Sunday 11 July 2010 (Asanvari, Maewo 15 22.61 S,  168 07.68E)

Today’s title comes from a comment of Matt’s (my 23 year old son) earlier today.  By way of introduction let’s just say Matt’s eating habits are on the plain side. Plain rice, plain pasta, simple vegies, nothing too flavoursome, or tricky – his cullinary abilities have certainly been stretched and extended in the past week (and he’s risen to the occasion).  Then there’s the abundance of pamplemousse aboard from the previous crew when we came aboard at the start of the month – so much so that I figured we could have opened a stall at the local market.  So I asked Matt if he’d like one of our new-found bananas … and his surprising response was … “no banana, but I could go a pamplemousse”  They big, juicy and very tasty.

The day began early as we hit the beach in time for the 7:00am church service.  Gerhard minded the ship, doing a range of tasks including running the generator to charge the batteries and lash things down for our eventual return to sea.

The night had been a lumpy one at anchor as the southerly wind picked up the sea and sent it around the small headland and straight into the bay.  The noisy anchor in such conditions doesn’t disturb you too much if you’re down the back, or even if your snug in your bunk in the middle of the boat, but in the forward cabin it’s another thing altogether. The sound is magnified through the steel hull with the loosening and tightening of the chain in time with each advancing wave setting up a crrrruuuunchhh, that has you thinking all sorts of disastrous thoughts as you attempt to nod off.  A visit to the bow in night attire equipped with headlamps and blearry eyes to observe the source of the noise is the inevitable result, with different theories employed to dampen it down a bit … let out more chain, attach an anchor weight, wrap the chain in poly tarp, fit an additional snubber rope … all great things to do at 2 in the morning.

We met the Anglican minister, who was banging the side of an old gas bottle with his machete to alert the village to … well, we thought it was the start of the 7:00am service, but given there weren’t many people about, we asked … “service starts at 7:00?” … “No, 8 o’clock”   And this guy should know.   We chatted for while and then realised we at least had enough time to fill our water bottles and wandered off to the nearest tap, which seemed to be permanently left in the ON position (there really is a lot of water in this place)  A man approached us and after assuring us it was good water from up the mountain offered the use of a water tank located next to a trade-school building.  “Thank you” we said and set off to follow him.  After a 100 yards, Matt whispered to me … this has a funny feeling like yesterday, and I must admit, I was thinking the same, only this time we had to carry full water drums back from wherever we ended up.  “Ee far?”  I gingerly inquired.  “No.  Just over here” came the reply with a wave of the arm.  It all seemed just too familiar and my arms and legs were starting to hurt already.  And we expected there’d be several trips like this.  Fortunately the building with the water tank was not very far away, and to make things better, there was a good supply of helpful local lads to lighten the load.

After church we met several people from the previous night’s activities and set our minds to finishing the watering and heading off ASAP.  As is often the case, a couple of patients emerged from the wood work.  The first, a chap who’s job it was to read a passage from the bible during the service.  He laboured so long at times over certain words that the pause became embarrassing.  Finally a lady got up from the left side of the church (I say left because all the women seemed to be sitting over there) with her bible, a bigger, less tattered book and handed it to him.  This made a slight improvement, but finally he had to give way to a younger man who carried on with gusto leaving our first man with nothing else to do but sit down.  I whispered to Mike next to me, “Looks like a customer for Gibson and an eye clinic”

Upon inquiries after church, alternative theories to poor eyesight emerged … “Maybe too much kava last night” … “maybe not good at reading”  – I discounted this one on the grounds that someone who couldn’t read probably wouldn’t have taken a reading gig in the service … “he’s a Frankophone and not good at English” mmmm?  So Gibson made inquiries directly with the man in the Parramatta Eels rugby shirt, and sure enough, in his mid 30s, his eyes were starting to need some help – a pair of 1.5s to the rescue.  The minister also asked if we had a pair of similar glasses, although he initially asked for 5.1s.  That’s very strong I thought and said, “maybe 1.5?”.  “Yes, 1.5, yes 1.5” acknowledging that 5.1 WAS a big number for a pair of glasses.

Amongst the couple of dozen kids making their way out to the boat for a visit, with each water run, were a few men.  One of whom chose his moment of arrival on the boat to announce that his friend had problems with a tooth and could we help.  Probably meaning me, Mike, Robyn, Lanie or Gerhard … when I said that Bob looks after the teeth side of things, he seemed a bit confused … “Yes, Bob, he’s the tooth man.  And Gibson, he look after teeth”  Both obviously Ni-vans and to explain further I said “Bob from Tanna, Gibson from Malo”  Returning to the beach with the medical and dental box, Gibson did his stuff with the glasses and Bob set up his makeshift dental clinic, on a raised root of a big tree at the water’s edge.  It was a great sight .. Bob, complete with rubber gloves and head lamp, picking away at the man’s mouth as he sat there with his head back mouth open.

With the last of the water aboard, and the final dinghy load of children delivered ashore it was just a brief wait for Bob to wrap up his dental session under the tree, return to the boat, pull up the anchor and head off.

By now it was 2:00pm and with the wind from our chosen direction progress could have been faster.  But in the end it was a good run south and around 5:30 we finally dropped the pick at Asanvari on the southern tip of Maewo.

Our journey down the coast revealed a ruggedly mountainous interior and lush vegetation to the shore befitting an island which receives nearly 4m of rain each year.  Several waterfalls could be seen, one enormous cascade far up on the mountain side falling in two large and roughly equal stages.

Upon arrival there was just enough time to get the dinghy in the water and nick ashore to pay our respects to Chief Nelson and have a lovely freshwater shower.

The anchorage is truly beautiful here and it’s a shame we can only stop this one night.  Tomorrow it’s up a 4:00am to start our journey down the coast of the next island Pentecost where we will meet the medical team who will be flying in.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and we must come back to Asanvari.

Rob Latimer