Do you have any pot plants?
01 September 2013 | Anatom, Vanuatu
Yep, that was Vanuatu's star customs form question. What they meant was: Do you have any POTTED plants on board? And the answer would be, now that we've been to New Zealand and they took all of my air plants..... no. Only fake ones.
First impressions of Vanuatu at the southernmost island of Anatom is that this it's a wild & interesting place! This is a sleepy, beautiful island with reserved but friendly people living a very traditional island lifestyle that makes Fiji look somewhat advanced. The houses are the most traditional we've seen- houses of grass & woven palm fronds and the little "neighborhoods" are filled with attractive landscaping & grassy paths. The island foliage is really lush and fertile. There seems to be more growing with less effort. Meanwhile, the water is clear but cooler and the air has been downright chilly to us in the low 70's. Actually, we're freezing.
Ni-Vans, as they're called, speak Bislama, a form of pidkin English. For some reason, it reminds me a lot of pig latin which I only really "know" from my friend Charlie. Jon & I got a kick out of trying to read the administrative signs in the customs office on our first day here. We kept seeing the word "blong" & couldn't figure out what it meant. Turns out it is a way of saying for, is or of, I think. We do think it was developed by ear rather than as a written language which is partly why it seems funny to us. But some token words or phrases are:
Good morning= Gudmoning
Goodnight= Gud naet
Thank you= Tankyu tumas
Do you speak English?= Yu tok tok Engglis?
I want= Mi wanum
I've broken my leg= Mi brekem leg blong mi
Goodbye= Likim yu
Yesterday, 8 of us (Victory, Blue Rodeo, Chapter II & us) took a day hike to a waterfall, led by Webster, the headmaster for the school. He brought us to the owner of the trail to the waterfall who charged us about $6pp, then we continued on with both Webster & another guide. Of course we picked up a dog for company and he stepped on my heels in excitement the whole way, then napped at the waterfall while we ate lunch. I gave him some of my granola bar and we were tight. His name was Spring. The waterfall was really pretty & high but the best part was the path up and all the conversations we had along the way. It was hard to really communicate well with the two guys who were showing us the way since they are so soft spoken but we did pick up some tidbits. At one point, one of them took a fern frond and made a crown for his head- he wore this bright green ring for the rest of the way. And later on, I saw another man wearing one. All across the Pacific we've seem people wearing flowers & other plant materials for adornment and costumes but this is the most unique. On the way back down the trail, each of them gathered up a few plants to bring back to the village to plant near their houses. Ordinarily, we'd have gone for a swim but no one was hot enough to feel like it.
There's a couple living on a boat in the anchorage who are trying to set up a dive business here and the divemaster, Raoul, agreed to take us all diving today. The price is right, since we have all of our own gear- it was $5000Vatu which once divvied up among us amounted to $9US/person. The dive site was very close to the anchorage and it was s shallow, easy dive. But it was packed with interesting stuff including our first cuttlefish!! They are a crazy creature and when the divemaster patted his head he appeared to lean into it like a puppy. We got 3 sequential pictures of it as it changed color and shape & moved under a ledge- so neat. I'll post these pictures when I can but I don't think there's any internet for a week or more. We also saw 3 new kinds of nudibranchs. They come in so many colors, are kind of hard to find but so fun when you do see them. And really, since we've been in the Pacific, they're not that uncommon to see, it's just that as we move west, they're getting more ornate & flashy.
The dive was this morning but in the afternoon Jon & I went for a walk. We first walked on "Mystery Island" which is a sandy islet in the anchorage that was all quiet today but will be overrun with cruise ship passengers tomorrow since there's one coming. It's sort of difficult to imagine, since there's nothing really here, but someone told me it is the simplicity of it all that is the attraction. We'll see it firsthand tomorrow. Then we walked on the main island for a bit since I had a ham bone I wanted to try to give to Spring. I couldn't find him but believe it or not, there were dozens more hungry faces to choose from. We had another tag-along that I fed a granola bar. You just can't help it.
Along the way, we ran into some guys cutting coconuts & stopped to chat. Next thing we knew, we both had coconuts in our hands to drink from. They're so good! I read something that said that during the war, running short on medical supplies, they used coconut water as IV fluid for the wounded. Supposedly it has a good electrolyte composition as well. We've grown to love them. We walked the beach side paths, then on an interesting windwardside beach that actually had some grass beds with ducks, then we crossed back over the interior through woods, bogs and farmland. The cows are beautiful here and look so healthy. They have plenty of grass to eat from fertile volcanic soil. Vanuatu is known for it's quality beef. We're pretty excited to try it. The beach was full of pumice stone from the many underwater volcanoes in the area. We sailed through some rafts of it on the trip here. Vanuatu sits firmly in the "Pacific Ring of Fire" between two continental tectonic plates according to what I've read so it gets plenty of tremors & mini tsunamis although we haven't felt anything yet. Supposedly, from the air, one can see the bubbles rising to the surface from two different underwater volcanoes. Uhhh! I hope we don't sail over either of those!
Given what we saw yesterday, we've decided to spend a couple more days here and do some more diving. Raoul said that cuttlefish are usually in pairs from what he's seen and I'd really love to see some more. He also said that the diving here is the best in Vanuatu with the exception of the Coolidge wreck and Million Dollar Point where the US dumped a load of military equipment after the war ended rather than bring it back home. Now it's a dive. I can't say as that draws our attention very much but I suppose we'll do it if we happen to be right there since it's right off the beach on the island of Espiritu Santo. Meanwhile, the water is nice & clear here and there's lots to see. Given all the people who will be around, maybe being underwater will be the most peaceful place to be. Then it'll be off to Resolution Bay on Tanna (named after Capt Cook's ship) to explore the Mt Yasur volcano. We've heard it's amazing.