October 24 - 27, 2012
Our first taste of a 'different' culture . . . .
The island of Anetyium is the southern most island in the country of Vanuatu. Sailing vessels may check into Vanuatu in the bay here. Thus it was our first stop after the passage from Fiji. The local police officer, Richard George, was also a quarantine officer. When he came out to our boat, he brought his son with him, a 10 year old boy. We welcomed them on board, he asked his questions, filled out his paperwork, and cleared us for quarantine. We lowered our yellow flag and were free to go ashore. It was cloudy and spitting rain as the officer and his son left our boat that morning around 8:30 AM, so we decided to wait a bit to see if the weather cleared.
Then a container ship came into the bay. We watched through binoculars, as men onboard began unloading boxes into a smaller boat which in turn offloaded the boxes on shore. We were terribly curious - it was time to lower the dinghy.
The boxes were piled on the sandy beach and people were checking the shipment and loading them into dinghies.
It amazed us to see how loaded down these small motor boats were. Some of the dinghies were so full that they had no freeboard at all. How would they keep that 50 kilo sack of rice dry as it plowed through the rocky waters surrounding this island?
Owen chatted with one of the local guys on the beach. He found out that most of the boxes of food, building materials, paper products, etc., were being delivered by dinghy to village shops around the island. This was the only way to distribute the goods. There was no main road connecting the villages on the island. And this was the only bay a container ship could anchor in. Wow, can you imagine living in a place where there is no main road, the only way to get from one part of the island to another would be over open water. And most of the boats we had seen were not more than a four meters long.
The building behind Owen (in the photo) is the first grass and stick house we saw in Vanuatu. It was built out over the high tide zone on stilts.
There was a shortage of good boats with working outboard motors, so the police boat, which had a big outboard motor was also used for deliveries.
I asked this woman if she would let me take her picture. She is wearing the traditional "Mother Hubbard" dress that village women wear in Vanuatu. I learned later that women in some villages are not allowed to wear anything else but the 'Mother Hubbard' dresses. And that the customs are dictated by the village chiefs - who can only be male. We had read in the 'Moon Guide to the South Pacific' (regarding Vanuatu) that in some parts of Vanuatu, and as recent as the 1960s, women were considered less valuable than a pig. Yes, just a we bit oppressive.
After watching the villagers load dinghies for a while we decided to wander down the beach a bit. We ran across this structure. It was next to a small kitchen building, thus part of someone's household. I am not sure what it was used for. Perhaps a place for men to drink kava.
Another building, again not sure what it was used for, although I am fairly certain it is not a "barn" for livestock. Livestock did not have housing. Corrugated metal roofing is used all over the place for walls, roofs, doors, where ever it is needed.
Most villagers cannot afford a boat with an outboard motor. They get around (from island to island or even around their island) on an out rigger canoe, generally carved from a single tree. The is the first undeveloped country we have visited on our trip [parts of Fiji are remote and undeveloped, so we have been told, but we hadn't visited them].
This beach was formed by hot lava flowing into the ocean. The Islands of Vanuatu were formed by volcanoes......Those trees and bushes, behind Owen and Griffyn, seem giant and ancient. Here there was an unspoiled beauty.
As we walked along the volcanic shelf, little crevices filled with coral debris broke the smooth surface.
Some crevices exposed fossils still partially embedded in the volcanic rock.
I was intrigued by the outrigger canoes. This one had a rig and could be sailed as well as paddled.
Tamsyn made a reed flag.
She enjoyed digging her toes into the fine black sand near the giant mangroves. There is a primeval feeling about this place.
I ran across these women cutting up cow intestines. They told me it was for a wedding the following day.
These girls had just finished school for the day and were hanging out in a canoe.
I decided to venture beyond the beach. But I felt shy - with out sidewalks or roads - it is easy to tread on someone else's yard or living space without knowing it. There is a foot path in this photo, (lined with variegated spiky plants) passing the building. The fence surrounds the local primary school grounds. I asked a student if he minded if I looked in the classrooms.
This structure (on the school grounds) is part of an old ruin from the colonial period.
And this young student showed me where he sat in his class.
This classroom had students a level or two above the young boy in the previous picture.
As I left the school, I found Owen talking to one of the teachers, carrying her grandchild. Blonde hair and black skin is common among the native Vanuatu peoples. Their heritage is African, and the blond hair is a local genetic trait. I thanked her for letting me look around. And then it was time to go back to Madrona, to get behind mosquito netting.
We spent about 3 days in the bay. The next day was bright and sunny. We went back to walk the beach, looking at shells, letting the kids play in the clean warm water. The beaches were deserted because of the wedding at the village and all but a handful of people were attending. Around 4PM when it was quite hot we all felt very thirsty (but had not brought water with us), and a young boy came over to us with a green coconut cut open for us. He handed it to us and we quenched our thirst gratefully. Then we followed him through his yard to meet his parents. His father was the paster at the 7th Day Adventist Church next to the house. They were not at the wedding because they believed differently than the villagers attending the wedding.
This beautiful place was just what we needed after three months on a mooring ball in a tributary near Savusavu. [We didn't swim off the boat in Savusavu because the marina was too close to a town, and the local hot spring made the water murky.] We were definitely looking forward to seeing more of Vanuatu.