01 August 2013 | En route to Luganville
We are now on our way back to Luganville having spent the past few days in a very beautiful area about 1/2 way up the east coast of Espiritu Santo. The coast is sheltered by a line of offshore islands and you can sail for miles inside them in really sheltered waters. We have had a choice of delightful anchorages, all protected by reefs, making them doubly sheltered and calm. It's quite tricky getting in and out tho. Usually there is just a narrow passage with coral heads and waves breaking on either side. Sometimes it looks as though there can't possibly be a way through and its alarming going so close to the breaking waves. We have quite a good system tho: Our cruising guide gives us coordinates for the entrance which we can plot on the chart plotter. These are great, but not necessarily 100% reliable, and we have only once come across any channel markers, so we have one of us either on the foredeck or half way up the mast looking into the water, while the other steers us through. So far so good (I'm touching wood as I write that!)
One of the very beautiful things about this bit of coast is that there are a series of rivers which start at 'blue holes'.. These are crater like springs with deep crystal clear water which really does look bright blue. We went up to one in the dinghy a couple of days ago. It was a brilliant little adventure. A mile or so up a river which was really fast flowing to begin with as it narrowed under a bridge... we could only just make progress with our 3hp engine going flat out. But then it opened out into the most lovely tranquil waterway, winding through the jungle, with a white sand bottom, clear pale turquoise water, and no sound other than the birds. We couldn't believe the hole could be any more beautiful than the river, but when we got there it quite took our breath away... Extraordinary colours: Every shade of blue from pale turquoise to deep cobalt, vivid bright green luxuriant vegetation dipping down into the water, and the occasional flash of orange fungus on a tree trunk, or a deep red flower. And just incredibly clear water. Apparently it comes up through limestone which is what gives it its clarity and colour. There was no one there except us, and swimming was like gliding through silk. Coming back down the river we just allowed ourselves to drift with the current which was wonderfully peaceful, until we got back to the narrow bit, which was even more alarming going with the current than against it, especially as we were being watched and cheered on by about 20 local boys standing on the bridge above us! Luckily our trusty little dinghy (with us paddling like mad) managed it admirably!
Yesterday we went to the other blue hole, a longer dinghy ride across to the far side of the bay then up another river. This time there were no rapids to negotiate, and the river flowed lazily, overhung with huge trees with gnarly roots and rope like vines hanging down into the water, which gave it a mysterious feel, especially as the sky was overcast and a bit threatening. The upper reaches were more open, but there were thick mats of some sort of floating plant on either side, which had encroached so much into the river that there was only a narrow channel through. With the sun briefly breaking through the thick grey clouds the contrast between the bright green of the plant and the clear turquoise water was amazing, although somewhere in the back of my mind I think it might be quite an invasive plant, and not very good news. (I am not sure about this, and there is not good enough Internet here to do a google search and check my facts!) Anyway, it got narrower and narrower until we eventually rounded a corner and there it was! Another possibly even more stunning blue hole! They are extraordinary, especially as they are so unexpected in the middle of the jungle. This one was slightly more commercialised and we were greeted by a very nice man, who very nicely asked us for 300 vatu each (about £2) which we very happily (and nicely! ) paid. Beautiful swimming again and very well worth every penny!
It is only 20 or so miles to Luganville and we are motoring as the wind is on our nose, and we need anyway to charge up our batteries. We are heading on to the Banks and Torres islands in a few days, then on to the Solomons, and have to clear out with Vaunatu customs at Luganville as there are not any customs facilities further north ... or much in the way of other facilities either apparently, so we will make the most of the last opportunity to stock up on food and fuel for a month or so! And it is Simon's birthday tomorrow so we can go out and celebrate! We can also link up there with Catnapp, who have a battery to give us which we need to take for someone in the Solomons. We are becoming quite a little cargo ship with that and our 5 medical boxes (each about the size of a school trunk). Lucky we are just a deux.. Our fore cabin is completely full to the ceiling!
Even though we are motoring along past a pretty uninhabited bit of coast, there seems to be a reasonable Digicel signal.. So lets see if I can post this.....might have to wait til we get to Luganville for the pic tho!
Oh and Happy Birthday for yesterday Pip!