After three days of sailing from Fiji I arrived on the catamaran WAYFINDER in Port Vila, Vanuatus capital. It was my first crossing that I did by sailboat and I couldn’t have imagined it better.
Though the first day of sailing felt like we are in a washing machine but the last two days were pretty good and we mostly did between 7 and 10 knots.
We arrived in Port Vila in the afternoon and waited for the customs to come to clear in. It was Sunday but the boat owner contacted the customs in advance to tell them that we are coming. The customs didn’t reply at all and after waiting for one hour we decided that we want to go on land to buy some food and SIM cards.
The first thing we came across was the Jetty for the dinghies. It was super busy and when you step on it it moves a loooot. We had a look at the yacht club which was just a small shed with some chairs and tables to drink or eat.
We walked further into a petrol station and hoped that they have some simcards there but the petrol station was empty.
Also the money exchange was empty – but open.
We took a taxi to a big supermarket which was open and found some digital sim-cards there for a few euros.
I was happy to be back in contact with my friends and family.
The owner of the boat had some american friends who also stay on a yacht at Port Vila and we visited them and had a delicious dinner with them on the boat.
The next day in the morning the custom officer came to our boat to clear in and it didn’t take longer than 15 minutes to fill out the forms. They didn’t check the boat and anything. We hided all the veggies and fruits before they came because you are not allowed to bring fresh food but they didn’t care anyways.
We still had to get our passport stamp so we were looking to find the immigration in town which was quite a challenge.
We asked a few people but nobody knew where it was. We actually walked past it but there was no sign that says anything on that building. We had to walk up to the first floor and then around a couple of corners until we came in a small room where the walls was broken through.
This was the immigration where we got our stamp which was definitely the weirdest immigration I have ever came across. After that I walked to the money exchange to change my fijian dollars to Vanuatu dollars and after that had a walk around the local market which was the most amazing market I have been so far in my life.
Lots of different fruits and veggies and no plastic bags. The locals only weave baskets out of coconut-leaves and those baskets are beautiful and strong. I bought lap lap which is a traditional local dish. The locals grate tapioca, yam, kumara or other roots and coconuts and bake it together, it tastes delicious.
We all went back to the boat and I packed my stuff and made my way back to town to catch a “bus”. There are no big buses, only small vans that you can stop anywhere on the side of the road.
I said goodbye to the lovely people I could sail to Vanuatu with and jumped in the bus. The driver didn’t look like a reliable and friendly man as he wanted to charge me way too much but I had to change the “bus” anyway.
The van dropped me at a supermarket and from there I changed to another van which went further around the island. After 40 minutes the bus driver stopped in the middle of nowhere at a bar where I was going to meet the owner of the boat I can jump on. The place was called Havannah Harbor and it looked very remote.
I walked down to the bar and Ian, the owner of the Catamaran called “OUTSIDER” waited there for me. I met him and his wife in Fiji and they would have offered me to sail to Vanuatu with them but I decided to stay longer in Fiji but they said that I can join them in Vanuatu and Ian just sailed back from further North to Efate, which is the main island where we arrived to drop his wife at the airport as her mother got ill and she had to fly back to australia.
I could join Ian for the next weeks on his sailing trip on the islands in the north which was amazing. I got so lucky that I got to stay on their beautiful catamaran as the owner is great and super kind and fun to be around with.
They live on the boat since more than 20 years and had amazing stories to tell from their backpacking and sailing experiences. Ian also taught me everything I needed to know about sailing and I was just super grateful to found someone who I could learn so much from. The best thing was that they are also looking to make local friends wherever they go and love to go to villages and hang around with the locals.
They are amazing cooks and love to cook on the boat, they don’t like tourists and tours and people who just want to rip you off so I really enjoyed my time with them.
On the first day we sailed to another Island, called Emae, Sulua Bay. We had a long walk across the island through some villages and got grapefruit for free from the locals. In the end of our walk we had a whole bunch of kids following us.
The next day we were sailing another few hours to an island called Epi. We anchored at Lamen Bay which is one of the best spots I have ever been to.
We had a walk around the village, they even have a small airstrip and shop where you can buy the basics like cookies and rice, oil, breakfast crackers, etc.
We met a sweet lady at the airstrip and she wanted to show us her house and garden so we came with her and she introduced us to her family and gave us veggies and fruits from her garden. We told her that we come back the next day to learn how to weave baskets out of coconut leaves and bake a cake with her as we brought her some banana-muffins which they all loved.
The next day I saw dolphins swimming next to our boat and also a lot of big turtles. I jumped in the water and snorkelled around in the bay where I came across a dugong (seacow). The dugong was chilling on the ground and ate all the seagrass on the ground. It was a big one but very friendly and just chilled around. I was very happy because that was my goal for Vanuatu: swimming with the dugong! So on my third day in Vanuatu I already fulfilled my goal I had for the country which is pretty good.
After the snorkeling I went to the local lady and we baked a papaya-cake with her and learned how to weave baskets out of coconut-leaves. I didn’t find it very easy to learn and she showed me super fast but after two hours I kind of got the technique to weave.
We had a walk around on the other side of the village and met another lovely lady who bakes fresh coconut-bread. We ordered 2 loafs of bread and she showed me around in her beautiful garden and gave me soursop and papayas for free.
We picked up the coconut-bread in the morning and enjoyed our breakfast. It tasted delicious with guava-jam that Ian made.
After that we followed to locals with our dinghy to go to a local market a few bays further. They had all sorts of vegetables there but no fruits. Probably because its only a market for the people in the villages so nobody would buy bananas or papayas or coconuts as they have it growing wild everywhere. We bought lots of pumpkin and sweet potato (kumala) where we made a delicious veggie curry from.
The next day we sailed to another island, called MASKELINE ISLAND.
The passage into the bay was pretty difficult. Corals and rocks everywhere and there was only a small channel to go into the bay. We went there by low tide which works fine if you have a catamaran because it is only 1,2 m deep but with a monohull you can only come and go by high tide.
A few minutes after we arrived a guy paddled out on his dug-out canoe. Ian went to have a rest and I heard the local coming. He asked me if the owner is here and I told him that he just went to have a rest but will be awake in one hour.
He didn’t like my answer and wanted that I wake him up as I had a very bad feeling with that local guy. He asked me a few times if that is my husband and was a really weird guy in general.
He was a guide and wanted us to come and join his canoe-festival which was going on where locals just paddled with their canoes as the do everyday anyway. They wanted us to pay 30 US dollars to come to the festival where we get kava (the local drink) and dinner with the locals. It an insanely expensive price but anyways.
The local guy didn’t want to tell me the information so I woke Ian up after a while as the guy didn’t want to leave anymore. Ian talked to him and asked me if I wanna go to that festival and I said no. The guy went away after a while. 10 minutes later another guy came which was much nicer and 10 minutes after that guy left another one paddled out on his canoe. They all wanted to be our tour guide.
One of the man seemed to be really nice so we told him that we come later to have a walk around. He waited for us on the beach and showed us around in his village. We made clear that we just want to be his friends and brought him some peanuts. He told us about the children-day which they had the following day so we told him that we are coming to join him to church.
We met in the morning at 9 am the next day to go to church as he told us it starts at 9 am. Nobody was in the church at that time so we waited another hour until the church started.
Lots of people came to celebrate the children-day. The people gave us a necklace made out of pandanas-leaves which is a symbol for peace and invited us to stand with the kids in the middle of the church.
All the parents walked to every kid and shook their hands and put baby-powder on their head and back and also sprays some perfume on the shirt.
We had to shake hands with all the people in the village twice.
After that the church took another 2 hours. We got invited to have lunch with one of the locals and their family. We went back to the boat to pick up some chocolate brownies that we made and brought it to them as a present, they loved it as they never eat something like that. I ate rice with papaya and coconut as everything else was with tuna or meat.
In the afternoon a guy from the village picked me up on his dug-out canoe and we paddled to a reef which was a short paddle away. I saw beautiful corals there and big fish.
I wanted to paddle on the way back but it turned out to be a bit more difficult as I thought it will be. After a while I figured out how the paddling works on those canoes so I could paddle us back to the boat.
The next day was Independence Day so all the villagers came together and raced the vanuatu flag and sang their national anthem. Vanuatu got independent in the year 1980.
After celebrating that we sailed to our next stop on Malekula Island, Port Sandwich is known for lots of bull sharks so swimming is not so recommended there.
We had a dinghy ride to a place called murder river. It was beautiful there, surrounded by mangroves but I didn’t quite like the name “MURDER RIVER” too much.
When we came back we tied our dinghy on the beach and went for a walk on the island. We met friendly people but most of the village was very quiet on that day as it was Independence Day and there was a big soccer game going on in town which was 1 hour walk away. We decided to come in the morning again as it was late already and the next day in the morning we stopped at small guesthouse/shop close to where we anchored the dinghy.
A lovely local lady with her husband is living in a beautiful house with a big bread and pizza oven and lots of different fruits and veggies growing in their garden. We had a talk to them and they are super friendly people and she gave me some fruits and veggies for free.
Then we walked further into town. It was a long walk and half of the way a car stopped and we could jump in the back of a pick-up car.
The car driver dropped us in the middle of the town as he called it but there was no town.
Only a small hall with the sign “market” and a small sign that says digicel-top up but it was closed. I looked around and saw a woman coming to her “shop”. I asked her for the digicel top up but she said it is finished. We walked a bit further and found another top up sign. I asked again and also this lady told me the top up for the phone is finished.
Those were no good news as I run out of data 4 days before that and I really needed to send a message to my mum and friends.
We saw a small kid with a big knife running around and said hello to him. He started talking to us in their local language “bislama” and we didn’t understand what he meant but he said the name Florence often and pointed in a direction.
We walked in that direction and met a local lady called Florence. She is a tour guide and has great english. We asked her for some top up and she walked with us for another 10 minutes through fields and bushes and a forest until we arrived at her friends house which was absolutely beautiful as it has every fruit and vegetable growing.
Her friend Isabella is a lovely lady and she could top my phone up with some data and she also showed me around in the garden and house and asked me if I need some fruits or veggies. She gave me so many bananas and papayas and she didn’t want money for it. It was super nice of her. I hope that I can come back to stop at her place another time while I am here in Vanuatu.
We walked back and Florence the tour guide came with us as she wanted to see our boat. She told us about a festival which will take place in 2-3 days and we asked about the price and the program. She told us that we pay 50 dollars and then we get kava, the local drink made out of a root and we also get food.
The rest will be up to them and nobody of the locals knew about this festival so it was not very organized.
Anyway, we definitely didn’t want to go there and we brought her to our boot and showed her around.
The next day we went to the shop again and picked up some fresh homemade bread before we put the anchor up again and sailed to our next island which is called “Ambrym“. The island has an active volcano and we wanted to check out the place and asked around how much we have to pay in order to walk up the volcano.
Nobody there could give us clear informations but we met a guy who is a school-teacher and he told us that he is married to the daughter of the president of vanuatu. He also said he can get us some information as he knows the tour guide for the volcano hike and we meet him in the morning again and he can have a look at the boat as he never went inside a sailboat in his life.
After that we headed off to our next destinations which was Norsup in North-Malekula. It took us about 5 hours to sail there as the wind was not very strong. We first anchored at the wharf at Norsup and took a walk on land to check out the “town” there. On the internet we read that there is a bank and supermarkets and a bakery. It didn’t seem like there is anything at all but there was a proper road, like I haven’t seen since I left Port Vila.
We followed the road and came to a small shop where I could buy some digicel top up for my phone. We asked the workers there if there is a market or bank close by and they said we have to catch a bus. The area certainly didn’t look like there are busses all the time so we decided to continue walking. After a few minutes we stopped the next car coming and we jumped into the back of a pick-up. The driver brought us to a small market in the next town. It turned out that the pick-up is the bus.
There are no proper buses. You just stop any car coming and pay 1 dollar and it brings you to whichever place you want to go to. The market was alright but they didn’t have lots of things there. They told us there will be much more stuff tomorrow as it is the big market day then so we decided to come back early in the morning.
We “caught the bus back” to the wharf and decided to move the boat to another place close by as it was super shaky there.
We motored to a place close by, a small island called Uri Island, where we were protected from the wind. It was already pretty late, almost sunset so we didn’t see all the reef around. The next day in the morning when I woke up I saw that we are surrounded by reef.
Plenty of turtles around and the water-colour is just beautiful. We got very lucky that we didn’t hit the reef when we came in as there was only one side where there was no reef and we luckily found that spot to enter.
A local-couple paddled out with their canoe to say hello and gave us flowers which was super nice. Half an hour later a men with two small kids paddled out and they simply wanted to say hello and told us that we are more than welcome to have a walk around in their village.
Unfortunately we couldn’t do that on this day as we had to relocate the boat to a place close to the “airstrip” as friends of the boat owner arrived the next day in the morning and we have to pick them up.
We told them that we will come back on the next day with our friends and they were happy about that. We sailed over to the mainland again and anchored the boat close to a jetty where lots of local guys chilled out. They came out on their boat and asked us super weird questions about how long we stay and how many people and we didn’t feel quite save there.
Anyway, we stored all our valuables somewhere where they can’t find them in case they come on the boat when we are not there. We jumped in the dinghy and tied it on the jetty and waited for the “bus” to come.
Half an hour later a car came and brought us to the market. This time they had much more things to sell and also small shops close by where we could buy bread and eggs. We stocked up on veggies and fruits to have enough food for the time when the friends are here which was 5 days and there was no shop close by other than on that place.
We drove back to the boat and the first time since I am here in Vanuatu it was raining. We used that opportunity to clean the boat on the outside as it was already covered in the volcanic ash as a very active volcano on the island Ambae is close by.
The next day after yoga we made our way to the “airstrip”. The bus driver didn’t show up as we expected as it was saturday morning and people drink lots of strong kava here in Vanuatu so they sleep in on the weekend.
Fortunately the plane which the friends came was delayed as well so we didn’t have to rush to get there. After waiting for a while a car showed up and brought us to the airstrip. It was the funniest airstrip I have ever came across. There was a house but everything was missing, the windows, the roof, the walls, etc. While we were waiting we met a guy from the US and he has been living on that island in Vanuatu over 20 years now and has a big factory where they make oil out of some plants that grow here and export it to the US where they use the oils to make cosmetic products. It was a very interesting story and he invited us to come and visit him as soon as he comes back from the main island.
The friends are a lovely aussie couple and they haven’t been on a sailboat before. They were super impressed from the boat and how stable it is as they thought the wife will get sea-sick super fast.
We motored back to the small island where we got invited to come to the day before and as we anchored in there a lot of turtles came to say hello. We went for a walk around the island and met Willy, the guy who invited us to come and it turned out that he is the men in charge of the church.
He invited us to come and join him to the church and lunch on sunday, which was the next day. We sat down with the family for a while and one of his daughter who is a lovely 30 year old lady called Flora was breading my hair and she did an amazing job. I was so impressed what they are able to do with the hair and I didn’t even asked for it.
On Sunday we all got up super early and started to cook a veggie curry as we wanted to bring food as well. The curry took long to make but turned out to be delicious.
We also brought some home-made brownies and macadamia nuts for the to try. The church started around 10 am with a lot of different songs. They hold our hands and we all sang songs together. The church was lovely and we had a great time. After church we went to their house and they showed me how they cooked the lap-lap which is their traditional dish and they cook it on stones in the ground and cover it with banana leaves. It was a huge portion of Lap lap and it tasted delicious. The whole family was sitting on the ground and we all ate with our fingers.
They all loved the brownies but struggled with the curry as it was too spicy for them. They also never saw macadamia nuts in their life so they were happy about the food.
After the lunch Flora gave me one of her traditional dresses which was super nice. The dresses are all very large and look like a tent pretty much, they have no shape at all but it was such a sweet thing to do from her and they really included us in everything they did and took great care of us. In the end we told them we will come back for sure in the next weeks as we were all amazed from the hospitality of all those people. I never felt so much gratitude before and it felt like we are part of their family.
The next morning we headed off to the next island, called Rano Island. It is a small island where you can see the sites where they had cannibalism. We only stopped there for a night and had a swim and snorkel around as the color of the water was insanely blue and headed off to LUGANVILLE the following day in the morning. It was a 5 hours sail and the wife who visited got seasick. She was throwing up for a few hours and I felt very sorry for her as she couldn’t talk or move during our sail-trip. Once we anchored in a calm bay she got better very fast.
Luganville is known to be the second biggest “city” in Vanuatu. You definitely can’t call Luganville or Port Vila a city, those places are like towns.
I was super happy that I could finally buy a simcard from a company called TVL because the digicel simcard didn’t work for calling online and I wanted to talk to my mum again.
There was also a pretty good supermarket and a great local market in town where we bought lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I finally could eat some Lap-lap again as they sell it at the market for super cheap.
Everybody else on the boat looked at me like I am crazy that I like that stuff but I think it tastes just great.
We dropped the friends off at the airport which was a 15 minutes taxi ride away from where we parked the boat. The airport is super tiny and it even has a roof and some windows on one side. The other side is just open. It’s one of the tiniest and oldest airports I have ever seen. Wendy, Ians wife laded as well on the same plane which the friends flew out on so we picked her up as well and it was good having her back after she spent some time in australia to see her family.
We showed her around town and waited another 2 days in Luganville for the next friends to arrive and join us on the boat. The friends who arrived had 10 days to stay on the boat and they are super nice people also from australia.
We sailed to the nice bay around the corner of Luganville which was super nice and quiet and as we had a walk around at the beach we discovered really old peaces of trucks and cars and other machine from the world war, everything was overgrown. The next day we woke up at 6 am and started to sail across to an island called Pentecost. The wind was with us for the first half of the way but then it turned and we had to motor for a few hours. Once we arrived at Long-tong Bay in North Pentecost I was amazed by the beauty of the island which is very long but very narrow and with a big hill in the middle.
We walked on the beach and made friends with the locals who showed us the yacht club which was a tiny cottage made out of bamboo and there were plenty of old books to exchange. I was super happy as I really needed some books to read. I found a book called “the Alchemist” which is wanted to read since a long time already but I never found it somewhere.
I was super stoked about that and read the whole book in only one day as it was so good.
The family who the yacht club belongs to wanted to show me around in their village and the husband walked up the big hill with me which took us 1,5 hours one way. It was super narrow and steep and the road was pretty shitty but the view from up there was just amazing. Once we reached the top he showed me his garden. It is a kava garden as the whole island is known for the good Kava. The kava drink actually comes from Pentecost. I never saw so much Kava in my life before. It was very interesting that they showed me around everywhere and they.invited me to stay with them if I come back.
The next day we made our way to south-Pentecost to a place where they do the land-diving normally. Locals build a tower made out of vines every year and then they do some bungee-jumping which they call land-diving and it is super dangerous. Every year in May and June locals build a tower and then they tie both of their ankles on the vines and jump from a very high distance. Tourists have to pay more than 100 dollars to see them jumping and I couldn’t believe that they actually risk their lifes like that.
When the vines get old which is every June they stop to jump. It was already August when we arrived there so we only wanted to see the tower without them jumping but when we walked with a young local lady towards the tower a man came and wanted us to pay. We had no money with us and the man was super weird and I definitely don’t want to pay for seeing a destroyed tower out of vines so we walked back and met a lovely old lady who told us that her eldest son died from jumping from the tower and breaking his back some years ago.
After Pentecost we sailed south to Malekula Island, a spot called Crab Bay. It was a beautiful anchorage where I could snorkel around everywhere as there was plenty of reef around. From there we sailed back to Uri Island the next morning where we said hello to our local friends again.
We all joined them to go to church on sunday & after that we were invited to join for lunch. We already prepared brownies, cookies and a date-bread and popcorn to bring to them so we all sat around in a big circle and enjoyed our food together. We opened oysters for them to eat and went with the locals to the main island by longboat to have a look at a nut-factory. Its a great thing that the australian owner does as he supports all the locals on the island. Everyone can bring the nuts to him and get paid for it.
The next day the sailboat left and I decided to stay on Uri Island until the ferry comes to go back south to Port Vila as the couple will sail to the Solomon Islands so it will be difficult for me to find a ride back once I am in the north of Vanuatu.
The ferry was one day delayed so I spend 3 days with the locals on the island. The first day I went to church again in the morning as it was woman-church on that day. We were around 30 women in the church and we built small groups where everyone told the others what they want to pray for and then we all prayed together for that which was really nice. After that a weird part followed: A lady read the salary and what they spent in that week from every lady in the village, it took one hours and was super strange that they read that out loud in the church.
We made rice and veggies for lunch and in the afternoon we prepared Lap-Lap which took around 4 hours. We had to grate all the root-vegetables like yam and manioc, kumala and also the coconut. Then we put the whole “dough” in banana-leaves and prepare a fire on the ground. We put everything on top of the hot stones on the ground and let it cook for 3 hours. The whole family came together for dinner and we all sat on the ground and ate the Lap-Lap. It was very cute as they made vegetarian lap-lap with cabbage in the middle instead of chicken this time as they knew that I don’t eat meat.
In that night I woke up in the middle of the night because my stomach was burning. I couldn’t sleep anymore and had to run outside to use the “toilet” all the time.
I started to vomit as well which I normally never do.
Anyway, I couldn’t sleep anymore and felt horrible.
The next day in the morning the locals wanted to show me their garden on the main island so I thought I have to join them. I still felt very bad and had no energy but at least I didn’t have to run to the toilet all the time.
I think it was a “new” boat that they tested if it works so around 15 of us went in a very old looking boat that the locals just fixed.
They put a black paste on the ground to stop the water from coming in but it came in anyway, they let the kids play around a bit with it to stop the water but it didn’t work.
Nobody seemed to care about the water coming in. It took almost one hour until we arrived at their garden on the main island. We tied the boat on the mangroves and had to walk in the mud another 15 minutes until we arrived. Lots of banana-trees, island-cabbage, coconuts and root-vegetables were there. We harvested and planted bananas and made a fire.
They throw the unripe banana in the fire and let it cook for half an hour. After that we ate the banana. Then we harvested cabbage and put it into a bamboo-stick and filled it with some saltwater and coconut-water as well. It tasted pretty good and they always use a bit of saltwater from the ocean to cook with to make it taste salty, makes sense.
We drank coconut but I actually couldn’t really eat anything on that day, tried a bit of banana and some cabbage but just tiny bits. On the way back we run out of petrol so we had to paddle, it took very long and it was very hot. We arrived back in the village in the evening and I went straight to bed as I was so tired.
Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep that night either as my stomachache started again and then I had to run outside all the time. I never had so bad stomache-problems as I had in that night. I felt so bad when I had to get up in the morning and I didn’t know where it came from. Maybe from the water or from the food or just from the unhygienic things that I am not used to.
I felt bad because the locals could clearly tell that I don’t feel good and so they thought that their hospitality is not good which made me so sad as they are the loveliest people I have ever met and stayed with.
The woman prepared rice and fish to sell when the ferry arrives so I joined them for the ride back to the mainland. We put some tables up and sat on stones in the shade behind to wait until the ferry comes. It was 11 am and the ferry was supposed to arrive at 3 pm so I didn’t know why we were there so early. Another local ferry came and all of a sudden it was very crowded and lots of other woman came as well to sell food, there was lots of competition going on.
The ferry arrived at 3 pm and it was a very big and new looking one. I said goodbye to everyone and bought a ticket which was insanely expensive, around 70 euros for the ferry ride back to Port Vila.
Inside the ferry was a sleeping area on the ground and a TV and music and some benches. I laid down on the bench which was pretty comfortable and I didn’t eat on that day because I was afraid that my stomach will start again during the night and I really didn’t want to have that again in the ferry.
Luckily my stomach was fine and I could also sleep a bit. When we arrived in Vila in the morning I got picked up at the wharf from the guy I met on my first day when I arrived in Port Vila after my crossing.
He told me that he lives and works here in Vanuatu and he has a boat where we can go sailing with. I wrote him a few days before that I am coming and he said that is fine but he doesn’t know if we can go sailing often.
Anyway, I was the only tourist on the ferry and I felt like I am fainting after no food and 3 days of almost no sleep. I was so happy when I arrived back in Port Vila and got a good night of sleep in a real bed!