16 July, 2009 11:18 PM (Tolap, Gaua Island)

After a six hour (brisk) sail from Mere lava Island to Losolava on Gaua with our valuable mother-to-be cargo, Linda, and her mother Rose, we decided to remain anchored there for the night.  The next morning, this morning, the crew were up between 5:00am and 6:00am in order to get Chimere away by 7:00am for the sail around the island to the village of Tolap, also known as Lakona Bay and also known as Pwetevut Bay – having multiple names for places certainly has its challenges.  We were supposed to run a clinic there yesterday, but this was postponed to today.

Tomorrow morning we do a repeat performance, back to Losolava, where we not only do a clinic but meet up with the third group of Australian volunteers who will be traveling with us north through the Banks and Torres Groups; splitting up at times to run clinics at different villages and then being picked up and moved on when required.

Our pregnant passenger turned out to have a relatives in Losolava, so she will be able to stay with them until the next flight off the island to Santo – which is Friday (tomorrow)  we missed the Wednesday flight.

On arrival in Losolava, we discovered that the only vehicle in the region was not operating (and hadn’t since last December) so Richard would have to walk an hour to the “airport” to arrange the ticket for Linda and Rose.  As with most things there’s generally another solution, and in this case it involved taking the dinghy through the outlying reef to a spot on the coast where it was only a 10 minute walk to the airport.  Richard called to the canoe which came nearby upon our arrival and one of those lads went with them in the dinghy as guide – through the reef.  Just as an aside, when Richard finally got to the airport there was no one there so he gave the money to someone who would arrange it with the right person when they reappeared.

As for Linda and Rose, we helped them into the dinghy and waved them off.  We hope to catch up with them in Santo when we are there in early August.  Hopefully get a photo of a healthy baby.

It was a dream 3 hour sail around the island to Tolap and just to top it off, as Chris was pulling in the reel at the back of the boat (and no, he didn’t catch a fish) an enormous marlin jumped clear out of the water twice about 200m from the back of the boat.  Just amazing. Some things it’s best not to catch
Then the canoe man who met us, accompanied by his 1 year old daughter, who looked like she could barely stand, tapped the top of his canoe with his oar and soon after a pod of dolphin appeared as if on cue.

The clinic today went very well. Graeme was very impressed with the work of the local nurse and gave praise concerning the state of the clinic building, tidiness and operation.

Again the dinghy was used to transport the pile of boxes from the anchorage around to the village with the clinic starting around 2:00pm.  It was finished around 4:30pm with 20-30 patients being seen.

Graeme was also impressed with the general health of the village.  A result, I’d suggest of the wonderful food that seems to abound everywhere and the purity of the water.

Our tanks are getting a bit low, so we enquired about the water in the village.  “Water here good”,said an older man William, who we met on our first trip ashore.  “But we go to next village, just where you anchor, and get water from the beach”

I quizzed him a bit further.  “You mean there’s a creek down that valley?  Or is it a tap from upstream?”

“No, it comes out of the sand,  “It’s a spring which just appears” he explained.

So William came with us in the dinghy and showed us.  Sure enough, fresh, beautifully fresh (and no there was no village just above the beach in this spot)  water just appeared out of the side of the embankment at the top of the beach, running over pebbles and making pools in the sand as it ran like a river into the lapping waves.  In another spot close to the water’s edge, rising freshwater from the sandy sea floor, created whirlpools on the surface of the sea.

After as many trips as we could squeeze in, the tanks aboard are nearly full.

After the clinic tonight, Mike, Simon and I put on another movie night, with the aid of Harry Honda, a laptop computer and projector – again it was a big hit, although there’s only so many times one person should be expected to watch the movie Ice Age.  As this clinic was at the nearby village, so the dinghy ride there across the reef was an easy affair, even the return trip in the dark after 9:00pm.  Unlike Mere Lava, where carrying the generator up and down the mountain was an exercise in endurance, let alone the ferrying from the dinghy onto a volcanic rock ledge which passes as a landing point, then the 3km ride into a 20 knot SE wind and 1-2m seas, in pitch blackness around the coastline – I don’t think we’ll be doing that gig again in a hurry.  I don’t think my laptop computer has been wrapped in so many garbage bags

Simon, our German backpacker-electrician-mechanic-blow-in was officially inducted as an MSM volunteer today.  He was presented with an MSM tee shirt to prove it.  If he continues to work hard we’ll double his wage!

As with other places we have visited, the people here are just wonderfully open and respectful.  We did some more trading for goods – although today the tables were turned. Whereas the other day I handed across a collection of goods and asked them to give me a fair quantity of fruit and vegetables, today I was asked if we had some D batteries and sugar, and what did I want in return.  I said that bananas and pawpaw and anything green would be great, but I had no idea what was fair.  So tonight after the movie there was a bag of goodies waiting for me and I handed across a shopping bag with the required items plus a reel of fishing line, hooks and Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate, oh, plus one of my old caps.

Late today we had a canoe come nearby and it was a couple, plus 4 little kids. We were busy pouring water into the tank, and Chris suggested they might like to come aboard.  So their canoe was tied up to the dinghy and they came up for a chat.  The man’s name was Levi, and he explained that he had only recently been ordained as an Anglican minister and he was responsible for the villages along the coast in this part.  We had a great conversation and after I’d divided a can of cold lemonade amongst the kids, which they really enjoyed, and around the time they had to go, he said to me, “I did not mean to come aboard.  We were out in the canoe and the children wanted to see the boat.  I would have brought a gift for you if I knew”

I insisted that we didn’t need him to give us a gift, but that we sincerely appreciated his thoughts.  I then asked if he would accept a gift from the people at our Uniting Church in North Ringwood, whereupon I gave him a near-new shirt for him and his wife, donated from people at the church.

Again, thank you for your comments, thoughts and prayers.  It’s another early one tomorrow.

Fair breeze, smooth sea and three cheers for the new MSM volunteer, Simon

Rob