The Magic of Vanuatu | Pacific Voyagers


The Magic of Vanuatu

We’ve left Vanuatu and some of Hine Moana’s crew. The welcoming and at the same time farewell in Maskelyne Island was emotional for every crewmember on the canoe. Maskelyne. We came early in the morning of the Saturday after the fantastic arrival ceremony in Port Vila. A group of islands just south of the bigger Malekula. No roads, no ferries,  a days travel if necessary to the little airport and port in Lamap in Malekula if the people need to go to Port Vila. The boys had already told us about the Dugongs in this area. And while at anchor in the outer reefs waiting for all the canoes to gather, a light grey body with a curious face comes up right to Hine Moana! A Dugong, for the first time for most of us! Maskelyne is the home for Kalo, Johnnywell and Kaltevag. Last year Thompson and Willie Moan sailed here too but now, Thompson is a captain of the little Vaka Motu, Okeanos, and Willie is the cook onboard. They met us in Vila and are leading the parade of vaka through the islands. When we arrived in the bay of Sangalai we could see Kalo’s house. Through the quite dense jungle framing the bay, we could see people peaking at us. Shouts and happy screams rolled towards us while we anchored. This is a wild place. Beautiful and pristine. On land, walking around the islands and the three villages, Peskarues, Pellonk, Uluveu, we find the cleanest squares, nice and well groomed gardens and neat houses and bungalows. Finally we get a chance to see where the boys come from and meet their families. Its simple but so nice! Some statistics says that the people in Vanuatu is the happiest people on the planet. And it might well be true. Smiles, invites, laughs and curiosity everywhere. We meet  Chief Willie Nombong, who came down to New Zealand together with the younger boys to train late in 2009 when the project still was in its first stages. We have some found memories of those first cold sails in the late NZ winter out to Great Barrier. After trying to marry some of the girls sailing with us Chief Willie decided that he was needed in his village and let the younger boys continue on their own. To see him again is a joy and we talk story and laugh a lot.
It takes our little gang of a few crew about an 2 hours to walk around the whole island. We see Johnnywells family, Kaltavags children, Kalo’s many children and lovely wife, Thompsons father, mother and sister. They are all here. And a  couple of generations of them.
Kalo’s family host all of the us for a kava ceremony and dinner in his house. Dieter, who is sailing with Hine Moana, Tua, Hoturoa, all the skippers have to sit and share a bowl of fresh kava root juice made from a 6 year old kava root the boys just went out and got. The kava in Vanuatu is lethal and this fresh, a cup, usually served from a dirty orange plastic bucket, is enough to make your mouth and throat completely numb and your brain stuffed in a layer of soft cotton, making everything slightly weird. Dieter, Tua and Hoturoa, the Kamatuas of all of us, doesn’t seem to be affected at all, while us younger skippers start to dose off quickly. So we stay away from the kava, at least until after the dinner. Kalo’s family takes so well care of us. All of us, that is 120 of us. So, thank you Kalo very much for this!

Later in the evening some crew overdose on the kava and actually are unable to stand anymore. Still talking but all the motor functions are gone. In the morning we have the formal welcoming at the school ground in Uluveu. Hundreds of kids and many chiefs. Of course, a kava ceremony, more like the one we did with the Prime Minister in Port Vila, but still with the same obligatory dirty orange plastic bucket for mixing the juice. Right after the ceremony ,before dark, we have to leave this oasis in our crazy world. The crews slowly get back on the canoes, slow because of the kava but also because we don’t really want to go. Kaltavag is staying with his young family. He is on the shore with them all as we leave. Hine raises her anchor and open sails, then the whole crew shouts our Hine Haka as loud as we can. Hundreds of the villagers are waiving and shouting back to us. Something magic. But a final touch grips our hearts as we pass the cape of the bay. A small group of children is standing there almost out in the water. Hine and Gaualofa passes close together and at the spure of the moment both canoes starts the Te Mana o Te Moana haka for them. The children gets crazy, they can’t keep still, they scream and jump and start throwing their shoes, sticks and whatever they can find, high up in the air! Finally they just run around and jumping in the water. This place is magical. We want to come back. And perhaps we will. Johnnywell and Kalo is still onboard. They are happy but it is hard for them to leave their families again.
Arohanui Hine Moana

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