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Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu
August 30, 2006

A welcome landfall in Resolution Bay

(Steph) It finally feels as if we've arrived somewhere after so much time in Fiji in a holding pattern. Vanuatu may be physically close to New Zealand and Australia, but it is millions of miles away in all other respects. This is definitely the most remote place we've been yet.

The picturesque (if rolly) anchorage at Port Resolution.

About ten minutes after dropping the hook, post our uncomfortable passage, two boys rowed up in their homemade outrigger canoe and offered us papayas. We are definitely not in Fiji anymore! The terrain is tropically lush and rugged, with huge volcanic rocks littering the cliff walls around us. This place looks like it was designed by a Hawaiian landscape architect. Now we see where the professionals get their inspiration.

Local boys in their outrigger canoe. (Wojo) The handsome devil in the football shirt is the chief's #3 son James. He's a great guy and is attending the university at Lenakal at age fourteen!

Our first afternoon and night were spent figuratively kissing the terra firma we could see from the cockpit, although we didn't quite have the energy to make it physically onto land that afternoon. The next morning, we made it to shore by 7:30 for the two-hour ride to Lenakal, the town on the other side of the island where we needed to check in with immigration and customs. There were six cruisers on this ride in the "taxi," with villagers making up the rest of the compliment.

Port Resolution village.

Bislama is the lingua franca of Vanuatu -- a kind of pidgin English. We can interpret about 75% of the signs we see if we read them phonetically. (Wojo) I just like the fact the Ronnie, the chief of the village, read the sign and said "hey, you forgot to say PLIS!!"

We had a 360-degree view in the back of the pickup truck. The ride was breathtaking -- through jungle terrain, with centuries-old banyan trees, snaky vines and giant ferns crowding down to the dirt road. Then the road opened up to the ash plains. Yep, we are within spitting distance of an active volcano! And spitting it does, all day every day. You can hear its roar and see the ash spewing out of its top at regular intervals.

Woj lends his windbreaker to a chilled little girl. (Wojo) I am such a dude.

When we made it to Lenakal, we managed to meet up with the customs man who had reportedly been on a kava bender for the last few days, so we considered ourselves lucky. It's pretty expensive to check in to Vanuatu, with $30 due to customs and $10 each per crew member due to immigration. And we'll have to pay $70 to check out. The price to check in to Vanuatu is second only to American Samoa (and Mexico when we cruised there in '04 - '05, although they have since stopped charging a fee in each port).

One can only hope that someone just arriving Vanuatu doesn't mistakenly take this directional sign as a "ladder for keys to success." Note to Mark Bruno -- checkout the 007 Walther used to illustrate "Fire Arms."

We did have some time to stroll around the small town of Lenakal, and enjoyed the produce market where women gather under a big tree and sell their wares. We were delighted to find pamplemousse again, something we hadn't encountered since the Marquesas. And huge avocados that are really tasty -- guacamole is on the menu! Woj, as usual, is happy to try anything resembling a snack, so for the equivalent of $.30 he bought a huge slab of some warm, chewy substance wrapped in a banana leaf. We never quite figured out exactly what it was -- our guesses evolved from a slab of rendered pork fat to a piece of smoked fish to a "pudding." Eventually we decided it was some kind of starch mixed with some pork and some leafy green vegetable, and then fried. Like a lot of island food, it was pretty bland. When we found a trash can, Woj surreptitiously dropped it in.

The local market. The bright pink objects swaying under the tree are grass skirts that the locals actually wear on occasion.

At one point, Woj and I had been approached by a local encouraging us to visit his new restaurant, only a week old. "I have a bit of carrot, a bit of beef, a bit of island cabbage, some rice ..." Well, restaurants being basically non-existent on this island, guess where we ended up for lunch? The six of us piled into his tiny little beachfront hut. It was really picturesque, until he warned us to watch our footing as the straw mats under our feet covered up gaping holes in the floor. There were four chairs in his new restaurant, so Woj and I, being the junior members of the crowd, elected to sit on the mats for our lunch. We were all given a plate of food exactly as he described, with about five drops of soy sauce apiece. Seasoning is something these islanders do not distribute liberally. But it was the setting we really enjoyed. After lunch, he gave us some peanuts that were straight from the ground, still attached to their little roots. Did you know that peanuts are pink before they're roasted? And they have quite a different flavor and texture when they're raw.

Our elders got the coveted chairs in the restaurant.

On the way home, we picked up Ronnie, the chief of the Port Resolution village. He apologized for not having been at the village to greet us when we came in, but he'd been in the bush for the past week. He piled up the back of our pickup with lots of fresh fruit and veg, and some red meat that we tried to avoid touching.

The locals along for the ride are all extremely friendly, although a little shy as many of them don't speak English very well. I think they understand a lot of what they hear, because they were laughing along with everyone as Fatty Goodlander kept up a running comedic commentary. But we've definitely arrived at a place where the people are less influenced by Western culture than anywhere else we've been yet. Their villages are immaculate and neatly planned, with their houses of banyan wood and palm fronds emanating out from a central playing field. These are the people we've heard of the entire time we've been out here, but have rarely encountered -- the people who want to trade you for whatever you can offer. Soap, clothes, blankets -- these people don't have much but what the land and sea gives them, so they're eager to put to use whatever we consider old or used up. Everyone has been exceedingly welcome and friendly, and we are looking forward to meeting more of the people as we make our way through the island group.

Fatty entertaining the troops during a pig feast we had the next day.

The following gallery was shot completely by Fatty -- I've left most shots large for maximum enjoyment. (All photos Cap'n Fatty Goodlander 2006):

The usual Tanna beach trekkers -- Whilhem, Wojo, Angela, Steph and "The Sicilian" Carolyn.

Angela with Chief Ronnie

Cruising World, why haven't you rung yet??

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