Saturday 21 September 2013

Asanvari, Maewo Island

After a beautifully still night at Lolawai it was a late start this morning, with last night’s brief being, … “up at 6:00 away by 7:00”.

In the end we were up a bit earlier, but still got away at 7:00, retracing our chart plotter track, or cookie crumbs as they are sometimes called, over the coral bar and out of the bay.  Once around the tip of Ambae we set our course for Asanvari and around 9:15am we were dropping anchor again in the sheltered waters of another still bay.

After a cup of coffee it was time to get the dinghy over the side and into the beach. Today was a special day being the 100 day remembrance of Chief Nelson; something of a legend in this region and relatively old at 76 when he passed away about 3 months ago.  There was a big crowd near the beach
and lots of activity.

We were welcomed by a man named Justin who explained the significance of the day and made us feel very much at home – that we could talk to
anyone, walk around anywhere and also have kava and food with everyone as it was made available.

We explained that we were here three years ago and gave Nelson’s daughter, Iris, copies of our photos from that time.  It was wonderful to also meet local nurse Olivette, who was very welcoming.

Later, when we discovered that Olivette also does health education in the schools, we gave her a copy of the laminated “Healthy Teeth Healthy Life” presentation, plus the teacher’s notes and student worksheets.  There were also a few medical supplies and bandages still aboard which we were able to leave and a copy of the mudbrick stove material.

We had done a mud brick demonstration here back in 2010 and whilst several people remembered the experience no one seemed to know what became of the bricks.  I suggested to Olivette that because it’s the women and children that mostly suffer from the effects of smoke inhalation that perhaps they needed to either take charge by making the stoves themselves, or insist that their men do it for them.

We were sitting around talking with the locals out the front of the meeting house, or Nakamal, and I received a tap on the shoulder with a few words about taking kava now in the meeting house.  Inside it was very dark and it took a while for my eyes to adjust but soon I could see the big pile of hot rocks in the middle waiting for the food to go on, with many men around the edges using special stones to crunch up kava roots and prepare the drink in wooden bowls.  There were the women at the far end laying out banana leaves and handling the food, which included pieces of the pig killed earlier.


The cup of kava seemed awfully large for someone who avoids this sort of thing, and pretty soon I was joined by David who also took his medicine.  It didn’t take long for the effects of the kava to hit home and soon my scrambled brain was trying to maintain a decent conversation with those around me.

Later in the afternoon it was clear that many of the locals, plus visiting family and friends had consumed more than one cup of kava with a lot of smiling and lying down on the grass going on.

Other people we’d spoken to included Freddie the teacher, who was Chief Nelson’s nephew and the local Anglican minister Simeon.


Matt, Cathy, David and Sally enjoyed a nice snorkel and swim ashore at the waterfall which tumbles into a big pond near the beach; just astern of where we are anchored.  The kustom owner of the waterfall (just a short walk from the main beach and village of Asanvari) is Alex and over the past few years he has built quite an establishment, with bar and chairs and a patio overlooking the sea and facing he evenings sunset.  Theres even a place to park you dinghy and we had a lovely time chatting with a few other yachties there, including a Swedish man Lars who has spent the last 5 years sailing the world in his 65 foot yacht – including Brazil, Chile, Cape Horn, Patagonia, Antarctica, Easter & Pitcairn Islands – he was quite the character.

Just as we were coming back to Chimere to prepare our dinner and get ready for the morning’s departure a catamaran entered the bay and from their meanderings and the folk looking over the bow it was clear they didn’t quite know where to anchor.  So we thought we’d zip over and at least say hello.  As we approached a young Aussie accent from the helm yelled out …  “any ideas on where to anchor under 20 metres ‘round here?”.

Their boat was called “Skimpy”, and someone had written “bikini” after that on the side of their hull and with surf boards lashed to the side rails and mirror ball (yes, that’s right mirror ball, as in 70s disco) suspended from the roof in the cockpit it was clear this was a fun and lively boat to be aboard; sun tans, smiles, muscles and little in the way of clothing, showed that the young men and women aboard had adapted well to their surroundings.  Finally they found they comfortable anchorage, just 50 metres astern of us and sadly we won’t get to know them any better tomorrow because we are off early again – south – and they are on their way north.

Tomorrow we plan on making it to the north coast of Ambrym where we hope to catch up with a woman called Rose Wuan; someone we’d met in Pt
Vila a month back and who urged us to drop on by.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and 100 days for Nelson

Rob Latimer