Friday 29 May, 8.44pm (anchored at Port Vila)
After a month of life aboard, small villages, helping the medical team and interacting with the locals, our first 24 hours in Pt Vila is certainly one of contrasts and new perspectives.
At the quarantine anchorage yesterday, where we sat for a couple of hours waiting for Mr Q to arrive with his piece of paper, there was a small helicopter which came and went from a pontoon nearby doing 5 minute joy rides. As it flew in for the third time Bob declared … “I’d like to give that a go”. Well, this morning Bob was reading through the colour brochure for the said helicopter joy rides “Vanuatu Helicopters” and it makes interesting reading. Apparently they offer all sorts of flights …Adventure Flights, Romantic Flights and Scenic Flights – at all sorts of prices. (read “high” to “extremely high”) Going by the lovely photos in the brochure, I think there’s almost universal interest in the “Romantic Flight” but I suspect they ONLY supply the packed hamper and deserted tropical beach, nothing more. As the brochure says … “whether inspecting your property purchase, impressing someone with a dramatic entry to a restaurant, viewing an active volcano, flying down a jungle canyon … Vanuatu Helicopters knows how to find the real Vanuatu”. Need I say more…
Our first morning tied to the wharf here in downtown Port Vila dawned sunny and calm … and very sleepy. Don and Hugo came down from their onshore accommodation a bit after 7:00am to collect some gear for the lectures they are giving on eyecare to the Govt health workers and student health workers this morning and this afternoon. (Those guys have some energy)
From the cockpit we have been watching the boats come and go. And I’m not sure whether I should mention this, or maybe I should write it in code, but an Australian Navy ship chugged by around 9:00am with their crew lined up in their whites along the rail. (your taxes at work) I looked up the harbour and I noticed two more Australian Navy ships already tied up (so if anyone asks, don’t tell them you heard it here). Now I don’t want to start any rumours, but there might be something about to happen … maybe a retail assault on the shopping district, or a cricket challenge to Vanuatu’s regional supremacy, but with three ships in port it’s going to be big.
Will and Kathy have walked up the wharf to do their washing, Bob’s already been ashore to check out the internet cafe and Andrew and I have been sitting around making coffee and lists of tasks to be completed before Chimere heads north to transport the second medical team around central Vanuatu.
It’s been a lazy kind of day and with Andrew leaving on Sunday plus new crew arriving soon there’s a feeling of transition. Will and Kathy are planning to catch a flight north to check out some other islands in the next day or so and I’m making sure, as best I can, that things will run smoothly when I return home for a month (to Melbourne) next Thursday. Bob will be the main man then, ably supported by his long time sailing buddy, Jim Carpenter, a work associate of mine (and sailor) Tony Owens, plus long time friend Ann Shoebridge, and Jenny Williams who has considerable sailing experience. In addition, Martin Purcell will rejoin the crew when the medical team are picked up on 18 June (in Norsup, Malakeula)
Again, it’s past my bedtime and I’m struggling to stay awake.
I’ll have some more photos to upload – hopefully tomorrow.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and finding the real Vanuatu.
PS I heard there’s a cruise ship in tomorrow, so if you want to buy anything … do it today!! (A local tip)