When family come to visit.
Our boat is quiet tonight, it feels empty.
My parents flew home this afternoon.
They left from the small grassy strip that is the airfield on this small island, in the middle of Vanuatu’s Island chain.
They had come for their first visit and had spent 7 wonderful days with us.
And now we miss them terribly, and life feels so different.
They flew into Port Vila where we met them at the Yacht Club we were moored off, their bags laden with treasures from home that we had sent requests for, plus things they just knew we needed, like a new dinghy painter line after our little incident in Vanua Balavu (thanks dad for knowing that it was needed!)
Excitement was at fever level with the unpacking of the goodies and their bulging bags did not disappoint, we were all totally spoilt!
Dinner was had at a wee French restaurant in Vila and then we dropped the mooring lines early the next morning and headed out to explore some of Vanuatu’s islands with them.
First stop was up the top of Efate, to Port Havannah. A well protected anchorage area that is only several hours from Vila. We stopped for lunch at a stunning little beach with the clearest water, anchoring in close and letting Waterhorse drift back toward the beach to make it nice and easy to get to shore. They had been salivating over our talk of all the tuna we have been eating so poke bowls it was, with a follow up of a refreshing swim in the azure water.
The night was spent up the Harbour in a sheltered little bay. Mum, Dad, Chae and the kids headed ashore for an explore while I stayed back to get dinner sorted.
There were a bunch of shipwrecks scattered up the Harbour, remnants of Cyclone Pam that ripped through here a few years ago and they headed to one near us to check it out. En route Chae walked into the biggest spider web we had seen and screamed like a wounded animal when the spider, who was the size of his palm, ended up on his face. Mum had thought he had tripped and broken his leg or something more dramatic, although it was a rather large arachnoid.
Next morning, we headed north, destination Emae. It was a bouncy old passage, with the hook up of a huge Wahoo for dad! It was a monster! There was so much that after filleting it and some late lunch, we headed ashore to give half it away. One of the local men was wading out into the water with his spear fishing gear to find dinner for his family. We asked if he was keen on some Wahoo. His face lit up with a huge grin and he accepted readily, starting that ‘fishing was done for the day!’ He wanted to give us something in return so we all walked the 20 minutes into the centre of the island to his village, where he loaded us up with bananas, funny little red apple type fruit and the biggest papayas we have seen! The people here are incredibly generous and are always so willing to give a gift in return for anything we buy or give in the villages. It has been a different experience to Fiji, with the Ni Vanuatu never coming to your boat just asking for things, but more willing to trade with you instead. Due to their remote islands they are always appreciative of anything that a cruiser may have to trade with them. No one just expects you to flat out give them things for nothing here.
We walked back to the beach with the setting of the sun, a burning sphere rolling slowly down the horizon across the gently rippling ocean.
Dinner was Wahoo, if you didn’t guess already!
From Emae we set off to the island of Epi. We had read of a bay, touted as the nicest anchorage in Vanuatu, where dugongs and turtles are plentiful and the beach is an interesting mix of black and white sands.
Again, the sail was a bit bumpy and mum and I both headed up to sit at the helm to avoid feeling ill.
We had all 3 rods out and heard a touch on one of the lighter rods, we both turned to see a giant shape in the water come back 2 more times to see the lures and finally take the lure on the big game rod. We couldn’t believe what we had just seen! In the choppy and bubbling sea, to watch a fish come and take the lure was an amazing sight.
The line ran, like nothing we had seen before, and the chase was on – literally. It was so big Chae had to get the boat turned into the waves to follow the fish, then all of a sudden it jumped – what a sight! A sailfish!
It was Mum’s turn to bring the fish in (we are very fair on Waterhorse with our fishing!), so with Chae chasing it, Dad directing and Mum hauling it in we made a formidable team.Finally, the beautiful creature was at the boat. We have always said that if we caught one we would never keep it, so Chae got the lure out of its mouth alongside the boat as fast as possible and we watched as it shook off the shock and swam back to live another day.
What an experience though!
We stopped for lunch and a swim at a beautiful little bay just before Lamen Bay. A trip to shore for shell searching and kids to run off some energy, before heading round the point into Lamen Bay. The beach was interesting with imprints of coral melted into the rock of cliffs and stone on the beach, from previous eruptions that had created a fossil type situation, it was really fascinating. Pieces of coral were also lodged into the rock walls surrounding the beach, some up to 10m above the sea level, just showing the changes that are happing to the Earth all the time.
Lamen Bay is a wide-open bay with a 1.5km long beach that changes from black volcanic sand at the South end to white at the North. Across the bay from the large beach is Lamen Island, which is where most of the people who live in the area came from. There are historical buildings dating back to the 1800’s, plus coral walls that were built hundreds of years ago in the same way that we do rock walls nowadays!
The water was like crystal. Anchoring in 14m and seeing straight to the bottom was a delight. Unfortunately, it gets very rolly when the waves come from a certain angle so it was a little uncomfortable that first night before we moved in closer to the beach and behind the fringing reef the next day.
We woke the next day to glorious sunshine, which was a most welcome sight as the last few days had been cooler and overcast. While sitting outside having breakfast we watched a yacht leave the bay and head straight into the reef that we had all just been talking about going snorkeling on. Poor bugger was grounded so all the dinghies in the bay headed over to help rock his boat enough so the keel managed to pull off the reef below. Luckily for him there seemed to be no major damage and he headed back out the other side of the bay. It was a reminder to us on how careful you need to be in these places, where the charts are notoriously unreliable.
Libby was feeling a little under the weather so Chae and her stayed home on the boat after breakfast, while the rest of us joined with our friends on a neighboring boat and went for a hike. It was around 4.5 km but it was steep in parts and very dusty! They are hanging out for some rain on the island and you could see it on the roads. It took us around the head of the bays and through villages. Past a multitude of mango trees which had fruit growing, and brought a tear to Emelia’s eye each time as they are still not ripe!
We stopped in a stunner of a spot for a break and snacks. The water at the beach was again, crystal clear. We have been stunned at how clear it is, constantly too. Not just a bay here and there like Fiji was, but every bay.
This was the final point for us as the kids were pretty tired already and so we decided to turn back, our friends went on though. There was a waterfall somewhere that we had all thought we could get to, it was going to be too much for us but maybe they would be able to find it.
The walk back seemed like a looong way, and some of the super steep hills that we had come
down would be waiting for us now. Not a fun prospect, until a Ute came rumbling past. I stick out my thumb and he stopped and we got a ride in the back of the cab! What a treat. We flew up the bumpy steep hills and got him to drop us off at the top of the last one by the first village we had passed.
They had mango trees here that had palm sized fruit and we asked some of the boys in the village if they would mind if we picked a couple to see if we could ripen them. Of course, it was no problem. Emelia is going to try and ripen them on the boat near the bananas, maybe it will work, maybe not, but if not they also eat them slightly green here in salads and also like an apple. We will have to give it a try!
The walk back down to the beach was about 45 minutes. We were so grateful to have the ute ride as it would have been too much for the kids otherwise!
Chae picked us up from the beach and we headed back to Waterhorse for a well-deserved cold beer! We spent the afternoon swimming and playing in the water by the boat, along with several games of Chess, the children are getting quite good with all the practice we have been giving them lately and they were dead keen to try their skills on Grandpa.
Dinner that night was a sumptuous meal of lobster that we had traded/bought from a fisherman up in Eame. It was delicious and and extra treat seeing as we got to celebrate Mum’s birthday with us that night.
Lamen island was on the cards for the next day, the last day mum and dad would be here.
We took the big boat over there in the morning as it was a little too much of a trek with all 7 of us in Bob the dinghy.
The beach was beautiful, the water was warm and we wandered along, collecting shells and just enjoying being together. Photos were taken to help remember our times together and tears were shed about the prospect of them leaving that afternoon. This has been the longest time that I have been away from my family and I miss them all very much.
After a wonderful time on the beach we headed back to the other side of the bay, anchored up and relaxed into the last ‘supper’, or lunch as it was. The last pack of tuna was eaten from the freezer and we drank our last bottle of wine.
Time was ticking until the flight…
With bags packed, much smaller and emptier than when they arrived, we piled into the dinghy and headed to shore, trying to hold back the tears, to check in at the tiny airport and wait for the plane.
As it rumbled down the runway I realised that this was truly goodbye. It was awfully sad and I dearly wished they were not leaving. It had been too short and we didn’t know when they will be back again, as we head North to places that are more inconvenient to get to.
Noah chased the plane as it taxied back up the grass strip. No one there told him to stop or that he wasn’t allowed on the runway, they all could understand the sadness. Luckily, he did follow us off the side to the beach to watch it fly off as it came zooming back down the runway to take off into the wind!
We watched with heavy hearts as they made their way into the sky, on their journey back to our homeland.
Wandering down the beach slowly, we all talked about the wonderful things we had experienced and enjoyed while mum and dad were with us.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, and I will be counting the days until we get to see them again.
We will start the next part of our journey now, toward the Maskelyne Islands and then to Ambrym for a traditional festival that is put on by several villages on the island.
Tomorrow is a new day to make more memories, and hold the ones we have made, dear in our hearts.