Wednesday 23 June 2010 3pm Avunatari, Malo Island

We had an early start to the morning with Chris required on shore by half seven. “Fifteen minutes to go Christine” called out Paul. “OK, I’m ready” replied Chris. “How are you going Chris? five minutes” Paul added later. On the dot of 7:15am Paul took Chris ashore in the dinghy and she caught the truck going to another village for a day’s work in the clinic.

We had a date with Chief Fred. He was going to come back to the boat with Paul but we found that Fred had gone to an elders meeting and would be away most of the day. Yesterday, just before the soccer match, I was talking to Fred and he said the big thing village needed was clean water. The water they use comes from contaminated ground water. Paul being a water engineer was keen to talk more about this with Fred.
Paul, Grant and Ray could see a hill in the distance and were determined to climb it; Just because it was there. So they set off early for a 4 hour walk.

A man from the village by the name of Tony paddled out to the yacht to take Carl fishing. Carl is seriously concerned that he has not caught anything (other than the flu on arrival – he’s better now by the way). Richard from the clinic made arrangements with Tony’s Dad to have Tony take Carl fishing and relieve Carl from this burden he is carrying. Tony had already caught a few fish which he handed up to me to put in the fridge. In the canoe he had 2 small bottles with fishing line wound around them and old 6″ nails for sinkers. He also had a small knife and a paddle. The sum total of the fishing technology Carl was going to be using. Tony suggested they take the dinghy fishing rather than the canoe due to capacity limits in the canoe. Tony was a very shy and gentle man but after a morning fishing with Carl they became good friends. They brought back a respectable collection of coral trout and trigger fish but no trolling fish.  They sat on the gunwales of the yacht like 2 old timers and cleaned the fish. The trigger fish is a rich blue colour with a very tough skin. Tony skinned the fish rather than scaling it. There is now a big dinner of fish in the freezer.
After a cup of tea, the two buddies went back to the village so Carl could look at Tony’s generator to see if he could get it going.

I spent the morning quietly keeping boat watch while these various activities were underway. I went on deck after hearing a little noise and saw two school girls paddling away from the yacht. When they saw that someone was on board they quickly paddled back. They were initially shy but they had that ‘determination to conquer the fear of the unknown’ look on their faces, and to find out what was on the boat. “Have you come to visit?” I called. They broke into a shy but expansive smile. “Come around the other side. There are steps”  The girls wasted no time attaching their canoe to the yacht and were intrigued when I used the boat hook to push and pull the canoe into place. Later when they were reorganizing their lines one of the girls was determined to use the boat hook. Once aboard I asked the girls a few basic questions. Conversation wasn’t exactly feasible, partly because of language and partly because of shyness. The answers went something like:  “yes it is lunch time” , “My name is Miriam, this is Karen” Then Miriam turned shore wards and whistled. Evidently her sister was on shore and not happy about being left out of the adventure. So off went Miriam in the canoe to pick up Julia. Julia was a year older than the others and when they were all together they were live wires. Shyness melted with numbers. Miriam couldn’t be seen at one point and I found her up the rigging. They were intrigued with everything. All three sat behind the wheel and pretended to steer, giggling at each other the whole time. Two boys in another canoe then came along and they came aboard for a cooks tour. Suddenly they asked me the time and then said we have to go back to class. They all scampered back to the canoes and paddled back to shore. The girls now had three in a canoe that is fully loaded at 2. The girl in the bow was barely out of the water and I could hear shrieks of laughter all the way back to school. As they left they called out “When do you leave?”. “Tomorrow morning” I replied. After consulting each other’s expressions Miriam called up “We will visit again this afternoon then”
Soon after, Carl returned in the dinghy after fixing the generator. He had taken photos of the family and promised to mail the prints back.
“Chimere, Chimere, this is Grant, do you copy?” “Grant this is Chimere, go ahead” “Can you pick us up, over?” So the walkers were back. They had an interesting experience having received a range of directions and timings by various locals ranging from 15 minutes to four hours to get to the towers on the top of the hill. After climbing most of the way but then still not seeing how to get to the top, Paul turned on the charm and a local resident came to his aid, not only to help but to actually lead the team to the top. By this stage they had been walking for about two hours, much of it up hill (obviously) and the track was leading off the road and up through the jungle. Ray, who was wearing deck shoes decided he would be pushing his feet a little too much by risking further effort (noting that he had to walk two hours back) and decided to make a graceful withdrawal, telling the others they could catch him up later. Soon after he had left, the guide let it be known to Grant and Paul that there was a much quicker way back to the village and that Ray was going home the long way. This appeared to cause no end of mirth as the “old man” walked about an hour and a half longer than necessary. When he was finally approaching the village, tired, hungry and footsore, who should be standing on the roadway but Grant and Paul with smirks on their faces and saying, “Hey! What kept you?” Ray decided that the old saying about old age and treachery beating youth and exuberance, was rubbish. They had beaten him and had time to devour lunch in a roadside restaurant while they were waiting. The terms “road side” and “restaurant” should be taken in relative context here as the road was what would be known in Australia as an unmade dirt track and the restaurant was a bamboo and coconut hut where lunch was a plate of rice and vegetables with a fresh coconut, all for the princely sum of 150 Vatu which is a little less than $2.00.
I went in to collect them but Paul was still looking for Chief Fred, so we waited in the shallows with the dinghy. The school boys found everything facilitating and gradually got closer and closer until they were in the water too, hanging on to the dinghy. One boy had a particular interest in the outboard and sidled around to that end of the dinghy. He called out to his friends “fifteen; one five” He clearly had to know the horse power of our little motor. He stayed a while twiddling the propeller. When Paul seemed like he was detained somewhere the 3 of us came back to the boat only to find Paul now ready and radioing a pick up request.
Paul came back to the boat with two new friends while Ray decided to go snorkeling to cool off and relax. His idea of relaxing is a little odd though, as he took a scourer in with him and spent the next hour or so scrubbing much of the underwater hull, enlisting some help towards the end from Grant.
Christine is on the beach waving for a pick up and Paul and grant have shot in in the dinghy to get her. Carl has just finished filleting the fish from this mornings catch and now has a good collection of bait for future fishing exploits.
Tomorrow morning we are off to Tanoa Island just off the south coast of Santo.
Fair winds, smooth seas and Carl catches fish.

Andrew (with contributions from Ray)