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Kastom Village
Michael and Jackie
12/08/2009, Espiritu Santo

Oyster Island resort's other owner, Grant has lived here much of his life and organised a trip for us to a local village. The village was in the heart of the island so it involved many miles of rough roads to get there. The scenery of the island is mainly overgrown bush adjacent to extensive grazing land. The road, probably originally military was mostly straight with farmland to the left, originally developed by Grant's father and bush to the right. The bush was peppered with small traditional villages. The villages tend to have thatched roofs and rush walls made from pandanas leaves. Around each village there are extensive garden areas. In Tanna we had visited a Kastom village who were used to tourists and put on a bit of a show. This village was just an ordinary one going about its business. This village is a satellite village of a larger village elsewhere and the chief is currently living in the other village. When tribes get too big, some people start up a satellite village elsewhere. The two parts of the tribe get together for various celebrations. We were greeted by the witch doctor, herbalist, Neville who demonstrated the various herbs he used, including one which would stop malaria and another which would stop someone shooting at you. He is currently teaching his skills to one of his sons who will take over the role from him. He also showed us with great pride his bow and arrow which he used for shooting birds and fruit bats. The arrows were made out of bamboo, with tiny metal barbs he had made out of wire. His ten children and three grandchildren surrounded us posing for photos and demonstrating their skills with the machetes. Age is rather a vague thing and children are referred to as pikininis, ten plus, fifteen plus etc. and when you get to fortyish you are referred to as an old fellow.

The village consisted of a series of huts surrounding an open central area the size of a football field on which the children slithered in the mud and played. The rain was pretty heavy. Armed with banana leaves as umbrellas we toured the gardens with Grant translating from Bislama. The village has a water supply from a standpipe. We noticed electricity meters at the entrance. These were put in as a condition for cables from a hydro electric scheme passing through the village. However,no one can afford the charges so none of the huts have electricity. The villagers subsist on what they grow in the fertile soil and sell their surplus to market. They refer to their lifestyle as Kastom since it is an assertion of their traditional way of living and system of beliefs. MOst people in Vanuatu live in such villages and speak their own tribe languages as well as French and Bislama.

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Oyster Island Resort
Michael and Jackie
11/08/2009, Oyster Island Vanuatu

If you have Google Earth you should get a good view of our current location. We arrived in the morning so that we could find our way in easily through the reefs and sandbars. Oyster Island is just north of Luganville, the main town in Espiritu Santo. Because we are part of the ICA rally we were able to check in here rather than having to anchor off Luganville itself. The situation is delightful. The anchorage is behind the island and you enter by crossing a series of sandbars which monohulls can only cross at high tide. Once inside you are anchored in a perfect combination of good holding, sheltered water, cooling breeze and access to a delightful resort and beach bar. The island has some wrecks of fighter planes around it which can be snorkeled on . The swimming is particularly interesting because the water forms two layers. A cooler fresh water layer from the nearby rivers, lying over a very warm salt water layer.

The resort is owned by one of the couples on the rally so it is particularly boat friendly. The food is excellent as is the wine which comes from their own vineyard in the Bay of Islands. There is a dinghy service which links the island to the mainland and from there you can get taxis into town etc. We first of all headed into town to stock up on provisions. The road is unmetalled so the journey is quite jerky. There is a project to metal it in progress at the moment so I imagine that next year the journey will be a lot easier on aching bodies.

The town of Luganville, is unprepossessing, unlike Port Vila which is quite attractive. Little has changed to the buildings since the Americans left. Although British and French ruled here through the Condominium the American heritage is the most evident. There are few oddities eg Luganville had two adjacent police stations, one French and one English. French is the second language here, after Bislama, the Pidgin English used throughout Vanuatu. The town is one dusty or muddy strip, depending on the weather with numerous Chinese stores selling much the same thing, lots of imported clothes. There are also a lot of shops specialising in the sharp machetes essential for all agriculture here.

The landscape is less obviously tropical than Fiji and Tonga partly because of the ravages of logging, and partly because of the extensive cattle grazing. Vanuatu beef is particularly fine, and many of the farms are owned by Japanese with the bulk of the product being exported to Japan.

Vanuatans are particularly fond of kava, and the roadside abounds with kava huts where people relax from 4.30 onwards, and sometimes earlier. We were told by the locals that women now drink kava, and more so than men. Kava we were told is cheaper than white man' drinks - beer etc plus it just relaxes you so that there is no need to worry about things. Alcohol though makes people aggressive.

The resort's other owner, Grant has lived here much of his life and organised a trip for us to a local village. The village was in the heart of the island so it involved many miles of rough roads to get there. The scenery of the island is mainly overgrown bush adjacent to extensive grazing land. The road, probably originally military was mostly straight with farmland to the left, originally developed by Grant's father and bush to the right. The bush was peppered with small traditional villages. The villages tend to have thatched roofs and rush walls made from pandanas leaves. Around each village there are extensive garden areas. In Tanna we had visited a Kastom village who were used to tourists and put on a bit of a show. This village was just an ordinary one going about its business. This village is a satellite village of a larger village elsewhere and the chief is currently living in the other village. When tribes get too big, some people start up a satellite village elsewhere. The two parts of the tribe get together for various celebrations. We were greeted by the witch doctor, herbalist, Neville who demonstrated the various herbs he used, including one which would stop malaria and another which would stop someone shooting at you. He is currently teaching his skills to one of his sons who will take over the role from him. He also showed us with great pride his bow and arrow which he used for shooting birds and fruit bats. The arrows were made out of bamboo, with tiny metal barbs he had made out of wire. His ten children and three grandchildren surrounded us posing for photos and demonstrating their skills with the machetes. Age is rather a vague thing and children are referred to as pikininis, ten plus, fifteen plus etc. and when you get to fortyish you are referred to as an old fellow.

The village consisted of a series of huts surrounding an open central area the size of a football field on which the children slithered in the mud and played. The rain was pretty heavy. Armed with banana leaves as umbrellas we toured the gardens with Grant translating from Bislama. The village has a water supply from a standpipe. We noticed electricity meters at the entrance. These were put in as a condition for cables from a hydro electric scheme passing through the village. However,no one can afford the charges so none of the huts have electricity. The villagers subsist on what they grow in the fertile soil and sell their surplus to market. They refer to their lifestyle as Kastom since it is an assertion of their traditional way of living and system of beliefs. MOst people in Vanuatu live in such villages and speak their own tribe languages as well as French and Bislama.

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Fiji to Vanuatu
Michael and Jackie
11/08/2009, Oyster Island Vanuatu

We left Fiji with some sadness. The weather had been good to us and the combination of the beautiful islands and bays with the vibrancy of the people had made our stay particularly exhilarating. Last year we headed ESE to Tanna one of the most Southerly of the Vanuatu islands, this year we headed North East towards Espiritu Santo, the second largest island in the archipelago.

Our forecast was for light winds and a fair amount of rain and so it was. while last year we had struggled in mountainous seas to stop the boat doing more than 10 knots this year we struggled without an engine on. We had a couple of periods of decent wind and were able to make a good speed with our new spinnaker, but for most of the time we had to motor sail. Fortunately knowing that this was likely we had stocked up with plenty of diesel.

At least it meant we could do some fishing and we caught a large wahoo, about 20lb and a 12lb mahi-mahi. We also had a lot of near misses, strikes and the odd huge fish breaking our lures. We had a few mishaps such as catching the fishing lines around the propellers while reefing the sails but all in all it was a pretty uneventful trip.

It was magical coming through the pass between two outer islands at midnight with an almost full moon. We were then into more sheltered waters, passing other islands, slowing our speed down to get to the shallow, difficult passes through to the inner lagoon when there was enough light to see the coral outcrops. We arrived at Oyster Island about 9.30am in sunshine (the last we would see for a few days) exhausted and happy to have arrived. We still managed to summon enough energy to go ashore for happy hour and follow this with a meal on Storyteller who had arrived the day before. Boy did we sleep well that night though.

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Musket Cove to Vanuatu
09/08/2009

We are currently 50 miles off Pentecost, one of the outer islands of Vanuatu. We left Musket Cove in Fiji on Thursday.

Musket Cove was one of our favourite spots last year. It is on the dry South Western side of Fiji. Musket Cove is the main resort area in the large open bay of the island of Manololo. Although the bay has a number of resorts, development has been sensitive and the bay is large is enough and beautiful enough to absorb it.

Musket Cove is in strong contrast with Denerau. In Denerau, the big hotels are enclosed in an enclave on the coast which could be any holiday destination in the world. To find Fiji you have to leave via the golf course and head for the busy town of Nadi, pronounced Nandi.

To get to Musket Cove you sail a short distance about twelve miles to the island of Manololo and pick your way carefully through the reefs to a large enclosed anchorage where we spent an enjoyable four days.. Many boats pick up moorings in the bay but if you proceed you come into a small idyllic marina which takes about 20 boats.

The island is within two outer reefs and the sea is therefore flat. The water is crystal clear and there are endless reefs within a short dingy ride of the marina. On one reef we saw the best range, size and sheer volume of brightly coloured fish so far. We met up with the rest of the rally here and there were various events on most days, including meals most evenings and lunch and various competitions on a sandbar off the resort. We watched with amusement the various Kiwis versus the rest of the world tug-of-war and drinking competitions while we lay in the clear shallow water, sipping a cold beer. The sandbar disappeared as the tide came in, so it was soon time to dingy back to the resort.

The marina is constructed along a small spit of land, so for a swim all you have to do is walk to the end of the spit and jump in to the deep water. If you prefer, you can go to the resort swimming pool and relax there with your lounger and drinks. As rally participants, we had full use of the resort facilities, including the infinity pool and spa. We treated ourselves to a full body massage and it was just as good as last year.

The marina bar is on the spit and has a large number of collective barbecue pits so most evenings are spent having a drink in the bar while barbecuing your own food, making for economic and enjoyable evenings.

The main part of the resort consists of tasteful bura style bungalows hidden in palm trees with a larger restaurant. In the hills above there are a number of attractively designed holiday homes, often with marina access.

As a result of the devaluation of the Fiji dollar our stay there was inexpensive and the weather was glorious.

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Denarau
28/07/2009, Nandi

Denarau marina is in the touristy part of Fiji, but very attractive nonetheless. It is fairly close to the main airport and the town of Nadi, on a flattish peninsula with views of the mountains behind, and distant islands in front. The marina is part of a larger basin which hosts the numerous cruise ships which take people around the islands, as well as many super-yachts. There is a lot of expensive housing in gated estates, with some houses having marina berths and others backing on to a rather beautiful golf course. All the roads out to the different hotels are beautifully landscaped and lushly planted. Around the coastline of the peninsula are all the main hotels - Hilton, Sofitel etc. etc. but all are single or double storied buildings and blend in well with the landscape. There is a new small shopping mall next to the marina. Courtesy buses bring hotel guests to the shopping centre where there is also a choice of 5 different restaurants and a small supermarket which sells many of the things we were unable to get in Lautoka. Not surprisingly prices are somewhat higher here, but still quite cheap. We had a fabulous indian meal in a very nice restaurant with Don and Anne, and with two bottles of sparkling it was still good value.

We took a taxi into Nadi and first visited the Bhuddist temple there. It is really colourful with amazingly detailed paintings on the ceilings. Unfortunately we were only allowed to photograph the outside.

After provisioning in Nadi, where there is a really good butcher - very unusual to find good meat, and also stocking up on wine and dry goods, we left Denarau Marina on Saturday morning, heading for Musket Cove, where we will leave with the rally for Vanuatu on Thursday, all being well. Musket Cove is part of a very pretty small island about 15 miles off the coast of the main island. There are loads of reefs around the island which makes for good snorkeling. The island is also in the protection of a large outer reef, so the sea is flat - excellent for kayaking. There are several low key hotel complexes here and Michael and Jackie had their best massage ever here last year, so we are planning to have another this year. Can't wait! It really is a beautiful spot, and we would seriously consider coming here for a holiday if we hadn't got a boat.


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birthday in Fiji
25/07/2009, North Viti Levu

We spent another couple of days on Yadua while we waited for some strong winds to pass. A smallish yacht called Windchase was caught out in the wind and tried unsuccessfully to get into our bay for some shelter - they didn't have enough engine power to combat the 40 + knot winds and had to heave to overnight - we didn't envy them.

We left the following day and sailed across to the main island of Viti Levu and after a rather scary reef passage, we anchored up in this beautiful large bay with a view of mountains in the background. This was the unspoilt and dry north coast of the island, where there was a scattering of beautiful holiday homes and a couple of small resorts. We had a beautiful sunset with no other yachts in sight except Harmonie.

The following day was Jackie's birthday, and it promised to be a beautiful day, with clear blue skies and a light breeze. We went ashore with Don and Anne and walked for an hour or so around the point of one of the islands forming the large bay - it was good to stretch the legs again. We checked up on the restaurants in the two little resorts there, and one could provide us with either beef hotpot or fish in coconut. It was a lovely spot, though, and we decided we would come ashore for a meal. We moved the boats round the corner closer to the restaurant and had a birthday sundowner on Harmonie.

The following morning we left the bay and motored along the shoreline, following the passage between the shore and the reefs - it was actually quite tiring just keeping the boat on course and following the waypoints, as well as looking out for the odd stray reef. It was a lovely motor though past unspoilt foothills with mountains in the background and in flat water as well! Unfortunately we lost the flat water when the wind changed just as we reached our planned anchorage, so had to keep going until we found some shelter. Anne made Jackie a second birthday meal, most enjoyable, and after a rather bumpy start to the evening, the wind dropped and we had a comfortable night.

We left early next morning to check in a Lautoka and do some much needed provisioning. We looked for the phone number of the very helpful taxi man who we met last year, but with no success. However, when we dingied in to the harbour, who should be there to meet us but the same taxi driver. What luck. He waited for us while we went through a lengthy and tedious check in (we are already checked into Fiji and have a cruising permit, this is just to check in to this part of Fiji) and then took us round town to accomplish our various shopping trips - clothes shop, market, pharmacy, supermarket and liquor store. By early afternoon we had finished everything and just had to load and unload the shopping off the dingy. We then headed out of the harbour and anchored in a pretty bay about half an hour away. This was where we had gone aground last year on an unmarked reef - we saw the reef this year and kept well out in the centre of the bay. It was then just a short sail next day to Denarau Marina where we would pick up our sail, refuel and carry out some boat servicing.

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