Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Friday, 11 August 2017

Erromango 9th August 2017

We set off early from Tanna before 7 for the day trip to Erromango , the next island north,  and were able to wave to the Besleys at breakfast as we passed White Grass Resort.  Then  we had our closest encounter with a humpback whale which was exciting.  By 15:00 we had dropped anchor in Dillon's Bay, amongst three other yachts, and to our delight were soon being greeted by several beautiful dug-out canoes full of children. Later a grey haired man, David, paddled out bringing us a gift of fruit, which we reciprocated with some powdered milk. 

The following day David invited us to do a tour with him, and led us to a beach about two miles along the coast.  Here we found a rock shelter above the beach, and higher up a series of caves used to bury the dead. The first contained members of David's family, one of whom had been laid on a rock slab , and his belt buckle still lay there amongst his bones. Another cave, much higher up a cliff contained the skulls of two previous chiefs and three of their wives.

Later we went to the yacht club that David was building in his village of Unpongkor.  We found a charming garden and a simple room, hung with flags, to which we contributed our old Cornish ensign signed by us all. To Rhoda, David's wife, we handed a bag of clothes including things from Emily and the McAdies, plus some books to start a book exchange shelf. I showed them my sketches and gave crayons and sketchbooks to the children there. Later I gave Roger at the dispensary a number of sets of spectacles plus school materials to distribute as he saw fit. 

From there we had a leisurely stroll through the village ending up at a large fresh water pool where we had a glorious swim. On the way we met many people who chatted happily with us.  Later we visited a lovely site where an Eco-lodge was being built overlooking the river.  We scrambled through thickets along a cliff edge to reach the site where missionary John Williams body was laid on a and his out,one incised in the rock.  He had interrupted an important kastom ceremony and lost his life.  Later missionaries and other visitors brought smallpox which killed 60% of the 20,000 population so that in the early 1900s there were only 380 people still on the Island.  The population is now 600. No kastom villages remain, since the missionaries successfully stopped any traditional life.  Other invaders from Hawaii and other parts of Polynesia came to take all the sandalwood trees, but were repelled, but eventually trade emptied the island of the species.

The island was visited by two battered trading vessels while we were there, landing sacks of rice and other stores on the beach to be shouldered up to the village. There is only one vehicle on the island, but there is an airport giving access to hospital in Vila.

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