Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Friday, 11 August 2017

Arriving in Vanuatu. 7th August 2017

After three days sailing from Fiji, with the wind picking up after a gentle start, we sighted Futuna Island, and slowly closed with it all day, finally passing about 5 miles off at midnight.  Futuna looked like a perfect volcanic cone, with the top cut off.  At dawn we gybed and sailed up the coast of Tanna, seeing the 3000' mountain sticking its head into the clouds.  To our delight there were humpback whales breaching nearby and before anchoring we motored out to get closer. The anchorage at Lenakel was far from promising, feeling very exposed, but we tucked in behind a small curl of surf on a reef point, and found it quite peaceful, although it was tight with another small yacht already there.

Ashore we found a rather battered concrete wharf, with jagged reinforcing bars making it a dangerous dinghy dock.  I set off to find Customs, but found the official had gone to Vila for a two day conference. However, to his credit the Inland Revenue man, Alain Roger, organised our clearance by phone with Adrian, in Vila.  It's a strange feeling landing in a new country, unsure of how things work.  Lenakel looked very third world, with dust devils blowing up the road, run down shacks, and people looking quite impoverished.  Somehow people reminded me of Papua New Guineans, with different features from Fiji.  I was helped by various men who spoke with me and guided me to places in excellent English.  French is equally used as this is a Joint Condominium.

At the bank I found a long queue snaking out of the door. The ATM only took cards from ISI BANK, so I queued with the locals to exchange our limited amount of foreign notes -£20, 4,500CFP and $111.  However a man called Stanley insisted that I step into the room and someone else eventually arranged for me to be seen at the Foreign Currency Exchange desk.  I apologised to the queue, and they were all very gracious and I was soon out into the hot sunshine carrying 19,350 vatus.

There were two activities that we wanted to try on the island; visiting a "kastom" village, and going up the volcano, Mt. Yasur.  It quickly became apparent that we only had enough cash to get a taxi to the volcano, but not enough for the 9,750 vatu/head entrance fee.  So I took a 3,000 vatu taxi trip with Robert and Francis to the nearest resort that accepted credit cards, accompanied by a local, Peter, who runs a Labour recruitment office sending agricultural workers to Australia. We bumped and crawled along a crude track weaving in and out of the forest alongside a new road being built by the Chinese. From the depth of the surface on the road it looks as though it will only last a year or so.

At White Grass Resort, to my great pleasure, we were greeted by Justin and Siobhan, who coincidentally had come to Tanna to visit the same attractions. Justin kindly bailed us out by lending a big wedge of cash.  We sat on the elegant  terrace surrounded by bougainvillea, with a fine view of the sunset, enhanced by a cold beer and the sight of breaching humpback whales!

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