We arrived shortly after the arrival of over a dozen World ARC Rally boats.
ARC Rallies are a big deal for islands they visit. They are a well organised events and, it seemed to me, that they work to the same formula everywhere they visit. Clearance into the country is organised as well as tours and cultural events. They bring a lot of money into often very poor countries. Another aspect of the ARC is giving gifts to the local communities, which Tim saw the day we cleared in and I mentioned previously, so kudos to them.
Tanna is the most underdeveloped and possibly most underfunded place we have visited ever.
As Customs and Immigration took almost all the Vatu (Vanuatan currency) Tim had been able to borrow from Burmese Breeze before leaving Fiji, a trip to the main town of Lenekel was needed to top up the coffers.
Transportation from Port Resolution anywhere is by privately owned 4x4’s. When a trip is necessary it is arranged to benefit the maximum number of people. No space is wasted.
Few people have cars and petrol/gas is very expensive. When a trip is requested by a visitor, word goes out amongst the local population and the remaining seats are filled. Tim was a bit blindsided to discover that, though the locals were charged 200 VT for the journey, he and the other visitors were charged 2000.
One get used to being overcharged, if not ripped-off as a tourist, but I don’t think that way of thinking applies here. The people here are really poor and have even less this year due to the destruction caused by direct hits by 2 cyclones last year. Banana and papaya/pawpaw trees, main staples, were almost totally destroyed across this island and the island of Erromango, Tanna’s northern neighbour. This is a terrible loss to the their sustainability and the local economy. Mango trees survived but they are the ‘Christmas’ fruit as they ripen in December.
I’m sure 200 VT for them and 2000 VT for us is fair.
Much of the island has no electricity, though Lenekel has some lighting thanks to some sort of generator. There is no electricity in the area around Port Resolution. They have mobile phones and these are charged by running the engine of the few vehicles in the area. I expect there is a fee to help cover the cost of the petrol.
Using your phone entails a walk to the top of a cliff over looking the bay for the best reception. Not everyone has a phone.
One has to laugh sometimes. Stanley, a local contact and ‘go to guy, for the ARC, seldom answered his hand-held VHF radio, so they gave him was given a brand new one. Problem solved? Not really. It could be that they now have 2 radios they aren’t able to charge rather than 1. Stanley asked Tim if he would charge the new radio on Larus, which we did, but will there be a boat around when next it needs charging? I expect the first boat into the anchorage will be asked to help out.
Wouldn’t this be a great place for a solar array? At the very least some Luci Lights. As it is dark for, give or take, 12 hours a day one could cook, read, sew, repair, play games or study after 6 in the evening.
Honestly, I wish I’d done more research on Vanuatu before leaving NZ. Friends on Capall Mara brought a chainsaw for Stanley that he had requested on their previous visit last year.
Where were we? Ah yes, Tim going to Lenekel for cash.
I didn’t go to Lenekel as there was some confusion over what I was being asked to do. I thought I was being asked as per an earlier conversation if I wanted to go on the tour to the most accessible active volcano in the world to which I replied firmly, ‘No.’ By the time I got the right end of the stick and said, ‘Yes, please,’ the car was full.
Most of the journey was on dirt roads often eroded to odd angles and shapes that only a 4x4 could manage.
Tim arrived back to Port Resolution about 5 hours later than expected with a pocket full of cash and a bag of sugar, which is exactly what I had asked for.