Because we will be in New Zealand more than 12 months out of 24, we each had to have another Chest X-Ray, a physical, and blood tests to submit with our request for a Visitor's Visa Extension.
HIV: Negative ... Syphilis: Negative ... Hepatitis: Negative
We weren't too worried about the first two, but are relieved by the results of the third. After all the kava we drank in Vanuatu from coconut shells that had passed the lips of entire male population of several villages which, we are certain, had never been washed, we were half expecting to contract hepatitis. Looks like we dodged that bullet.
When visiting Vanuatu some people load up on all the vaccines and prophylactic drugs they can force into their bodies. We chose to take none. Mosquitoes that carry both dengue fever and malaria are present on most islands and hepatitis is a concern in places without decent water supplies or satisfactory hygienic practices. Nothing can be done for dengue fever except avoiding bites in the first place. We feel that is our best course of action for malaria as well. The mosquitoes that carry it are most prevalent during the summer months and bite only at night. We were there in winter. The three main prophylactic drugs recommended by the CDC all come with potentially unpleasant side effects and no guarantee of actually keeping one safe from the disease. Should malaria be contracted, there is a cure. The vaccines for Hepatitis A, B and C seemed somewhat ineffective as well.
We decided we would always carry and drink our own water, use bug juice with the highest concentration of DEET, cover up if mosquitoes were present, and be back on Tenaya at dusk. All good intentions, but in reality, we failed miserably. Usually the DEET and our lightweight pants and long sleeved shirts remained in our packs while we found ourselves engaged with locals on shore way past dark. We often ingested local food and water offered to us by generous hosts, and drank kava that had first been chewed.
So it is with a sigh of relief that we received the results of our blood tests. No diseases, no infections, no liver problems. We hope the Immigration officials here in New Zealand deem us worthy to remain in their enchanting country well into 2012.
See pictures and the story of our passage from New Caledonia to New Zealand on our website: http://www.tenayatravels.com
10/27/2011, 90 miles from Opua
Sunshine, smooth seas, light winds, sailing nicely on a beam reach. Cloudless, moonless nights with billions of stars. Pink, red and orange sunrises and sunsets. What could be better for the feared passage to New Zealand? Two tuna! We've been feasting on sashimi, seared tuna topped with mango, and fish tacos with shredded cabbage and tomatillo salsa. Do we have to stop tomorrow?
10/23/2011, 150 miles SW of Norfolk Island
It's Monday, Oct. 24 at noon (local time) and conditions are ideal. The wind has shifted more to the NE allowing us to head toward New Zealand rather than directly south down the center of the Tasman Sea. Sailing close reached in 10-15 knots with a moderate swell. Last Katie had dolphins swim over and ride the bow waves for a while. Clouds are shading the sun today as we pass into the high. Each day grows a little cooler as we move further S. The stars are shining more brightly as the moon wanes. What a nice passage!
10/21/2011, 250 south west of New Caledonia
We left New Caledonia 2 days ago. For the first 24 hours we sailed into the 20 -25 knot wind and fairly large waves, about 8 to 12 feet high. Very bumpy ride! Over the past 24 hours the waves have become a little smaller and our ride is much nicer. Both Katie and I have been sleeping well between our 5 hour shifts. It is still hard to believe how well you can sleep when your bed is bouncing all around and rolling you back and forth.
With the trade winds still blowing hard we will continue to go west as we go south. it's never fun to be going west when your destination is to the east! But when we get further south (we are at 26 degrees now, so maybe in another 250 miles at 30 degrees) the wind will shift and come from the west. That will push us back towards New Zealand.
We are having a great time, with nice weather during the day and many stars at night.
10/07/2011, Tanna, Vanuatu
Sailing into Port Resolution is like sailing back in time to when the earth was young and volatile and the lives of the native people were inextricably intertwined with nature. Villages with huts made of woven pandanus leaves are nestled beneath the lush canopy. Men paddle their hand hewn outrigger canoes to fish and bats fly over the anchorage every night at dusk . Every person has a garden and they eat what is available. Their lives are simple but the people are rich with culture, family and natural resources. We can learn a lot from them.
Jim and I were invited to a circumcision ceremony on the far side of the island by a friend that lives in that village. She and her daughter dressed us up and painted our faces in the traditional fashion. We were welcomed and accepted into the village.
In the black of night we stood on the rim of Mt. Yasur as his belly roared sending clouds of gas and ash mushrooming up from deep in his bowels and blowing fantastic explosions of incandescent red and orange bits and streamers high into the sky.
We were led by a new friend back into the bush behind her village to see natural hot springs that have recently emerged and learned much about that corner of the island.
I spent one morning with another new friend visiting her garden and those of her family while learning about new foods. We spent time together and later she gave me two very special feathers that are worn in ceremonies. I will treasure them.
We spent three days in a remote village a two hour walk from the anchorage where we slept in a tree house, drank kava with the chief, the roots having been chewed by boys, and lived among the villagers. Jim helped gather, shell and prepare the coconuts to make milk for the laplap while I grated manioc on a spiky branch and learned by helping to make the laplap inside a communal kitchen while a curious and very vocal baby chick hopped about my shoulders. We witnessed kastom dancing where the ladies put a skirt on me and Robin rubbed her painted face against mine to color it. They taught me two dances. The red glow emerging from the summit of Mt. Yasur in the otherwise black night was framed by coconut palms outside the window of our tree house.
Tanna is a magical place. We were anchored in Port Resolution for three weeks and left only because my finger became badly infected. Now we are in Vila waiting for it to heal and the side effects to abate. We feel a bit cheated to have our time cut short there and be tied to a mooring ball at the edge of a seaside resort.
Jim took some amazing photos and I've been working on pages for our website about our time on Tanna. See www.tenayatravels.com for stories and photo galleries. Additions are being made almost daily.
09/09/2011, Analgawat Bay, Aneityum Vanuatu
I can't believe I drank something that had been chewed up by two prepubescent boys and spat out into a wad, then mixed with water and strained through an old, dirty t-shirt. Kava. Made almost the traditional way; the t-shirt in favor of coconut fibers. The taste is vile. Tanna is lush and fertile with no detrimental bugs so the fruit and veggies and kava are of excellent quality. Today is Monday, market day in Lenakel. It seems everyone from this side of the island wants to go there. We piled into a Toyota Hilux with 13 people and bags of who knows what in the back, and six people in the cab. We counted ourselves lucky to be inside as the truck trundled along engulfed by primordial wilderness, negotiating the treacherous, narrow, rutted, often steep, sometimes completely non-existent dirt road across the island.
Our local friend, Winnie, had invited us to her village near Lenakel. After showing us around, she took us to a large circular area cleared out of the dense green bush. An enormous tree with an expansive canopy stands protectively in the middle while a banyan hovers off to one side with a small tree house clinging to the massive tangle of a trunk. A kava bar, called a nakamal, made of bamboo, is nestled between the two. It is here, in the open yet protected sanctuary, that men from two villages gather each day in the magical hour before sunset for a bowl or two.
Here on Tanna, in Vanuatu, women are not allowed near the nakamal while the kava is being prepared. They do not drink it. It is strictly a guy thing. Thanks to Winnie we had our own private kava experience. Two boys of about ten or twelve years chewed the root until it was mushy then spit it into a bowl. I had no desire to watch this. Three men helped mash the spitball with water through the decrepit fabric. This village has no water. No river, spring or tank to collect rainwater. The source, or how they clean each bowl in between servings, are details I'd rather not know. We like kava. We learned this on Aneityum where the root is ground up in a meat grinder, not chewed. It looks like dirty dishwater and tastes positively awful. Imagine a hint of pepper in tepid, sooty water, drunk from half a coconut shell which has passed the lips of half the village. It is a mild intoxicant and ever so slight hallucinogen, completely natural. How could we not try it? It numbs the lips or inside the mouth a little and puts the mind in a very mellow and serene place. Yes, despite the taste, which is actually growing on us, we like kava.