Saturday, November 6th, 2010
Asanvari Bay truly is an idyllic tropical paradise. It is an absolutely stunning spot. It was late afternoon by the time we motored around the corner, past a small island bluff and into the bay. The sun hovered calmly over the densely vegetated mountains which sloped steeply down to the sandy cresent moon shoreline. A waterfall cascaded down the side of the mountain into the crystal clear water of the lagoon off to port. The coral reef blinked with life just below the surface of the water. The reef was beautiful yes, but its proximity made it a tricky anchorage. Once more the Captain took a group in on the skiff to greet the local leadership and create a ‘program’ which seems the preferred thing. Chief Nelson was away on a health related trip so his son Nixon put together an amazing program for us.
On our second day the crew carried books and supplies donated in Nova Scotia up the winding path, through the forest, past beautifully palm thatched houses, tenderly tended gardens and ripening mango trees to the school where the children waited for us. After introducing ourselves and presenting the supplies we were given a special gift in return. They sang us three songs – their sweet harmonies spun, innocent, in the mango-scented air. Once they had given us a tour of the school buildings and asked all about our families back home, Paula led the kids in a game of ‘football’ which many of the crew happily joined. Any excuse to be a child again! Not only were they amazing singers, but they also turned out to be very talented athletes as well – showing us up on the football field and the volleyball court.
We were given a tour of the village and informed of some fun activities to do and then sent off to explore. Joani, Katelinn, Liam, Rebecca and Sophie among others found a wonderful spot to snorkel on the other side of the village and bay. The coral reef dropped off just a few metres from shore – offering a literal underwater kingdom of colour and marine life. Robert M, Ollie, Taia, Tiina and Clark, to name a few, spent half a day hiking high into the mountains. Lauren and Brad went for a boat ride and a hike to see the huge fruit bats that dwell in the nearby caves. Considered a delicacy in some spots you can order ‘flying fox’ at the fanciest of restaurants in Luganville or Port Vila. We held a trading day and the ship and crew were thrilled with their hand-woven bags and local produce. Vicky and Shawn once more set up a clinic. Almost everybody made it to the waterfall for a bath or a swim or a picnic – and a few took the opportunity to do some laundry. The waterfall hike in itself is a beautiful one as it boasts several pools at differing elevations. It’s hydro-power also supplies the village, indeed Vanuatu harnesses solar power on a wide-spread scale, utilizes its hydro-electric resources well and is beginning to experiment with wind power. Another thing they can be proud of!
Paul had taken 11 crew on an epic expedition in the monomoy (with its newly built mast), rowing and sailing the 17 miles from Pentecost to Maewo and the rest of the crew was chomping at the bit for their chance to take her out on the water. Mate Mike rose to the challenge and arranged another monomoy expedition – taking the crew out for a day sail around the island and for a swim at a secluded waterfall. The next day Paul took another chunk of the crew out for a similar sail. Yes, when tall ship sailors need a break from tall ship sailing, they sail small boats. We had beautiful wind during our stay at Asanvari – however one night, the wind went to nothing allowing us to drift to the reef. We set a stern anchor (which is an interesting piece of seamanship for us) to keep the ship lined up properly in this tranquil anchorage.
And what would a visit to a Vanuatu island be without kastom dancing, string band, kaikai and kava? Well, as far as we were concerned, not much of one. Nixon arranged a special day complete with all of the above. Those who were interested on the on-watch were encouraged to attend and our crew sat down to enjoy and as it happened, participate in, the performance. The men lined up outside of the thatched roofed meeting house they call the ‘yacht club’ for some reason.. They wore nothing but elaborate feather head-dresses and weaved loin cloths and body paint – their traditional attire. After a dramatic entrance they stomped and swung and chanted and shuffled – making their own beat with their feet and voices and the wooden sticks and clubs they carried. Impressive to say the least and once more a window to a culture. Afterwards we participated in a kava drinking ceremony. The Captain warned us that this Kava was the strongest in Vanuatu and he was absolutely correct. The preparation is a little different from Banam Bay. They grind the root down in a hand-turned, mounted grinder (Fred and a few others took over the task for a while) and then soak it in spring water for a long period of time, allowing it to saturate and infuse. Once dark and muddy they strain it through a cheese cloth, squeezing. Then repeat several times. You’ll want to sit down after you have one or two of these. Reports of tingling knees and a mild head-rush were reported among the crew. Though mostly it just created a sense of calm and relaxation. Captain told us not to over-do this stuff, we would regret that.
Dinner was served that night at the meeting hosue and it was delicious. Pig and goat, noodle and rice dishes, taro and vegetables – we were absolutely stuffed when we finished eating, but not so much that we could not dance to the Numbawon string band in Maewo! They had hiked in, carrying all of their instruments, from the next town. Mate Mike’s expedition had seen them walking along the rocky path parallel to the beach – miles away from Asanvari Bay. Asanvari indeed seems to be a base for many of the surrounding villages. People row their children to school in outrigger canoes every morning. Pretty sweet to see, early in the low bright light of morning, a man paddling his dugout canoe with his child aboard taking him or her to school.
The day before we left we arranged for the school children to visit the ship. We had seen where and what they were learning and now it was time to show them what we were learning. When they had finished the tour and their exploring the Captain requested that they sing us another song. They sang us three. They have serious talent, it’s astounding. Must be something in the water here. Saying goodbye to them meant that we were getting close to saying goodbye to Maewo. Had to get back to Santo. As we retrieved the stern anchor and hauled up the starboard anchor we took one last look at Asanvari Bay. What a wonderful spot. “Tapiana Asanvari!” Some of us might be back!