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Monday 7 August 2023

Tanna Part 2

One of the highlights of visiting Port Resolution was the chance to meet a local family, Reena, Noel, their children and some their community. It is very much thanks to Thant Zin that we are able to meet local people. He is often taken in as one of their own, clubbing with the locals and the like, and we very much benefit from his contacts.

The beach where we land the dinghy. 

There is a path up to the village, the ‘yacht club’ and only road out of the village. A shorter route around the bay is to wait for low water and walk along the beach.

As displayed by Gerry and Richard, Colin’s friends and crew from New Zealand. 

Gerry is a doctor, who has sold her practise in near Christchurch, NZ and in the company of her husband Richard, was now involved  involunteer work in medical establishments where is would do the most good, like Lenekel, the main town on Tanna. They flew to Fiji to meet up with Colin and sailed to Port Resolution. After a rambunctious sail from Fiji, they arrived the day after we did.

One of the local dugout canoes used for fishing in and outside (in better weather than we’d been having) the bay. 

They fish in a group with nets.

From the beach, we took a path inland, which eventually lead up to the Noel and Reena’s homestead.

The extended family.

Acting silly is universally understood.

All the side-eye going on makes me wonder if they were humouring me.

When we first arrived Reena welcomed us with a plate of boiled cassava in a coconut cream. It was lovely and I think it might well have been a simple version of this Cassava and Coconut Curry. There was a hint of garlic and the cassava root was so soft.  I haven’t cooked it before and how to cook it safely is described in the recipe . We ate it all between the four of us, which was a good thing as unbeknownst to us, we had a long walk ahead of us.

Next we were to visit the local village. As well as many houses there was a parade ground and a sturdy school building. Sturdy is important as this is where the families evacuate to when a cyclone is imminent. 

Last year,  two of the most southerly Vanuatuan islands, Tanna and Erromanga, took direct hits from two cyclones and suffered a lot of damage. Many of the food staple trees like papaya and banana were destroyed in the strong winds and torrential rain. Mango is their ‘Christmas’ fruit as that’s when the fruit is ripens. 

This year, an El Niño year, seems very cool and often blustery to us. Last year, a La Niña year, was really hot in September and mangos abounded. Last year Fiji saw no cyclones at all while Vanuatu was hit harder and more frequent than normal.

Reena lead the way.

During the walk, Reena mentioned her toddlers weeping eye and an older child’s skin condition.  Gerry had a look at both and sent drops and salve up the next day with Thant Zin. 

A typical village house.

There was to be a ‘drill Sargent’ or such who was expected to drill the children in marching, but while we waited for him to arrive, ‘could we please look at a broken sewing machine?’ Of course.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t an ancient Singer hand powered machine. The only manual machine I’ve seen was Grandma Lillian’s foot pedal singer.

Between Tim and I, we figured out some of the fixable issues and under Reena’s experienced hands, we got it stitching to her satisfaction.  We’re not sure how much was down to our actions or down to the moral support we offered Reena. The latter I suspect.

Before we left the village we were ladened down with fresh vegetables from the gardens - Pak Choy which takes only 6 weeks to mature, spring onions, limes and christophene which is a vegetable we ran across in the Caribbean. They were very generous.

On the way back we passed Noel and Reena’s calf. We could honestly say it was the prettiest cow we had seen.  I wish we’d had more time to think as I would have liked to know what they were going to do with the calf.  

We have learned since that Vanuatu is famous for its beef.

Reena showed me how the coconut rasp worked. It’s a rough-edged loop of metal attached to a board you sit on.  You then scrape the meat from the shell. The chickens approved.

My favourite photo of the baby.  This is the cook house. 

On the far side of the area is the sleeping and living accommodations where Reena has her sewing machine. The day before we left, I went through my sewing things and brought things I thought might be of use - spools of thread, sewing machine needles and machine oil, needles and some fabric.

If we were to come back again, I would be better prepared.

The walk back was longer as with the tide in we had to take the high road. The walked we did to the village and back was between 6 and 8 km and we were rather foot sore by the time we got back to the dinghy on the beach.

It was an excellent a day and gave us very much food for thought on the way of life in this corner of Tanna.

Now over to Tim.

The best time to see the volcano is just as it’s getting dark so you see it in both lights. A tortuous drive up the hill from the base reception for about 15minutes with a group of about 20 tourists from all over the island, some of them had had a tortuous drive for over 3 hours in the back of a pick up truck.

A short steep climb from the car park to us to the precipice of the crater.

Surprisingly it was cold up there, very windy and very smoky.

It genuinely was the precipice, we stood right at the edge of a vertical drop in loose ash. We did sign some kind of waiver at the reception.

This is looking almost vertically down. All the action is about 200m horizontally and about 500m vertically.

About once every two or three minutes there was a big booming explosion of various magnitude.
Glowing boulders were flung high in the air, almost to eye level, and then they crashed down onto the inner slopes of the crater. Once in a while there was a big one. Everyone was constantly pointing their cameras like a Taylor Swift concert.

Good photographs and video were hard to come by, you had to be lucky.

After an hour we all retreated back to Resolution Bay. Our pickup was also dedicated transport for the volcano staff going home. I estimate each of these journeys probably takes a year off the life of your joints. We picked up a couple of fellows who could hardly walk, they had been on the Kava all day.

Thank you, Tim. 

More to come soon as we are a few islands up the chain now and there are still a few things I’d like to mention about Tanna.

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