Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Aniwa & Erromango

Aniwa & Erromango (8/27 - 8/30)

We had a fast sail (still aboard Island Sonata) from Port Resolution to Aniwa.  In the guides Aniwa is only listed as a day anchorage, but with the winds predicted to lighten and from a direction that left the anchorage well protected, we decided to stay there overnight.  It was a tight squeeze, and John had to get in the water to find a good spot to drop the anchor.  Just shortly after anchoring, a number of men appeared on the beach, calling and waving to us.  John and Chris took the dinghy in to see them.  Apparently they wanted money for us to anchor.  Now here is where things get difficult and confusing for us.  According to the government, as posted in the custom offices, locals should not receive (or ask for) any money from yachts for anchoring.  But there is government law and then there is Kustom (or local) law.  And according to these men, we needed to pay 1,000 vatu per person, per night, plus 1,000 for the boat.  That would be about $50 US per night, just to anchor!  John told them that when he checked in with customs in Luganville, he had been told not to pay any anchoring fees, but still the men said it was required.  John and Chris didn't have any money on them, so the spokesman said he would return tomorrow to collect the fees.  We had arrived in Aniwa around 4pm and had planned on leaving the following morning.  We weren't going ashore or even snorkeling. With that and with the conflicting rules of the government, we decided to go ahead and leave early in the morning without paying, trying to avoid any conflicts or potential scams.

We left around 5 a.m., heading to Dillian's Bay on the west side of Erromango.  We had planned for a long day sail, but with higher winds, we seemed to fly along, and arrived by one in the afternoon!  We were also pleased to catch a Mahi Mahi along the way.

A local, David, stopped by in is canoe to welcome us and invite us ashore.  The following day we went in to say hello and David, after introducing us to his son and showing us their plant nursery,  offered to give us a tour.  We were specifically looking for a rock that supposedly had the outline of a killed missionary, John Williams, etched into it.  Williams, along with his companion, was killed and eaten in 1839.  David said he knew were it was.  After a beautiful walk through the village, down to the river, across the river, and half-way up a small rocky hill, we came upon the memorial plaque set into a stone, dedicated to Williams.  We explained to David that, while the walk was great, this was not the stone we were looking for ... we were looking for the one with the etching of Williams.  Ah, yes, no problem, he told us.  So we returned to the village, walking along the river and meeting the locals on the way.  We all piled into the dinghy, then crossed the opening of the river, and walked a short distance up the other side, into a cemetery.  Here was the gravestone for Williams.  We tried again to explain what we were looking for, but with no luck ... and honestly we were only interested because Lonely Planet pointed it out.  It had been a beautiful day and a terrific tour, so we left it at that and returned to the boat.  Later, just before sunset, David came out to say goodbye (we had told him we were leaving the next morning), bringing us fruits from his garden.  We again thanked him for his friendliness and hospitality, giving him a few parting gifts as well.

It was a full day sail back to Port Vila ... 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.  We were happy to be back, and anxious to see how Billabong had fared over the last twelve days without us.  All was well, and everything just as we'd left it.  That night the four of us went out for hamburgers and fries, celebrating our great time in Tanna, and the fact that we could all live together for nearly two weeks (on a boat no-less) and still come away friends!!!

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