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S/V Love Song's Adventures
on the road again
Kathy
08/09/2012, heading West toward Flores

Today marks 3 months ago that we sailed from Majuro with Sylvia and Noortje aboard. Since we departed Majuro we have traveled about 3, 157 nautical miles, so about a thousand miles/month average. It took 17 days from Honiara, Guadacanal to Tanimbar, Indonesia, with 3 anchored nights in the Louisiades and 3 anchored nights in the Torres Straits as well.

We left Saumlaki this morning around 10am with a washing machine full of somebody's wet sheets...good thing they weren't just laundered yesterday! We have a bunch of waypoints to stop and hop along the way, or not! We may go 2.5 days non stop to Maumere, Flores where they supposedly have a SeaWorld Resort. Or we will keep going an extra night to Komodo Island so we can do the national park for Wyatt's birthday. We are free to change our minds and blow like the wind...

Other things I didn't mention in the sights and sounds of Indonesia from our time in Saumlaki were the presence of uniforms! Just coming through the hotel the first time ashore there were dozens of camoflaged soldiers sitting around, because apparently there is a change of command in the head of the Army. Out on the street there were even more soldiers, and there were also dozens of police in plain army green uniforms. Then at the HarborMaster and ferry terminal the guards were all dressed in blues! It was quite impressive to say the least. Again it reminded me of Ensenada when the armored truck would come into the grocery store with their AK-47 rifles, and in Saumlaki the soldiers that were out on the street or sitting in the doorways along the sidewalk had their rifles propped up next to them or behind them very informally!

From what we read in the Sailing Asia guidebook and talking to the people helping us with formalities ashore, Saumlaki is rather unusual in that it's predominantly Christian. They're split East and West as Catholic and Protestant, and there's a handful of Muslims. Despite the Muslim minority, the wailing over a loud speaker made it seem otherwise, calling the faithful to prayer starting at 0530 and repeating 4 more times during the day. That definitely reminded us of the obnoxiously blaring speakers atop the newspaper deliverer's car in La Paz, or the water delivery truck's sing song tune playing endlessly...

And about that feeling of being a celebrity because you stand out so differently and the people wanting to touch the boys' heads and take pictures with them, we have to tell the boys not to let it go to their heads, ya know?! When you go to all these places where we're just treated like royalty for no reason other than you're a rarity, you have to put it into perspective, and we don't want the boys growing up to think that they really are celebrities! It may help them in the long run for instance, that they have courage to lead people, but it's a really weird dilemmna.

There was also a hawk that flew around the anchorage day and night, a really big, beautiful bird. I told the boys perhaps it was looking for the one that was caged, but Morgan says the caged bird was much smaller. I forgot to mention the last day of sailing when we were arriving there, there was a big increase in the amount of flying fish that were landing on deck. Dulce couldn't possibly keep up with eating all of them, and her coat is looking quite shiny and fluffy after all that fish oil. Dallas turns up her nose at flying fish or most fish for that matter. Another weird thing that happened was that we had dozens of small squid fling into the port side of the boat, a few even landed in the cockpit, others flew across the lifelines and over the cabintop to the other side, and it created a great big inky mess in most cases. Several had their heads blown off by the impact, some had their tentacles tangled in the lines on the deck and had to be unstuck, and others bled their inky carcasses into the gutter. I had to get out a scrub brush and the Comet to get it off. It seriously stains stuff!

So we are coasting right along with the wind on our stern, a pretty good ride, but not as much wind as reported or expected. I still haven't really recovered from the jetlag headaches but will go back to the watch routine tonight regardless! I was considering maybe doing 2-3 hours and repeating the shifts more often than going 4-5 hours which seems to be causing too much brain damage! Wish us luck!

Sights and Sounds of Indonesia
Kathy
08/08/2012, Saumlaki, Tanimbar, INDO

First morning here I was on the aft deck doing my morning yoga and I was so stoked to see a 747 climbing overhead!!! Funny I'm still thrilled by jets! Then at about 10am every morning now a little prop plane comes in right over the boat and the dogs and kids go screaming down the deck to watch it descend for landing here. Then the next noise you hear are the putt putt boats, the local boats going to and from the fishing huts that are lining the channel. Each night they fish with lights, and each morning they bring their loads in. Everyone eats fish every day here apparently. Some of the boats have a little outrigger and some are a little bigger than a canoe. But they all have these noisy motors that sound like some putting, dying, clanging kind of lawn mowers!

So this place reminds us a little bit of La Paz, Baja, because of the shape of the bay, how far out we have to anchor, the dry climate with cactus growing, and the noise of a busy road fronting the harbor. It's a one way street along the harborfront and the minibus taxis and motorbikes vroom day and night, like everybody has someplace to go and horns honk and people holler. There are ships lined up at anchor to get on the quay, and a ferry comes and goes several times a week to the outer islands which means the pier is really busy. We went to shore there yesterday to get gas and realized it was the diesel depot. One minibus driver saw us and pulled over to help us out, so we got to go into town and found the cheapest gas we've ever seen anywhere in the world, only $4,500/liter (.45cents!!!) and to fill our jug it was only $13,500.00 = $13.50USD vs. Majuro's $40.00USD!!! And still everyone drives scooters and motorcycles that are cheap to fill. Good for them! Anyways, the minibus didn't close it's door and the boys thought that was very dangerous and exciting but they didn't want to sit near it, they've been tossed around on boats enough to know better I guess! There are little vinyl benches that Morgan said were implanted to the walls, which we thought was funny, and you certainly couldn't have a very big bum and stay seated. The driver honked this most hideous clown sounding honk repeatedly, so that everyone knew it was him or to get out of his way.

The first trip in we went to the hotel where a banner from the recent cruising rally was hanging. It has a giant deck over the water, lush with hundreds of planter boxes including ocotillo cactus, lime bushes, bougainvillea, palm trees, chili trees, basil bushes, and other herbs and flowering trees and plants. There are two rickety staircases hanging down to the water that we climbed up and wandered down the massive ironwood deck into the long hotel hallway of white tile and giant wood tables and cabinetry all the way out to the front desk and the street. Allen says it was like a Casa Blanca movie. Stepping out to the street was shocking with all these scooters zooming by, and a bunch of tall flags flapping in front of most buildings because their Independence Day is coming next week. It also reminded us of Ensenada because the sidewalks have really massive drainage under them, and there's plenty of open holes you have to jump over, and when we lived there we'd say if you fall and break your neck it's your own fault! Other sidewalks are so smooth with tile or concrete that you could be ice skating across them they're so slippery.

Then there's the people, all staring at you and some yell as they drive by, "Hey Mister!", or when they see the boys, they scream, "BABIES!!!" and some ladies are pointing at them and blowing them kisses. Then when we walked by the crowds half in and half out of every store along the sidewalk, they want to shake hands so we smile and shake, and they pinch the boys' cheeks and rush out with their children and yell, "HEY!" and they want to take pictures of the kids all together. Eventually we got to the hardware store a few doors down from the hotel since the ATM machine only takes MASTERCARD (Visa, it's NOT everywhere in the world we want to be), and Allen said it was like some shady drug deal to go inside and cash US Ben Franklin for $801,000.00 rupiah. That's a $19 dollar bonus for the exchange man, and some boats were only getting $700,000 for the Australian dollar.

So we went across the street to the grocery store on the second floor of a fancy building, which was a fancy, brightly lit, glistening plastic laden Chinese junk paradise. The ladies working there went crazy, wanting to pinch and kiss the boys, and they literally held them hostage not letting them push their grocery cart. Morgan was like, "Can I PLEASE just push this cart?" and they just kept taking pictures and carrying on and on. Finally Morgan came down one of the aisles and a whole herd of kids were following him and he was saying, "I can't believe this!" and we were so stricken with awe that we couldn't look around but just kept meeting everyone and shaking hands! What a trip! We managed to get an ice cream cone and got out of there.

By my third night I was still a basket case, worse than the first two nights, so I really didn't do anything until today like cooking and laundry. It's like having a heck of a bad hangover with the "jet lag" of the watch system payoff. Headache city and finding your way around a new town, trying to communicate and smile all the way...WOW it was a doozy! There's a great friendliness of these people though, a genuine curiosity and sincerety that can't be denied, and a super hospitality. It's been a great introduction to Indonesia, and now it's time again to get this show on the road!

Eventually we managed to get down the busy one way street along the harbor which is like the shopping bazaar hub on one side and the local eateries on the back side. Along every store front or shack there was a rooster tied to a post, and several people walking around carrying roosters too??? People came pouring out of their shops to see the boys and pinch them and take more photos and they were starting to revolt. We told them to just keep smiling...we found lots of produce, some of it fresh and some of it pretty limp, like carrots. The apples were imported from the USA! There were bananas and papaya, river kong cabbage, onions, garlic, mandarines, grapefruit, watermelon, squash, chilies, coconuts (and an amazing shredding machine), cucumbers, french beans, long beans, russett potatoes, brown eggs, quail eggs, and probably much more. Each place is cordoned off with a tarp or flimsy wall of some sort, and every inch of every wall and counter was covered with stuff! We wandered down one in between row back to where there were clothes hung for sale, and there were some parakeets for sale as well so the boys were enchanted with that. Another day we found a beautiful parrot (an orange bill rosella?) tied to a stick in one shop, as well as a pen with several weird looking birds that were prey for a raptor of some sort in another cage! Morgan saw a skeleton and realized that the banana eating birds were dinner for the bid bird! Very interesting!

Back at the hotel we treated ourselves to dinner out, and the food was all deliciously spicy and laden with chilies. Morgan impressively downed a whole bunch loudly proclaiming his Mexican birthright the whole time until one he had was fiery enough to shut him up. He found out that they burn coming out the next day too! We met some very nice Australians that had raced from Darwin and were turning around to go back now...crazy! It's only about 300 miles each way, but still, "just for the fun of it" smacks when I don't have any fun and have to do it for a living! Another guy was Italian and unfortunately he told us that when he came home to the boat the other day that there was a giant python hanging in his galley!!! Apparently the snake swam out and climbed aboard via the anchor chain, found its way inside and surprised him! YIKES! He said he managed to get a rope around it and put it in a big blanket, I don't know what he did with it after that? So then today (our last day) we heard from an American (we knew him in Fiji first season and Majuro second season) that was at the Harbor Master and was told that there was a crocodile off the pier today! Needless to say nobody is going swimming for a while! and watch out for Komodo dragons while we're at it!

First Port of call - Indonesia
Kathy
08/05/2012, Saumlaki, Tanimbar, INDO

We arrived to Saumlaki's harbor at sunset last night, with the arrival made possible in the daylight because we changed our clocks again by setting them back an hour, HA HA. There were all these fishing barges with huts on top of them lining the channel on the way in, stuff that's obviously not on the charts! There were also two sailboats anchored beyond the pier and three big ships at anchor, so we motored in behind them. One came on the radio and told us to anchor behind him because the direction we were heading, towards shore and shallower water (we're anchored in 70ft. and were looking for the 35ft. on the chart) had a bunch of fishing nets strung out. Those are very difficult to see in waning light. So we fell in behind him and abeam of the larger sailboat. After confirming with that caller for local time, which we had set correctly, we found out that they were leaving the next day. They had been in a rally from Darwin to Saumlaki and now the race was finished so they were going home! Imagine that?! So, we will try to figure out if they can check us in here or not, as that is not the plan (we are scheduled to make several ports before official check in at Bali), because your 30 day visa starts running and that's not enough time if it starts ticking from here.

It was quite interesting to hear the wailing prayer go off just after we anchored, it seemed to go on and on for about an hour. It went off again at daybreak, and sound carries so well over the water. We are assuming this is the Muslim call to prayer, as they did it in Lautoka, Fiji when we were in town by the mosque. I am counting on dressing even more conservatively than in Majuro, with long skirts and sleeved tops. It's so cold here for us anyways, we won't be complaining about the heat! We are surprised what being at 8 degrees south is like compared to only one degree more at 7 degrees north, it's always hot in Majuro unless you're in 20kts of wind and soaking wet. And we're all out of hot chocolate, darn! I don't even have any decaf tea! Some day I might break down and start drinking coffee.

So this morning after some yoga to prepare my legs for shore (ooh boy it felt good to stretch!), a bowl of hot oatmeal, some boatwork, and a new arriving boat that we met two years ago in Fiji and Majuro, we will hit the town! We will report what we find later, but so far it's a low lying island with plenty of buildings ashore, including two very ostentatious looking cathedrals of some sort (don't strike me as mosques, but what do I know?) and it looks like a pretty busy little port.

Good news from the US as well, it looks like we may have company in Bali for Allen's birthday. Calder Stratford and his family are going to try and visit! We are very excited about that prospect! They are flying standby with a 3 year old daughter and 6 month old baby boy! We hope it's a piece of cake for them...I must say I was excited to see a 747 nonetheless on its' ascent over us this AM, bound the opposite direction of the moon!

We survived the Torres Straits
Kathy
08/01/2012, Arafura Sea

Two weeks since our sad departure from Rodrick Bay, SI, and we are still eating from the bounty that they gifted us with. We've even dreamed about them, which tells me that it significantly altered our psyche's to be there!

Back in the Louisiades of PNG, we spent our first night at anchor after 4 days of rough sailing from the SI. After much trading and another day of sailing, we anchored again in front of a small village and we were totally inundated with children in canoes coming out to trade. It was the first place we've ever seen in the entire S.Pac. that gathered eggs from their wandering chickens. We were also offered a rooster there in trade for a ball. We told them we wouldn't care for a rooster, that they should eat it themselves (the woman said she would kill and dress it for me even) and after much debate, the boys decided they couldn't part with their beloved Mexican soccerball (futbol). They wanted material to sew clothes, but aside from sailcloth we didn't have any so I traded off a couple of old sheets. One lady wanted to make sport jersies so they could tell the teams apart, and I said that would be a terrible waste of material, why don't they just use a banana leaf or such tied on their arm or waist, the same way they neatly wrap bunches of veggies at the market. I also asked why don't they just make grass skirts and apparently nobody even knows how to make them anymore.

We left that anchorage after one night, only to be faced with high winds and horribly rough seas within the giant lagoon, so we didn't dare try and go through the pass out but for the first time ever turned around and went back to our anchorage. Of course, the traders were happy to keep trading until we had to call it all off because it was getting repetitive.

After another 5 days of really rough sailing, and a final puking salute to the Pacific, we found refuge behind Dalrymple Is. in the Torres Straits. We weren't the only ones there, there were 2 other boats. It was 80 feet deep right up to the edge of the island, and it had a beautiful beach teasing us. Despite being at anchor, we didn't go ashore in any of these places, although we did swim in the Louisiades. We also caught a giant dorado, the first since leaving Mexico! And can you believe I actually had the exact items necessary to make delicious poisson cru, or Fijian kokoda?! That's amazing having not been to a market or grocery store in 3 weeks! It's raw fish marinated in lime juice, coconut cream that I squeezed from coconut I shredded myself, diced tomatoes, slivered cucumbers, a real red chili, and pepper. YUM! I should've served it up in a coconut shell!

What a strange body of water, the Torres Straits, one which we hope to never transit again, nor would we recommend it to anyone! The whole thing is full of islands, rocks, shoals, reefs, and it's all the same depth of 50ft. or less, with big winds and steep, choppy seas. The water is also murky green, seafoam green, no matter deeper or shallower, so it's no fun trying to pick things out, unlike in Fiji where you know there's reefs but the water shows deep blue, green, and turquoise to tell the difference.

One small "rock" that was directly in our path seemed to have a giant force field sucking us up to it, and instead of going to leeward of it we were on the windward side blowing towards it...even with the motor on 1500rpm we barely made 2kts and scraped by.

We anchored another night at Nagir Island and it was so rough we might as well have kept sailing, although that seemed to only be asking for trouble trying to find your way around all the obstacles in the dark. There were always several giant cargo ships that were transiting as well, and kept us on our toes. One day we even had a sleek little airplane overfly us, AUS Maritime/Customs, and they radioed us for some info. and that was that. Once we made it to the final channel we couldn't believe our speed over ground, 13 knots! It was like being spit out, more likely! The only time Love Song's ever moved so fast was on a sleigh ride from San Diego to Catalina Is. in a gale force storm that closed LAX airport! Anyways, we are THANKFUL to be done with it! The only fun part was looking at "Australia", the closest we've ever been or will be?

We celebrated Dallas and Dulce's birthdays on the 31st of July, complete with chocolate cake. Hard to believe it's August and 3 of us have birthday countdowns on. Finally we're getting some deep water under the keel again (130ft/HA!) and are flying along in the moonlight at 7.7kts, and should be to Tanimbar, Saumlaki by Sunday.

First Annual Rodrick Bay Yacht Festival
Kathy
07/22/2012, Louisiade Archipelago, PNG

Last weekend we were back in Rodrick Bay after a week's worth of Honiara's Pacific Arts Festiva that ran the 1st -14th of Julyl. They did a really outstanding job putting that all together with something like 23 different Pacific nations attending. Each country had its own bure or hut, and the Solomon Island provinces each had amazing meeting houses with their individual styling and sub culture. There were several different venues to celebrate as well, in which the countries each traveled by mini bus to put on their shows. We were lucky to have been right in the central area of the National Museum where they had the film festival, theater productions, and the art exhibition across the street. Needless to say the experience was incredible, well worth timing being there to participate. I fell in love with the USP (Univ. South Pac.) musical, "Drua, Ocean of Fire", attending three of their performances. It was very exciting to see such a high quality performance and I just couldn't get enough.

On the heels of Pacific Arts came the first annual Rodrick Bay Hideaway Yacht Festival, which was the spectacular culmination of 6 weeks of hard work that we witnessed and were a part of with our village friends. There were 8 yachts participating, a great turnout for a first time event, and everyone was delighted with the program. Upon arrival at the beach last Monday morning, we were greeted by the lovely ladies in their custom grass skirts, pandanus tops, and heavy layers of shell money draped over them. We were handed a drinking coconut laced with red hibiscus and a bamboo straw, had a lei draped over our heads, and were led in procession through the "gate" into the roundhouse seating area. There must've been upwards of a hundred people who came from the other side, "Haroro Village", as well as some other villagers that came in their dugouts. We were treated to the national anthem, and the pan pipes started to play with the men in their custom skirts with ferns tucked in the waist band, arm bands, and leg bands, as well as long coconut hair wigs that made them look fantastic! After the opening ceremony celebration we took a walk through the village to the last house before the jungle trail to the other side, to see a local garden. Along the way we noticed the sago palm, from which most of their housing is made from, the coral cuttings that are burned to make lime for using with the betelnut chew, another pile of coral for export to be used in tropical fishtanks far away, and the betelnut trees themselves which a youngster climbed and dropped down a load for anyone who wished to try it.

Upon returning for lunch, which was local custom food of fried fish heads, sweet potato, banana, and watermelon slices served on woven plates with banana leaves, we ate and went back to the boats for snorkel gear and had an afternoon snorkel. We reconvened at 3pm when Lilian, head man John's wife, and another woman, both dressed in their custom clothing (same as they wore on their wedding days) showed us how to weave palm leaf baskets. I one was asked to do a demonstration of sewing the roof materials into a roof panel, so I was hauled off to Mary and David's house to be dressed in the same custom manner in Mary's traditional costume. That was a big hit with the locals when I returned all decked out, and I went to work sewing just as I had been taught. Everyone thought it was funny when the puppy Coco climbed into my lap while I sewed too, as that's where she spent a lot of time napping when we were making roof panels in weeks prior.

The second day we were greeted at the beach landing again, and this time there was more dancing, pan piping, and singing and many more people attending, including the tourism office. It was fantastic! Now we could understand what they were doing from 11pm - 4am every night, practicing perfect for us! That day there was a tour of Lilian's kitchen, where 3 ladies dressed only in traditional skirts showed us how they make three different kinds of custom pudding. YUM! This would all go into the biti (oven) for the feast that would be the grand finale. After another lovely luncheon, we returned to listen to a headhunter tale where the chief made fire by rubbing two sticks together and sent his warriors out on the warpath. They returned with 9 skulls, and they are the real things! When one of the cruisers said, "You don't do that anymore, do you"? and it was silent for a minute, and someone answered if they had to defend themselves, then yes! There is still some pretty serious rivalry between islands and provinces in the SI. Very interesting...

That afternoon there was a mini market of fresh vegetables and potatoes, cucumbers, betelnuts, and other garden goodies for trade, and it was the strangest feeling I had looking at them spread around that it felt like a scene out of a Ken Follett novel as something rather midieval! There were others that had set up their trade goods such as carvings, shells, shell money necklaces, and WWII artifacts. One man had Clark D. Brown's dog tag on a laniard, and there were utensils dated 1917, from WWI that were used again in WWII. These things tend to show up when they're gardening. We traded for a canteen that's imprinted with GM Co. for General Motors Co. and it's dated 1942. WOW! Someone's initials are etched into it on the front as well, HBK, and they nearly speak to you when you hold these things, like memories coming out of them! Cool.

So the day ended with a live pig being brought in on a travois hefted onto two men's shoulders which was presented to replace the life of the pig that was cooked for the feast. The costumed women all had giant baskets of pudding on their heads, each decorated lavishly like a war canoe but decorated with flowers. The depth of their hospitality was now showing that they would feed everyone present, upwards of a couple hundred people, and a giant spread of leaves was placed across the area outside of the roundhouse and everyone sat down to eat. There was pulled pork, fish, potatoes, and the three kinds of pudding. Unfortunately for Morgan who had spent the previous night vomiting due to ingesting a large amount of sea water during the snorkeling, he declined eating but the rest of us enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was a festival of delight and wonder for all of us "yachties" for sure, hard to believe we didn't have a better understanding of what it would entail since we were around for most of the preparations, but we are certainly grateful for the surprise and very impressed, as I'm sure were all the village visitors as well!

Rodrick Bay inhabitants are the most kind, caring, and considerate people we've ever encountered and they are the heart of the most incredible Solomon Islander experience one could ever have!

First Annual Rodrick Bay Yacht Festival
Kathy
07/22/2012, Louisiade Archipelago, PNG

Last weekend we were back in Rodrick Bay after a week's worth of Honiara's Pacific Arts Festiva that ran the 1st -14th of Julyl. They did a really outstanding job putting that all together with something like 23 different Pacific nations attending. Each country had its own bure or hut, and the Solomon Island provinces each had amazing meeting houses with their individual styling and sub culture. There were several different venues to celebrate as well, in which the countries each traveled by mini bus to put on their shows. We were lucky to have been right in the central area of the National Museum where they had the film festival, theater productions, and the art exhibition across the street. Needless to say the experience was incredible, well worth timing being there to participate. I fell in love with the USP (Univ. South Pac.) musical, "Drua, Ocean of Fire", attending three of their performances. It was very exciting to see such a high quality performance and I just couldn't get enough.

On the heels of Pacific Arts came the first annual Rodrick Bay Hideaway Yacht Festival, which was the spectacular culmination of 6 weeks of hard work that we witnessed and were a part of with our village friends. There were 8 yachts participating, a great turnout for a first time event, and everyone was delighted with the program. Upon arrival at the beach last Monday morning, we were greeted by the lovely ladies in their custom grass skirts, pandanus tops, and heavy layers of shell money draped over them. We were handed a drinking coconut laced with red hibiscus and a bamboo straw, had a lei draped over our heads, and were led in procession through the "gate" into the roundhouse seating area. There must've been upwards of a hundred people who came from the other side, "Haroro Village", as well as some other villagers that came in their dugouts. We were treated to the national anthem, and the pan pipes started to play with the men in their custom skirts with ferns tucked in the waist band, arm bands, and leg bands, as well as long coconut hair wigs that made them look fantastic! After the opening ceremony celebration we took a walk through the village to the last house before the jungle trail to the other side, to see a local garden. Along the way we noticed the sago palm, from which most of their housing is made from, the coral cuttings that are burned to make lime for using with the betelnut chew, another pile of coral for export to be used in tropical fishtanks far away, and the betelnut trees themselves which a youngster climbed and dropped down a load for anyone who wished to try it.

Upon returning for lunch, which was local custom food of fried fish heads, sweet potato, banana, and watermelon slices served on woven plates with banana leaves, we ate and went back to the boats for snorkel gear and had an afternoon snorkel. We reconvened at 3pm when Lilian, head man John's wife, and another woman, both dressed in their custom clothing (same as they wore on their wedding days) showed us how to weave palm leaf baskets. I one was asked to do a demonstration of sewing the roof materials into a roof panel, so I was hauled off to Mary and David's house to be dressed in the same custom manner in Mary's traditional costume. That was a big hit with the locals when I returned all decked out, and I went to work sewing just as I had been taught. Everyone thought it was funny when the puppy Coco climbed into my lap while I sewed too, as that's where she spent a lot of time napping when we were making roof panels in weeks prior.

The second day we were greeted at the beach landing again, and this time there was more dancing, pan piping, and singing and many more people attending, including the tourism office. It was fantastic! Now we could understand what they were doing from 11pm - 4am every night, practicing perfect for us! That day there was a tour of Lilian's kitchen, where 3 ladies dressed only in traditional skirts showed us how they make three different kinds of custom pudding. YUM! This would all go into the biti (oven) for the feast that would be the grand finale. After another lovely luncheon, we returned to listen to a headhunter tale where the chief made fire by rubbing two sticks together and sent his warriors out on the warpath. They returned with 9 skulls, and they are the real things! When one of the cruisers said, "You don't do that anymore, do you"? and it was silent for a minute, and someone answered if they had to defend themselves, then yes! There is still some pretty serious rivalry between islands and provinces in the SI. Very interesting...

That afternoon there was a mini market of fresh vegetables and potatoes, cucumbers, betelnuts, and other garden goodies for trade, and it was the strangest feeling I had looking at them spread around that it felt like a scene out of a Ken Follett novel as something rather midieval! There were others that had set up their trade goods such as carvings, shells, shell money necklaces, and WWII artifacts. One man had Clark D. Brown's dog tag on a laniard, and there were utensils dated 1917, from WWI that were used again in WWII. These things tend to show up when they're gardening. We traded for a canteen that's imprinted with GM Co. for General Motors Co. and it's dated 1942. WOW! Someone's initials are etched into it on the front as well, HBK, and they nearly speak to you when you hold these things, like memories coming out of them! Cool.

So the day ended with a live pig being brought in on a travois hefted onto two men's shoulders which was presented to replace the life of the pig that was cooked for the feast. The costumed women all had giant baskets of pudding on their heads, each decorated lavishly like a war canoe but decorated with flowers. The depth of their hospitality was now showing that they would feed everyone present, upwards of a couple hundred people, and a giant spread of leaves was placed across the area outside of the roundhouse and everyone sat down to eat. There was pulled pork, fish, potatoes, and the three kinds of pudding. Unfortunately for Morgan who had spent the previous night vomiting due to ingesting a large amount of sea water during the snorkeling, he declined eating but the rest of us enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was a festival of delight and wonder for all of us "yachties" for sure, hard to believe we didn't have a better understanding of what it would entail since we were around for most of the preparations, but we are certainly grateful for the surprise and very impressed, as I'm sure were all the village visitors as well!

Rodrick Bay inhabitants are the most kind, caring, and considerate people we've ever encountered and they are the heart of the most incredible Solomon Islander experience one could ever have!

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