Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Heading South Again

Ureparapara was our most northern port in Vanuatu and we are now heading south again. We spent a few more days at Ureparapara, during which we watched some custom dancing - not really our thing but the other boats in the anchorage had organized it and we went along as well. Plus it is one of those things that I guess you should do once in Vanuatu! We had seen some of the women's dances before but this time watched 3 dances performed by some men from the village including one where they were wearing bizarre wooden head dresses ranging from a watermelon slice, through half a shark to a mermaid! We were also here for their Children's Day celebrations; an annual holiday. Various games were organized for the kids and a there was a very formal present giving ceremony. The gifts included bowls, umbrellas, packets of chocolate biscuits and half a packet of crackers seemed a frequent choice.

The village here is very traditional, or at least what I assume is traditional. The houses are thatched huts, some built in Solomon Islands style with higher walls and others in the Vanuatu style with roofs sloping further down. Transport is entirely by canoe, here including both outriggers and single hulled kayaks which are not seen in the rest of Vanuatu. Only around the larger towns and resorts have we seen local outboard boats. As in the rest of Vanuatu, there are interesting contrasts. For Children's Day, a generator appeared to run a sound system in a village where supply boats arrive 3-4 times a years at best! Vanuatu seems full of these contradictions; in Tanna we saw Toyota Utes (they are all Toyota) housed under thatched 'car ports' and on most islands (although not Ureparapara) there is a cell phone tower. Unfortunately as some friends found out, the network works on a relay system so that if one tower is down (if there is no diesel to power it for example) the network afterwards won't work either. This also means that there are no land lines even in small towns that previously have had a phone available. Even in villages with no means of charging and apparently even in places with no coverage, cell phones are ubiquitous!

From Ureparapara we sailed to the Reef Islands, an uninhabited atoll group. These were very beautiful with the blues, greens and turquoises of the water contrasting with the white surf and golden sand of the beaches. We were anchored a long way from any actual land, as the lagoon and pass are too shallow for us to navigate.

From there we travelled to Losalava in Gaua which is an island still in the Banks Islands and then to Ambae Island.


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