted of a trip to immigration, on to customs, on to the payment office, back to customs and back to immigration for the final (handwritten) paperwork. A full morning’s work!

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