Enter the volcano

24 July, 2009 3:48 PM (En route to Ureparapara Island)

After running two clinics at Mota Lava, one yesterday and another this morning for the overflow from yesterday, the medical team came aboard around 1:30 this afternoon, off the beach at Franklin’s Bungalows, just opposite the tiny island of Ra, which sits on the end of Mota Lava and which is almost accessible by foot at low tide.

It was indeed low tide when we picked them up, which made the task considerably easier.

Mike and I met the owners of the bungalows, Franklin and his wife Madeline mid morning.  They were absolutely delightful and as it turned out, Meredith was from Mere Lava, the 3000 foot mountain peak which sticks out of the sea and where we spent 3 days running clinics – was it last week.  Anyway we laughed at the steepness of her home island and the flatness of their end of Mota Lava where the bungalows were located.  I think given the choice of steep land and flat land, she looked like she’d won the lottery by marrying Franklin on Mota Lava.

At the moment we are an hour off sailing into a volcano.  Not near, or close to, but literally into.  They say it’s extinct, or sleeping, but the presence of steam vents and hot water, which I believe there is, doesn’t equal extinct in my book.  Let’s hope it’s in a deep, deep sleep.

I’ve seen pictures of Uraparapara and read about the amazing crater rim and the spectacular scenery, and now we are closing on the entrance with the island bathed in afternoon sunshine on the port bow, with barely a cloud in the sky.  The sea is slight, we have a 10-15 knot breeze from the south east and a single large genoa (headsail) set and the engine on 1600 revs.  It’s a lazy 6.5 knots, with everyone soaking in the scene

Graeme is sorting the boxes (again) in the saloon and has set himself a task of reducing their number by one per day!  I suspect he might be giving glasses away to villagers around back of the clinic, but he says he is more efficiently categorising and sorting them.

The medical volunteers were pretty exhausted when the came aboard, but very satisfied with the work done.  I think they saw about 140 patients, with the part amputation of the finger being something of a real achievement.  I think I heard Ann (doctor) say, “The trip was worth it just for that”.

Today was “Children’s Day” in Vanuatu, and at Mota Lava there were games, processions, speeches, sweets, you name it.  It was a holiday (for some) and everyone was happier than usual; if that’s possible.  The kids were just amazing.  While Terrence minded the ship, Mike and I looked around the village with Johnny and Jo and Chris were taken on a short tour by their new friend Henry.  It was a wonderful time and from all the clothes and hooks etc we gave them we received a very big supply of fruit which has filled our bags again in the cockpit.

After sailing over it, driving over it, staring at it, Graeme finally got a chance to snorkel this afternoon.  But only in the 30 minutes it took for our team, comprising Chris, Terrance, Mike and Jo to bring everyone, plus their bags and medical boxes aboard.  He was just blown away by the colour and diversity and the clarity of the water.  From the stripey fish he reckons there’s every football jumper from every code represented down there.

I’d better send this message away soon because I suspect that transmission is pretty bad from inside a volcano, (just guessing) so you may not hear from us for a day or two.  The plan is to conduct a clinic all day tomorrow, with a local boat bringing people from the outlying villages (we’ll give them 30 litres of fuel for this)  Then tomorrow night we plan an overnighter to The Torres islands, arriving Sunday morning.  Fortunately the weather is good, because 17 aboard for an overnight sail would present some challenges if we were taking water over the deck.  As it is, I think everyone has chalked out their part of the deck to lay their camp mats.  When the music stops, grab a bunk.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and enter the volcano


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