Passage Hawaii to Vancouver - Day 10
20 July 2013
We continue our pursuit of the ever elusive North Pacific High, the mythical place of no wind; the center of the anti-cyclone where we will get to end our journey northwards towards Siberia and turn eastward towards home. We have never sailed through a 1035 high before. Imagine; a journey to the center of the high! Near Rarotonga we nearly fell into the center of a vicious low but escaped that peril, fortunately. But the center of a high . . . the very idea is exciting; I mean I think it will be a real high for us and for Sarah Jean; possibly the highlight of our passage. The problem is the High keeps drifting higher and higher north. Sometimes the pursuit gets tiring. I think it is high time that the High settled down and stopped being so highly unpredictable.
This morning is cool and foggy. Yes, foggy. The sun occasionally breaks through. It reminds me of Tofino in August. Home feels much closer today. We hope to finally turn east on Sunday morning at a latitude of 48 degrees north, which just happens to be the same latitude as Cape Flattery and the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Indeed, our course home will be straight east!
Let's get back to Vanuatu where Joanna is in terrible danger as an angry wild boar charges down the trail towards her. I'm really sorry that I had to put her in this terrible predicament but a tale of adventure needs a little drama!
VISION OF JOANNA - A Continuing Blog Story Set in Vanuatu
CHAPTER 5 - The Banyan Tree
Joanna, still winded from her fall, pulled herself up on one knee. She knew she could never outrun the boar. Running blind and scared town the rugged trail, she would surely stumble. Then the angry beast would be on top of her! Whatever happened after that would be very unpleasant! She snatched up her knife, jammed it into the leather sheath and threw herself head first into the ferns and palms that lined the trail, rolling down a hill and stopping hard against a large rock. Her left flip flop had become snagged on a sharp twig on the side of the trail as she flew through the foliage.
The wild boar was coming fast. Although Joanna could not see it, she could hear the drumming of its hooves; hear its heavy, raspy breathing and violent snorting as it charged after the fleeing boys. She hoped it would keep after them. They would get what they deserved for teasing her. But she knew the boar would stop and turn around as soon as it got near the village, sensing the presence of the dangerous men who often hunted it with spears. It would then turn around, come back up the trail, sniff her out and then come charging into the bush after her. That's what boars did; chase down anything or anyone who entered their territory. Her Papa had told her about wild boars.
Cut and bruised from her dive through the sharp-edged palms and her crash into the big rock, Joanna scrambled to her feet and began to run as fast her legs would carry her away from the trail. She was no longer winded, adrenalin pumping through her tiny body. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain on the bottom of her left foot and looked down to see that she had stepped on spiky thistle. It was then she noticed one of her precious flip flops was gone. But there was no turning back.
Joanna knew she had to find a protective hiding spot, a place where the boar could not reached her. She pressed on deeper and deeper into the dense jungle, unable to see anything but a swirling kaleidoscope of greenish foliage. Her beating heart and labored breathing filled her ears like the roar of an erupting volcano, blocking out her ability to hear the boar. Was he just a few steps behind her, about to charge? Or still back on the trail? Joanna knew she could not slow down to listen; she just kept running blindly into the jungle, going further and further away from the trail and her village.
Off to her right Joanna sensed brightness; a possible clearing amongst the trees. She headed in that direction and soon stepped out of the dense bush into an open grassy area. In the middle was an enormous banyan tree, the biggest she had ever seen. Its trunk was massive, rising skyward into a towering canopy of foliage resembling an umbrella. Thick branches, like grey undulating arms, reached out from the trunk to support the canopy. From these main branches hundreds of sturdy vines fell vertically to the ground like long icicles. There they had taken root, creating a forest of twisted poles all around the base of the tree. Joanna ran across the clearing towards the banyan tree looking for a place to hide.
To her dismay she found the trunk of the tree too massive to climb. She ran frantically around it looking for shelter. She found a deep, hollowed out area in the backside of the tree trunk. Across the entrance of the hollow were many vines that hung down from overhead branches. They were firmly rooted in the ground, forming a barrier of sturdy bark covered bars. The hollow looked like small a jail cell. Joanna thought she would be safe inside. With nowhere else to hide, she shinnied up the thick vines until she found an opening wide enough for her to squeeze through. She dropped down into the protective cage, moving quickly into the inky shadows at the back of hollow. Joanna sat down on a rock, waiting, trembling; hoping the boar had decided not to follow her.
The first sound Joanna heard was the rustling of leaves and the snapping of small branches. She pressed her back into the trunk of the banyan tree, trying her best to be invisible. Joanna peered out through the wall of vines in front of her. She saw blurry movement. A large black and brown mass had entered the clearing. It stopped and pawed at the ground, then moved slowly forward towards the tree. This time she could smell the boar. The odor was earthy and foul. Sensing its prey was trapped nearby, the boar moved forward, sniffing the air and grunting excitedly. Suddenly, it lowered its head and charged, smashing its head viciously into the vine barrier. Joanna screamed in fright! Several of the vines snapped under the impact of the boar's charge. Others were now hanging only by threads of fiber and bark.
The boar, an expert digger and forager, hooked one of its sturdy curved tusks around one of the few remaining protective vines. It began to pull, heaving and grunting with the strain. The boar was now only a few feet away. Joanna could see the fury in its black eyes, its battered hairy brown face and blotchy grey snout, covered with mud and saliva. Without thinking she picked up the heavy rock she had been sitting on, raised it high over her head and smashed it down on the boar's snout and tusk with all her might. It roared and squealed in pain, backing away from Joanna, blood dripping from its snout and mouth. The boar's front legs buckled and it fell to the ground. Joanna felt badly about hurting the boar, but only a little. Still holding the rock she watched as it turned around and hobbled away from the banyan tree, retreating, defeated, into the jungle to nurse its wounds. She looked down and saw the boar's broken tusk on the ground, still encircling the vine it had been pulling, wet blood splattered along the broken end. She picked it up, put it in the pocket of her shorts and then retreated to the back of her hollow where she lay down on the dry leaves and curled herself up into a little ball.
Night was falling. It began to rain.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .