16 August 2009, Port Vila

Small dinghy lashed to the foredeck, starboard side.  Big dinghy lashed to the foredeck, port side.  Water tanks all full.  Loose items put below, lashed down or thrown out.  Extra food bought, sails checked and new rubber seals attached to the deck hatches.  Long range weather forecast downloaded.  New crew member, Kevin, picked up from the airport mid afternoon.  Final crew member, Tony, arriving on the “12 o’clock special” tonight…

So the list of final tasks are ticked off one by one. Not that Kevin and Tony are “final tasks”, but you get what I mean.

Tomorrow, the final, final, final, list is quite short.  So short in fact that we plan to untie the ropes a day early and get away ASAP.  The most important task tomorrow morning will be catching a bus to the Customs office (no mud now, it’s sunny), getting the forms stamped, then catching another bus back to Immigration with all the passports and Departure Cards to get them stamped.  We can then fill up with duty free diesel – and away.  Oh, I forgot, we’ll squeeze in a trip to the market (early) for some fruit and veg.

The weather forecast for the next few days isn’t ideal, as in 20 knots from the east with flat seas and sunny skies, but it’s not bad either, like 30 knots from the south with 3-4 metre waves on the nose.  It’s more “friendly” than “angry” which is good.  Kind of south east at 15 knots, with manageable seas and then hopefully going north in a few days when we round the bottom of New Caledonia. (That last bit was more wishful thinking)

Picked Kevin up from the airport this afternoon.  I take a minibus because it’s only 150 Vatu (about $1.70AUS), rather than a taxi, which is more like 1500 Vatu, (or $17AUS)  They end up at the same destination, just that with a minibus you might have to take a few detours, as the driver delivers people to where they’ve asked to be taken along the way.  I generally get into conversation with the driver and we have a laugh about whatever’s happening along the way.  Today, my driver explained that he was from Ndui Ndui on the island of Ambae.  Where Jessy is from and where the second medical team in June ran a clinic.

On the way back from the airport I explained to Kevin my preference for the cheaper minibus option and of course for the next 15 minutes we stood there in the shade chewing the fat waiting for a bus to come by.  Lots of (expensive) taxis, but no buses.  Then a bus with a “Parcel Pickup” sign on the side came to the domestic terminal and I figured it wasn’t taking passengers.  Five minutes later, as it made its way through the carpark in the distance, I gave it a wave in the hope that it might indeed be taking passengers.  I thought it was driving on, but then at the last minute it turned and came back our way.  As it came close I was astounded to see who was sitting in the passenger seat – Dick Hopkins – the teacher I met in Sola on the island of Vanua Lava just 3 weeks ago, who was also overseeing the building of a school on Mota, funded by the Australian group Life Aid International with whom I’d made contact before leaving for Vanuatu in early July.  (sorry about the length of that sentence)  Dick couldn’t believe his eyes and quickly explained to the driver, his brother, who I was and the details of our meeting up north and how I’d left a disk full of low res photos which he had tried to email from Sola back to Australia, from the only working connection on the island – at the school where he taught.  It was a very happy reunion and of course they would take us into town – at no cost, as it turned out, at the insistence of Dick’s brother.  Dick explained that his trip to Port Vila was to be a short one, but the persistent rain up north had prevented the planes from landing – still.  We parted like long lost cousins, lots of hand shakes and smiles all round and still marvelling at such a coincidence, of our chance meeting.

Having experienced just so many coincidence in this country, I’m sure everyone here must be related to everyone else and the emphasis placed on relationships here just acts like a magnetic force to create and make us aware of links and associations which we miss or don’t have time to uncover in our usual busy lives.  Not sure if that makes sense, but it’s a bit like finding things you look for, or value.  Here people value relationships, so they look for them and consequently, find them.  If you don’t look, you don’t find.

Kevin’s initial reaction to the place is that it’s just so “friendly”, and “calm”.  Grant it, we are experiencing a “Sunday” here in Vanuatu – which is particularly quiet time – although coming back from the airport there was a road block with masses of people, police waving us off into a new direction and lots of parked cars – “what’s all this”, I asked Dick and his brother, (thinking road accident, or riot)  “It’s a Presbyterian Church rally and celebration” – silly me, why didn’t I think of that.

As for Justin, he slept nearly 12 hours last night – straight through – and is being tortured by a crossword in an old newspaper on board and just called out, “7 DOWN, to Degenerate, or lose vigour.  Or 29 ACROSS, everyday speak.”  Something tells me Justin has just come home.

Tony arrives in about 3 hours – I think I’ll knick out and pick him up too.  Even though, as crew member with Bob on the June tour, he said he’ll be fine to find his own way to the boat – he’s almost a local.  I’m keen to discover who I’ll meet next on one of these local mini buses.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and one more sleep.

Rob