Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Further dinghy adventures in Peterson Bay

Full of stores, water and fuel we made our way 15 miles up the east coast of Santo to Peterson bay. Just before entering the anchorage I noticed that it was Friday 13th, Charlotta pleaded that we should stop immediately and remain motionless for the remainder of the day, instead I chanced all and threaded our way through some coral heads into the calm of the inner anchorage in Peterson bay. We shared the bay with a Belgium boat, Gaia, who cast doubts on our plans to obtain our clearance for Australia from Sola in Vanua Lava, further north. They had managed to obtain a post-dated clearance for Papua New Guinea from the customs in Luganville. To be safe we decided to delay our departure for the northern islands until customs reopened on Monday.

Initially the enforced weekend wait was frustrating, but in Vanuatu days fill-up with planned and unplanned activities and we quickly found we had a full agenda. Peterson Bay contains two rivers leading to blue holes - clear deep springs. The trip up the rivers twists through diverse dense bush until finally revealing a deserted clear deep swimming hole with handy creepers allowing attempted Tarzan impressions into the water. We drifted back down the river through floating hibiscus with swooping swallows overhead and the occasional bright-blue king-fisher - worth the wait alone.As we emerged from the river we were greeting by a couple of fishermen who asked us to pay for our river-trip. Our guide-book warned us there might be some cost, but instead we offered a couple of tee-shirts and a fish-hook, which was happily accepted and rendezvous arranged for the morning for some fruit exchange. At the appointed time we exchanged a couple more tee-shirts for pamplemoose, papaya and bananas and they offered to show us where to collect oysters.

The trick is to take the oysters from mangrove roots, not rocks where they are nearly impossible to remove intact. I mistakenly thought Scandinavians were brought up on a diet of raw fish and seafood, but it appears not, as Charlotta claimed she'd never tasted oysters before. Raw oysters didn't inspire her, but she found them more palatable when lightly grilled with butter and garlic and energetically set to work opening the shells with a heavy hammer on shore. Slightly too energetically, as she soon hammered her finger onto a rock, resulting in a nasty wound that tested our medical kit. I attempted a Bislama explanation to our new fisherman friends, which they correct as: "Charlotta i killem finger blong em wetem hammer. Emi bugerup finger" - Charlotta hit her finger with the hammer, wounding her finger.

When the fishermen heard we were staying for a couple more days they invited us to one of their children's third birthday party, to be preceded by a night-time lobster/fishing expedition. We headed off in the dinghy with Philip, Ricky, Joe and myself; Charlotta staying behind to nurse her finger. Philip and Ricky headed off with the two spear guns and torches while myself and Joe provided the dinghy backup. Joe rowed and kept close to the reef without catching the large swell - "bigfela wave".My job was to take the fish off the spear and reload the gun. The box was starting to fill-up when a sharp fin on a fish, "like a razor", badly cut Ricky's finger - "Fis i cutem finger blog Ricky, emi harem sore." We abandoned the fishing and raced back to shore so Ricky could find some medicinal leaves with the fish-box and contents taken for the next day's birthday.
It seems that in Vanuatu a third birthday isn't simply a chance for the toddler and friends to get together and cover themselves in cake, instead it appears to be used as an opportunity to bring together the extended family and friends. Humblingly we were treated as honoured guests and received the first Kava shells as well the choice from the impressive food on offer.Finally Monday arrived and off I set to Luganville on the folding bike. Three punctures later and turning-down numerous offers of assistance I finally gave-up and gladly accepted the offer of a lift into town. After much waiting and lobbying we have our clearance to Australia post-dated to the end of the month so we can cruise the northern islands unconcerned about the vagaries of the custom procedure in Sola.

Peterson Bay: S15° 22.725' E167° 11.422'

No comments: