One minute You Have it, Then You Don't!
20 September 2013 | Lelapa Island, Vanuatu
We had a splendid time in Port Vila, but we've since split. As usual, it was great to get there, then after a week, it was great to leave. Most cruising boats pick up a mooring in the inner harbor from Yachting World Marina. It was a really friendly marina and a good hub. When we were checking in at the office, I casually looked at the bulletin board with all the cruiser's boat cards pinned up, accumulated over the years and wouldn't you know, my eyes fixed on our friend's card- Mark & Judy from Windbird. They passed through here in 2006. It made me think about how in some places, years can go by and it's like time stands still. It looked like the pin was just stuck in that card last week.
We accomplished most of what we intended while in Port Vila. Amazingly, we found the correct size Powercoils (threaded inserts) in order to fix the stripped out screws on the staysail furler, I slopped on some varnish, we got the groceries, propane, laundry, fuel & various other items we needed and we did some small maintenance projects. Prior to 1980 when Vanuatu gained independence, it was ruled by both the French & the British in a unique “Condominium” style government. This helps us because the French influence made for French grocery stores that are leaps & bounds better than the usual. So, we were able to get things we've been missing like artichokes, fancy mushrooms, dry sausage, cornmeal, wheat flour, brown rice and paper coffee filters! A few of us went shopping together and at one point Richard, Mark & Jon were all standing near the checkout with the carts waiting for us girls to finish shopping. Jon showed them the 13% chocolate granola cereal he's been getting & said it was really good. So Mark holds up his 11% chocolate and decides 13 is better, so he slinks over to the cereal isle and gets some for the cart, then Richard said he already put some in the cart but Ali took it back out again. So he goes back over and grabs some more & puts it in the cart. Normally, this wouldn't even be an option, but the French love their chocolate for breakfast. There was also a wonderful pastry shop with great eclairs. Needless to say, we indulged some!
The produce market was the best ever also. There were the usual horizontal bodies gracing the stalls but there were tons of alert vendors ready to sell you their stuff at great prices. We were able to get fresh herbs & a type of raspberry, which was something new. There was a lot of prepared local food available as well which was nice to see but we didn't feel like eating any of it.
We looked around for souvenirs but didn't see anything that jumped out at us. They do get cruise ships in Port Vila so we had to share the city with a lot of tourists at times. Perusing a shop one day, a lady storekeeper says to Jon “you're not off a cruise ship are you?” I guess we look a little brown & faded? I hope that's all! I know we're certainly not cold anymore. We've come 3 degrees north so far as we move up the island chain. It's funny what a difference it makes. Vanuatu produces wood carvings, the women so some basket weaving & make colorful clothes and there is the usual shell jewelry. That's pretty much what we've seen so far.
We found some really nice biking at Port Vila which was great until the second time when we got about 25km outside the town on a lonely county road & Jon's back tire popped. The spare tube was.... in the dinghy of course! We still think that these things won't happen to us. But no problem, we just walked a couple miles out to a busier part of the road and a very nice man gave us a ride all the way back to the marina in air conditioned comfort! We were able to buy a new tire the following day but not the special 10.5mm new screw we need to replace the one that's stripped out now from changing the tire so no more bikes. One minute you have something & then the next you don't! It's such a bummer since we're always amazed at how much ground we can cover on bikes. Plus, we had big plans for the upcoming islands with lots of recommendations for trails. So we did some hot walks to see the sights such as the cultural museum & some monuments but nothing was a standout.
After a week, our little group of three (Victory & Blue Rodeo) headed out fully stocked & ready for some clear water & diving. We anchored in a cove a few miles away from Port Vila at a dive site called Paul Reef. It turned out to be a great dive with really tame fish since some of the dive boats feed them. We had our own pet grouper for the duration, following us around with his mouth open. We have such a good dynamic diving together. Everyone is calm in the water & good on air so we have long, relaxing dives just poking around taking pictures and looking for stuff.
The following day, we moved a few more miles to where we are now- Lelapa Island. It was a little tricky getting into the anchorage since there's a lot of coral all around but once we got settled, it became obvious that this place is a jewel. We discovered a knock your socks off dive yesterday with deep swim-through canyons full of soft corals & bannerfish. It's like something out of a fairytale with all of the pink, purple & peach colored frilly corals and multicolored fish. The water clarity was outstanding. Some people have told us that Vanuatu's diving wasn't as good as Fiji but this is so not true for us! We think it's been fantastic! Now the internet, that leaves a lot to be desired so no pictures for a while until we get to someplace that has it.
We met Rubin, the chief & his wife Narry who live on the island & operate a little day tour business. Guests can come from the mainland to this island for snorkeling, to see a cave & have a look at an old WWII plane wreck. We went ashore to introduce ourselves & ended up doing these things also. Devil's cave was interesting as you can walk in about 60 meters. It was filled with small bats. The plane was nothing more than a pile of twisted aluminum but the trail to get to it was nice. Rubin brought each boat a few grapefruit and we in turn gave him a few items for trade and then yesterday, after Jon & I took a long walk following a trail on the island, we came back to the dinghy to find they'd prepared a box of shells and fruit for each boat as a farewell since we're leaving today. This has been an absolutely beautiful spot for diving and it's great to feel so welcome. Even looking out toward the cliff walls on shore is lovely, especially with the light of the full moon we've had recently. The six of us shared a great dinner aboard Victory a couple of nights ago & finished it with a late round of dominoes. We've spent so many fine days together I can't count. This morning, there's a school of squid under the boat. The water is so clear I can see all the fish swimming on the bottom- my kind of anchorage.
But we're leaving today to find more shelter from a low pressure system that's headed this way. We just have to decide where.