After one month of sailing around in Vanuatu I went back to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, by ferry. It was a 17 hours ferry ride from the north of Malekula Island. The ferry was very nice, a big area where you can sleep on the ground on a yoga mat or something and also on one of many comfortable benches.
I didn’t sleep a lot that night and was more than tired when I arrived in Vila in the morning after I got sick too in the village where I stayed a couple of days before that. No sleep for 3 nights and I felt like I am fainting. I was in contact with a man who lives and works in Port Vila and wants to take his sailboat out for some sail trips.
SO, he picked me up at the wharf. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression when I met the new boat owner. Anyway, what can I do. I was super happy that he offered me to come to his house for a bit and discuss the sailing plans. The house is super beautiful with a hot shower and big pool and three dogs, so lovely. I enjoyed having a bed and a good night of sleep and felt like a new person in the morning.
The next day I had a swim in the pool, played with the doggies and then we went to see the boat and sailed for a few hours a bit outside the harbor. It was so nice as the boat is just beautiful. I felt at home there straight away.
We didn’t use the auto-pilot which was very good and refreshing as all the boats where I was on only use the auto-pilot so I could never learn to steer the boat. The next day I packed my stuff because the boat owner offered me that I can stay at his boat while he is away for a business trip. I was very grateful about that offer!
I had 10 lovely days where I had a boat to my own. I did lots of reading, writing, drawing, running, exploring during that time. When the owner came back we did some day sails to a place called Paradise Cove which is not far away from the harbor, about an hour and its absolutely beautiful there. Super clear water and lots of amazing coral and very peaceful!
When I first had to drive the dinghy it was a challenge for me as I am not very good with engine stuff but after some days of reversing and everything I even got compliments from other boat owner for seeing me driving that thing.
I absolutely loved the local market in town which was open 6 days a week. Locals come a long way to sell all their fruits and veggies during a week, they even sleep on the market so you can buy fruits and veggies anytime. I have never experienced such a variety of different fruits, veggies and herbs. I absolutely loved the fact that the government banned to use of plastic bags a few month ago this year.
So, you always have to bring your own shopping bag when you want to buy something in the supermarket and local market too.
There is a section at the local market where the woman sell some local dishes, mostly Lap-Lap. A lot of different kinds of lap lap and I tried pretty much all of them. I love the banana and kumara lap lap with coconut milk, tomatoes onion and cabbage. So yummy!
I made contact with a french family who lives in Port Vila since many years. The lady and her husband both work in the french school and they have two kids in the age of 6 and 8 years who have plenty of energy. The first day I met the lady we went to a kava-bar and it was the first time that I had kava here in Vanuatu. It is pretty strong and two small cups where definitely enough to make me sleep like a baby and my tongue went numb immediately. The tradition here in Vanuatu is so different than it is in Fiji. In Fiji people come together to drink kava and everyone sits in a circle while one person is preparing the drink in a wooden bowl.
Then the bowl gets around in a circle and everyone has to clap a few times in the hands before and after drinking the kava.
Here in Vanuatu the kava is already prepared in a big bowl and you have to buy the kava. You can tell them the amount of the local currency (VATU) and then you get either a small one or a bowl full of kava. Mostly kava is 1-2 dollar per bowl. Then you stand while drinking it and you have to spit on the ground afterwards. No talking, no clapping hands, just drinking in silence while standing.
Another day the french family took me to a really beautiful private beach with other french families. The water was stunning clear and blue and we all had a picnic on the beach. The family asked me if I want to stay with them for a while before I leave Port Vila so I decided to go to them for a few days before I jump on the next boat to head to my next destination, New Caledonia.
I went around the island by car with a Japanese guy who is living here in Vanuatu too and it was a cool trip as we could stop at all the nice spots around Efate and he could explain me everything as he knows the area. It took us around 5 hours for a drive around and the landscape changes quickly everywhere we went. Sometimes it looks like Hawaii and sometimes it looks dry, a few meters further it looks totally different again, super stunning. The water is even clear in the big harbor in Port Vila so you can imagine how clear it is on other spots.
We stopped at the local market on the way back in town and I bought him some local lap-lap as he never tried it before which I found is crazy as its the traditional local dish.
He was not very impressed but made the effort to eat a few tiny pieces, it was fun for me to watch him eating. I don’t know lots about the culture in Japan but maybe there you don’t eat food on banana leaves without cutlery.
He also showed me a surf spot here called Pango Point, not far out of town. It’s a reeef-break and you can only surf when there it high-tide. No surf school there so its hard to surf without traveling with a surfboard. I really wanted to try surfing here in Vanuatu but I couldn’t rent a board there and also it looks super dangerous as it is super shallow and not many people surf here. Probably not the best spot for beginner to try over the reef anyway as I mostly fall of the surfboard.
When I was talking to the boat owner a few days later he told me that he has a friend here who lives a bit outside of town too and they have plenty of surfboards and live directly on the beach. I got in contact with his friend and got invited to come and borrow the surfboard. When I arrived at their place I felt welcome straight away as the whole family is just lovely!
They have a son in the age of 10 years old who is super cute and knowledgeable and polite. He went with me out for a surf but the weather was not good and the waves were not powerful either. I tried to catch the waves but they were not strong enough and my surfboard was probably to small for me to catch them as I was paddling very hard. After 2 hours of paddling around I was very tired but absolutely loved it to be in the water on a board again and getting a feeling for the waves. I can’t wait to go somewhere where I can make surfing a daily routine as I really enjoy it always when I am trying to surf. I don’t even need to catch a wave in order to enjoy it but when I catch a wave it gives me such a great feeling too!
While I was staying with the french family I took care of the kids after school when they came home. Sometimes they had some other activities after school but I really enjoyed my time with them. The daughter loved to draw so we did lots of that and the son played soccer, basketball and badminton with me. I went for runs in the morning after the family left to go to school and work and while I was running down a dirt road a local lady stopped me and told me that I shouldn’t run further as the neighbors have a big dog who just bit a woman and the kids clean up the blood. I kept talking to her and she showed me her village and a kava-bar where she sells food every evening. She was super nice and introduced me to some villagers around too. She used to work for the family I visited to have a surf before.
I invited myself again to the surf-family as they told me I am welcome all the time and I really liked the atmosphere and people there. We made vegetarian Lap-Lap with the woman and a friend of her. The lap lap was so good and they explained me everything I wanted to know about the dish. When the husband came home he was very happy about the food and it was the best lap-lap I have tried so far as we made it with plenty of cabbage, coconut milk, onions and tomato.
As we couldn’t surf because it was low tide we thought its nice to go for a snorkel as the reef is very big around there. The bad part was that I don’t have reef shoes and so I had to walk on the reef for a bit and when the waves started to break I got spilled back and cut my legs on the corals. It didn’t really hurt a lot so we went snorkeling and it was just beautiful there. What an amazing location!
After 5 weeks staying in Port Vila I met the owner of a boat I could come to sail to New Caledonia and onwards to Brisbane, Australia. He is from England and had another crew from australia on the boat. They are both very lovely people and I was happy that I got the opportunity to be on the boat with them.
The boat is 48 ft and a pretty spacious boat inside with hot shower, freezer, water maker, … very comfortable. There a two cabins so I had to sleep in the saloon the first days which was very comfortable too!
I bought Lap lap for the crew of the owner too and she was not super enthusiastic either but the owner loved it as much as I do. The owner, Eric, has been sailing since many many years and already spent the last season in Vanuatu and New Caledonia so he knows the culture here already.
When I was walking along the waterfront and using the wifi from one of the restaurants here a guy came to me and told me that he saw me here quite often and if I want to come with him for a short helicopter flight as he flies the helicopter here in Port Vila and he has to bring it back to the airport.
I was super happy about the offer and we went to the helicopter by boat because it sits on a platform on the ocean during the day for the tourists to do some scenic-flights around the islands. We flew over some of the close by islands and saw all the boats and reef around. Looked absolutely beautiful and I got very lucky.
The next 10 days the weather changed completely and it didn’t stop raining! First I enjoyed it to be running in the rain and just reading and chilling on the boat but after a few days I got tired of always getting soaking wet and seeing no sign of sunshine. I didn’t stop running in the morning but the rain was super heavy most of the time so I stopped at the usual wifi spot again and I met the helicopter pilot again who offered me that I can use the wifi at their office & wait for the rain to stop which was a great idea.
When I came back from my run that day I had breakfast with the other crew on board & when Eric woke up he didn’t seem to be alright as he fainted. He was completely white in his face and felt passed out for a few minutes. We were super worried and I organized a doctor for him while Kate, the crew, stayed with him. It was a bit challenging to bring him to the doctor that day. Getting of and on the boat turned out to be difficult. The doctor looked at his infections which were pretty bad at already and especially the infection in his knee got bigger and bigger. He got some injections and the doctor said he needs those every day now. I felt horrible being alone with him on the boat while he has those bad infections where people can die from – it’s a big problem in Vanuatu and those kind of infections have to be treated as fast as possible.
It didn’t get better in the next 2 days and I couldn’t sleep anymore as I was so worried so I made him go to the private hospital in Port Vila with me. The french doctor there didn’t seem to be too worried first and almost wouldn’t want to keep him there as she needed to stay there with him over night and take care but I mean – thats what a doctor in a private hospital is there for.
Luckily he could stay there and the next day it got worse still, even with injections so they needed him to stay another night. There was no food in the hospital so I brought some food to him too and clothes to change. I was running back and forth for a few days and felt stressed out and worried because it seemed that I was the only one worrying. When it didn’t get better after 3 days in the hospital, even with strong antibiotics and all the other injections the doctor said that she would fly to Brisbane or New Caledonia to get it proper treated if she was him. He still didn’t seem to be too worried as he said we can go sailing in a few days which made me worry even more. There was no chance that I would feel comfortable to go sailing when his leg is about to fall off.
When the infection didn’t get better and he almost couldn’t walk anymore he also wanted to fly to Brisbane or Noumea for the treatment so his insurance company organized a flight for him which took them another 3 days. Crazy.
I tried to found another boat which takes me to New Caledonia as my visa for Vanuatu was about to expire and I wanted to see New Caledonia. It didn’t take me long to find a boat, I got a few offers but they seemed a bit weird and some captains didn’t make a good impressions. A guy from Texas in a boat called Irie II, which was a friend of Eric, sails single handed all the time and I had a talk to him and asked if I can come with him to Noumea as he planned to sail out a 2 days after Eric flew to Brisbane hospital. He said that I can come with him if I want to and it would be an experiment for him as he never had crew on board while doing a passage. He is a really funny and nice guy so I felt happy about that! I locked Eric’s boat up and put the dinghy out of the water.
On Kate’s last day in Vanuatu before she flew back to australia we met at a cafe at the waterfront in Vila. The helicopter office is right next door and the pilot, Dave, offered us to come with him to take the helicopter to the platform. I was super happy that Kate had a great last day before flying home as the weather was bad all the time she had been in Vanuatu and what happened with Eric didn’t make her stay better too. Even with the rain the helicopter flight was awesome 🙂
The pilot is a really nice guy and I made friends with him and mostly stopped there in the morning after my run and often I could come to pick the helicopter up or bring the helicopter back to the airport in the evening. I got very lucky and all the people who worked there were just lovely.
One day, after 10 days of rain, we drove around the island with his car and stopped at nice beaches. 10 minutes after we started to drive around the rain stopped and it turned out to be the hottest day which was awesome for swimming! The beaches around Efate are gorgeous.
He never drank Kava in Vanuatu and he works there since a year already so I took him to a kava-bar after our drive around. The next day I could join a flight around Efate as a couple from Sweden booked a flight and there was a spare seat – lucky me! It was a sunny day and the water and reef is stunning, I saw two dugongs swimming in the lagoon which was awesome and the flight took almost one hour.
After spending 6 weeks in Port Vila on boats without sailing around I was happy to do some more sailing again – so I jumped on the boat Irie II, going from Vanuatu to New Caledonia which was supposed to take 2-3 days.