Thursday, August 17, 2006

Port Vila, Efate

8/2 - 8/17
Port Vila, Vanuatu

It is always exciting to enter a new country.  New sights, new smells, new customs and fresh faces.
There isn't a country yet that I haven't loved, but some cities seem to linger in my mind longer then others; Port Vila is one of those.  There is a certain energy to Port Vila that is hard to describe.  Vila is big enough to host a variety of stores, but not so big that you feel overwhelmed.  The people are quiet, but always friendly.  The shops, from groceries to hardware to souvenirs, are well stocked, and there is never any pressure to buy; looking is completely acceptable.  There is great food and fast internet, and while Port Vila is not cheap, it is reasonable priced.  I can really only think of two down sides to Port Vila; 1) it rains just about every day, and 2) the huge cruise ship stops there.  Okay, so I being a bit snobby that I, a white tourist, do not like be crowded by other white tourists, but really, the town becomes unbearably crowded, and the prices in the souvenir market go up whenever the ship arrives ... so surely you understand!

We spent our first two weeks in Vila exploring the shops, enjoying mounds of fresh food (and great steaks), and trying to find a weather window to get down to Tanna.  We visited the local museum which, although small, was excellent.  We especially enjoyed the guide who spent a good half hour with us, demonstrating sand drawings and describing their meanings.  Sand drawings are used to recount legends, songs and ceremonies, as well as leaving a simply message.  They are continuous, elaborate designs, and can vary from island to island.  The final drawing he showed us was an intricately drawn angel fish.  This is the drawing that they must learn, perfectly, before dying.  Once they die they travel up to the mountain on the southern tip of Pentecost where a pool of water containing an angel fish is waiting for them.  They must create this sand drawing for him, and if they do it correctly, then it is known their heart and life was pure, but if they do it incorrectly, then it is known that they are not pure, and the angel fish will eat their entrails!!!

With all the cruisers in Vila, it was also a great chance to make some new friends, and we enjoyed many sundowners.  Between the rainy days, and meeting Roxanne, who has to kids on board, we also caught up on some of our game playing!  One night we even gave Tom & Lynn (Roxanne) a 'night off', hosting their two kids for pizzas and games aboard Billabong.

During those two weeks we tried twice to get down to Tanna, both times turning back.  Our attempts, although unsuccessful, were not an entire waste; we managed to snag a 5.1 foot Wahoo during one outing.  Finally, we opted to fly out to Tanna, as they say, "Nothing goes to weather like a 747"!

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