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Thursday, January 1, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Vanuatu and New Caledonia – Season Summary!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM US TO EVERYONE!!!  We hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season.  Speaking of season, here’s our cruising season wrap up.  From the title, you’re probably thinking what Vanuatu and New Caledonia, I thought they already made it down to New Zealand.  Well, you would be absolutely correct, however, we missed many exciting adventures from our blog for this season.  So, I thought I would do a quick (which turned out not to be so quick) round up of events and adventures, not including those in New Caledonia which I have already mentioned in past posts.  We will give another update of events in New Zealand soon afterwards and there’s BIG news and pictures coming, so you’ll definitely want to check back.  For now, enjoy!  If you don’t have time to read the text just check out the pictures, it’s worth a peek!

Vanuatu (Highlights)
This country has two major cities, Port Vila located on the island of Efate and Luganville located on the island of Santos.  Most islands are still fairly primitive having little to no electricity and many that we visited have gardens planted around the island.

We began our travels in Vanuatu with a stop on the island of Aneityum.  We had a wonderful (probably our best to date) sailing trips North from New Zealand to Aneityum, Vanuatu which took about 6 days.  While in Aneityum, we attended a welcoming festival, went on a hike which was suppose to be only four hours (roundtrip) ended up being eight hours (I mourned the loss of two toe nails), and did some wonderful snorkeling at the nearby Mystery Island where the cruise ship takes it visitors.  That’s right a huge cruise ship anchors near the small island of Aneityum and takes their guests to the even smaller island called “Mystery Island”.  Here are some pictures.

Sail from NZ to Vanuatu_05 22 14_0009
Hitchhiker on board!!!
Sail from NZ to Vanuatu_05 25 14_0003
Yummy fish!

First visit to Vanuatu_05 26 14_0007a
Click on the picture to see it better!
Bulldozer from logging days and only 5 years old
We were surprised to see this tractor!
Hike to Inwan Leleghei Waterfall_05 27 14_0012
Five minute rest on the way up!
They believe this plant will help protect their garden
Plant is said to protect their gardens
Hike to Inwan Leleghei Waterfall_05 27 14_0034
Mushrooms anyone?
Hike to Inwan Leleghei Waterfall_05 27 14_0020
We made it ... finally!
Four hours later, WE MADE IT!!
Everyone was really relieved.
Snorkeling at 20 15 111S 169 46 750E_05 31 14_0068
Big grouper ... no spearfishing allowed, figures!
Snorkeling at 20 15 111S 169 46 750E_05 31 14_0057
Rockmover Wrasse
We stopped at a few other anchorages in Aneityum before sailing North to Tanna where we took a 30-45 minutes bouncy truck ride and then hiked a short distance (about 30 minutes) to an active volcano, Mt. Yasur.  The next day we had the pleasure of experiencing our first circumcision ceremony/festivities where we were asked to bring gifts of baked goods for the young boys who were circumcised (it was done about a month ago).   Now, this circumcision ceremony was very interesting and somewhat disturbing for us, because to our surprise, the festival involved pig killing which included bludgeoning a pig.  This is typical custom and there are usually many pigs served at major ceremonies (i.e. weddings, circumcision ceremonies, etc.).  Exploring new lands and cultures is one main reason why we enjoy cruising which sometimes means exploring outside our “cultural comfort zones”.   So sometimes, the differences can be a bit more difficult to enjoy than others with that said some people may not want to view some of the photographs below.

Mt Yasur Volcano_06 06 14_0042
HOT!! HOT!!! HOT!!!
Circumcision Feast_06 07 14_0057
Circumcision Feast_06 07 14_0021
Ceremonial pig slaying
Circumcision Feast_06 07 14_0049
The boys were circumcised about a month ago
Circumcision Feast_06 07 14_0080
The boys and their families
Circumcision Feast_06 07 14_0051
Gifts are given to the families of the circumcised boys!
On our way North and back down South again, we stopped in Port Vila located on the island Efate and is one of the larger cities in Vanuatu.  During our visits in Port Vila, we watched a fire dancing show, went to a horse race which included “decked out” ladies in heels and hats (very fancy) and fashion show, and I (Sandy) celebrated by 50th birthday with my British twin Simon who was born same day and year as me!  I celebrated with a birthday dinner, birthday party, birthday resort day … hey, when you’re old you get to celebrate A LOT!!!  Dad, sorry to say your youngest isn’t young anymore.

Horse Racing_08 16 14_0018     Horse Racing_08 16 14_0061 

Horse Racing_08 16 14_0041     Horse Racing_08 16 14_0043     Horse Racing_08 16 14_0056
Look at all the ladies dolled up ... my favorite is the island dress!

Birthday Celebration aboard Astarte_08 14 14_0005
Sharing my 50th with my twin Simon & good friends
Birthday Celebration aboard Astarte_08 14 14_0032
My worst picture EVER ... aweful hair cut in Vanuatu

All through Vanuatu, we were catching fish and really enjoyed the snorkeling and diving!!  Here are some of the pictures from our snorkeling and diving near Epi Island.

Dive south of Lamen Bay_06 22 14_0010     Dive south of Lamen Bay_06 22 14_0013 

Dive south of Lamen Bay_06 22 14_0016     Dive south of Lamen Bay_06 22 14_0040 

Diving south of Lamen Bay_06 21 14_0054     Diving south of Lamen Bay_06 21 14_0058 

Diving south of Lamen Bay_06 21 14_0060     Diving south of Lamen Bay_06 21 14_0065 

We stopped in Ambryn Island and were pleasantly surprised to be invited to a wedding ceremony.  We decided not to attend the festivities, but did get to watch the preparation for the wedding event which can take the whole weekend.

Wedding Preparations_06 26 14_0022     Wedding Preparations_06 26 14_0035
The women are preparing the traditional Vanuatu meal of laplap for the wedding

Chief Josephs Village_06 25 14_0003     Chief Josephs Village_06 25 14_0017 

We were sailing North at a pretty good pace, because it was important to arrive Pentecost Island by June for the land diving.  We didn’t want to miss this spectacular custom.  As we were racing our way North hopping along the islands, we caught a few fish along the way and got a nice picture of Gypsea Heart underway thanks to our friends, Anne & Mark on Blue Rodeo.  We made it to Pentecost Island in time for the land diving and it was INCREDIBLE!!  We also enjoyed some diving and getting to know the people of Pentecost Island.

Blue Rodeo's pics for Gypsea Heart 6-1     Sail from Lelepa to Emae - Mahi Mahi_06 17 14_0002

Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0034
Great picture ... I love the expression of the man on the right!
Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0102     Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0106     Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0107 
Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0108     Land Diving Event_06 28 14_0110
Land diving is a spectacular event something worth experiencing!

Dive North of Bwatnapne_07 25 14_0010
Kunie's Chromodoris Nudibranch (I believe)
Visitors_06 30 14_0002
I traded with these little girls...fresh veggies for cookies!
We stopped in Maewo Island (Asanvari Bay) for a bit of exploring and enjoyed a wonderful dance celebration.  Then sailed over to southern Aore Island anchoring by Ratua Island which is one of my favorite places.  Great snorkeling spot and very good diving nearby also.  I believe you’ll find some good snorkeling and diving waypoints on www.venturefarther.com, so go check it out.  Also, while snorkeling around Ratua Island, we were able to see several Cuddlefish which I have included pictures below.  There’s a wonderful YouTube video which does a fabulous job telling you all about the Cuddlefish and other creatures. This is a must see, so go to https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLOHbM4GGWADc5bZgvbivvttAuWGow6h05&v=GDwOi7HpHtQ=  If you’re so inclined, let us know what you think of the video in the comments section of this blog.

Custom Dance_07 23 14_0006     Custom Dance_07 23 14_0008

Custom Dance_07 23 14_0027

Custom Dance_07 23 14_0007     Custom Dance_07 23 14_0021

Snorkeling_08 01 14_0030
Cuddlefish ... not too happy with me!
Snorkeling_07 09 14_0007
Cuddlefish ... yes, they change color!
Snorkeling at Purumamasa Island_07 07 14_0010     Snorkeling at Purumamasa Island_07 07 14_0016

Snorkeling at Purumamasa Island_07 07 14_0030
Really close picture of an octopus!
Snorkeling_07 09 14_0027
Banded Coral Shrimp
Snorkeling_08 01 14_0028 
Ok.  So this intended “quick” update is not so quick.  Looking back we did so many things in Vanuatu, but since this “quick” update is going on forever, I’ll just include these last pictures of the Coolidge dive we did near the island of Santos in Vanuatu to wrap up the Vanuatu section.

Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0001
We call this toothpaste nudibranch
Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0039
Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0008
Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0013
Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0029
Electric clams...hard to tell but in the dark they glow
Coolidge Wreck Dive_07 29 14_0036
Steering wheel
Coolidge Wreck Dive-Slip Away-13
Barber's Chair
Aren't you glad we did this season wrap up?  There are some wonderful things in Vanuatu. It's worth a visit.  I just wished we could have gone into more details here providing information about their history and culture.  We’ll do better in the future.  Okay, now onto New Caledonia.

New Caledonia (Highlights)

We had a great time in New Caledonia though it rained a lot when we first arrived in August.  Here is a list of some things we did in New Caledonia which haven’t been included in previous posts.  We celebrated my 50th Birthday in Noumea (yes, again) … can’t celebrate too many times at my age.  I toured the Tijbaou Cultural Center with our cruising friends Rita and Uli.  Rankin showed off his sporran and kilt to our fun loving Scottish cruising friend Barbara on Taurangi.  Rankin kayaked through the raging rapids in Baie de Prony.  He along with our friends Kelvin and Lynette also enjoyed the “hot” tub (which we call the tepid tubs) there too.  We also hiked around Ilot de Casey with our guide dog (we don’t know his name).  The dog literally will give you a guided tour around the island.  We almost got lost, because we didn’t follow the dog.  Thanks guys!  Did I mention our friends from New Zealand, Kelvin and Lynette, came for a two week visit so some of our exploring was with them.  We rented a car in Ile de Pins and explored the Grotte de la Reine Hortense (a beautiful cave).  We also took a wooden pirogue excursion from Baie de St. Joseph to Baie d’Oro (which is a restricted bay).  So these are just a few more things we did while traveling around New Caledonia.

Tjibaou Cultural Center_08 21 14_0002     Tjibaou Cultural Center_08 21 14_0005

Tjibaou Cultural Center_08 21 14_0006

Happy Hour aboard Gypsea Heart_08 25 14_0008
Barbara is quite impressed with Rankin's sporran!

Kayaking_09 10 14_0008
Braving the rapids!
Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0010
Kelvin & Rankin get to know each other a little better!

Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0014
Tepid Tub!
Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0018
Our guide dog
Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0025-1   Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0027-1   Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0030-1

 Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0032-1     Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0041-1

Walk Around Ilot Casy_09 30 14_0034-1

Rented a Car_10 02 14_0002     Rented a Car_10 02 14_0009     Rented a Car_10 02 14_0049

 Rented a Car_10 02 14_0004     Rented a Car_10 02 14_0042

Panga Ride_10 03 14_0004    Panga Ride_10 03 14_0020

 Panga Ride_10 03 14_0022

Panga Ride_10 03 14_0007     Panga Ride_10 03 14_0009     Panga Ride_10 03 14_0043

I apologize for such a hurried season wrap up.  We thought y’all might want to see a little of Vanuatu and a little more of New Caledonia.  Until the next time which will be soon.  Remember, we have a really BIG surprise, so be sure to check back in a bit.  Y’all take care, enjoy life and HAVE A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


Larry_and_Karen said...

Thanks for providing this summary. We will probably be there next season.

Sandy said...

We may see y'all there. Wouldn't that be great!

Anonymous said...

Seems there was a rather significant event missing from this report! -- P. Mabry

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