Saturday 10 July 2010 (Narovorovo Village, Maewo 15 10.99 S, 168 06.35 E)

The night sail down from the island of Gaua went remarkably smoothly.  I say remarkably because we were travelling roughly south east in a region of the world where the wind blows from the south east most of the time.  Fortunately the wind moved a bit east of south east for a time, enabling us to achieve our course and destination with minimal tacking.  In addition the sea was calm-to-slight most of the time.  Dawn saw us motoring over a glassy sea towards the middle of Maewo and a village from where our friend Morrison (the eyecare worker from Tanna) originally comes from.

Our main purpose in dropping by the village was to pay a visit to Morrison’s father who we knew to be unwell, but upon arrival we were told that he had died just a couple of weeks before.  This was very sad and unexpected news so we asked the helpful young lad on the beach to take us to the chief where we could pay our respects and inquire as to whether they would be interested in seeing the mudbricks.

Chief Martin received us well and before we knew it Matt and I were off on a trek to bring back suitable clay with Chief Martin and a select group of blokes.  I’m sure “just a short way away” were the initial instructions, but after walking through a coconut grove, across (through) 4 streams and a section of what looked like forest we came to rest at the base of a steep hill and sure enough, this was good quality clay – far better than the many muddy patches we had stomped through over the previous 20-30 minutes.  Soon enough a bag and a bucket of the precious material was lifted onto Bob’s (then, later, Gibson’s) and Chief Martin’s shoulders and our tracks were retraced to the village where the demonstration was to take place.

The enthusiasm of the crowd really picked up when the first of the blocks began sliding out of the wooden mould.  By then I was the last of the ship’s crew on site, the rest having walked a short distance along from the village to where the river escaped to the sea.  This made a wonderfully refreshing swimming hole, where, as a bonus, small fish could be fed coconut pieces by hand.

Before heading off to meet the others at the river mouth for a swim and wash, a delegation from the Chief approached me as I was cleaning up at a local water tap, (which seemed to run constantly due to the abundance of the stuff) Would I like to come to a special meeting at the Nakamal hut at 4:00pm with the rest of the crew, so that we could be officially thanked.  Meanwhile an appointment was made through others to meet at Morrison’s family’s home at 3:00pm so that we could meet, see the grave site of the father and then be escorted to the village meeting place.  We felt very honoured and after a fantastic swim we returned to the boat (plus 15 local kids who wanted to come aboard) to freshen up and for Matt and Gibson to quickly get their musical instruments.

What followed were three hours of wonderful, heartfelt ceremony, music and fun.  A highlight being the preparation of kava by select men and its serving to each crew member in turn.  Having tried the stuff once before, I must say, this was not bad and far less potent than what I remember from last time.  Although, that said, in typing this message my words seem to be coming out in a jumbled way and it’s hard to concentrate.

Kid-magnet Lanie took to entertaining a gaggle of young ones and Matt starred with his violin performance which included variations on nearly every piece he could remember – nursery rhymes, Celtic jigs, classical concertos, folk tunes and pop.  A man called George, who seemed to be in charge of proceedings said it was the first time anyone had actually seen a violin being played, other than in movies.  A touch of hilarity was introduced when Lanie and I began dancing a unique variation on an Irish folk dance which seemed to have every one in fits of laugher.  We then involved local Ni-vans in an arm over arm folk dance routine and it’s hard to describe the loud and appreciative response, you just had to be there.

Home-time to the boat took place around 6:30 by torchlight but not before making a date for tomorrow morning church 7:00AM TO 9:00AM (yes, you read correctly) after which we will have some assistance to re-water the boat from a freshwater tap near the dinghy landing.  A presentation was made to the boat of a wonderful woven mat and in return I gave a greeting card from Chimere and MSM, plus some photos printed out of Morrison (from his work in the field as an Eyecare nurse) for his mother.

It’s funny, after a quick meal everyone has wisely gone to bed.  And that’s what I intend to do very soon

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a Narovorovo welcome to you

Robert Latimer