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Preparing to Leave Vanuatu

June 7, 2015

We arrived yesterday in Luganville, Vanuatu, where we are making final plans for our departure to Australia. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Vanuatu only 26 days because so much has happened.

Our initial days in Vanuatu were spent in Port Vila meeting our fellow Sea Mercy Rotation 2 team that consisted of ourselves, Stan and Val on “Buffalo Nickle”, and Brian (#2) and Sue on “Darramy”. We spent a lot of time in meetings learning the ins and outs of relief aid and loading our boats. It was stressful and we were all glad to finally head out to the Shepherd Islands which were hit particularly hard by cyclone Pam. Our mission was to distribute supplies to these remote islands that larger vessels are unable to reach.

But before leaving Port Vila we took an overnight trip to Tanna Island to see one of the world’s most active volcanos. It was a perilous 1.5 hour ride in a 4-wheel truck from our lodge to the volcano over the worst roads EVER! Then we climbed to the rim of the volcano and looked right into the funnel of hot sputtering lava. The volcano would occasionally “burp” spewing lava high above our heads. Our guide said not to worry because the wind was blowing away from us. A couple of tourist died from such a burp not too long ago.

Our little Sea Mercy fleet set up base on Emae Island which has the only good anchorage in the Shepherds. We met with Joseph, the local disaster relief coordinator, and assessed the damage on the island. We hired a truck to take us to George Frank’s community which was so remote that they had received little aid. We drove 6 km over a dirt road that had just been cleared. Even then we had to walk the last 2 km.

George is a fisherman whose aluminum fishing boat was severely damaged during the cyclone leaving him with no source of food or income. We made arrangements to return to the community the following day by dinghy and fix the boat as best we could. We were met in the morning by men who carried our tools through the surf while we swam in. Stan, Brian, and Brian spent the entire day working with the local men to make the boat sea worthy. The community was extremely grateful and it was a rewarding experience for the Sea Mercy team.

The three boats went to Tongoa Island where we brought ashore supplies from the World Health Organization. We hired a truck for the day which took us to three health clinics where the WHO had earlier set up tents and provided generators. Our primary mission was to set up lighting for the tents. Afterward, Buffalo Nickle (a fast power boat) headed to Epi Island to pick up more supplies while Darramy and Persephone went to Tongariki Island. The landing at Tongariki was too rough to land, but we off-loaded three dinghy loads to men who carried the supplies through the surf. We spent a very unpleasant night in the anchorage.

Our next stop was to be Buninga Island which is even more exposed. Fortunately, we meet a local boat that was headed for Buninga and offered to take the supplies there and see that they were properly taken care of. With that done we headed back to the safe anchorage at Emae and a good night’s sleep.

The next day we were joined by Buffalo Nickle which was way overloaded with 2500 x 1.5L water bottles and a ton of supplies. We enlisted the help of many of the locals to off-load everything to the beach. This marked the end of our formal relief effort and we celebrated that night aboard Buffalo Nickle with a birthday party for Stan.

We developed great friendships with our fellow Sea Mercy volunteers and we were sad to leave them the next morning as we needed to get north to check out of the country and head for the Indonesia Rally in Cairns, Australia.

Along the way we stopped at Epi Island to see the giant green turtles and for a little diving. Our next stop was at Uliveo Island in the Maskelynes where we were treated to lobster and a traditional smol nambas dance. We also got to try Vanuatu kava which is definitely stronger than Fijian kava!

We are now sitting at anchor in Luganville waiting for a weather window to cross to Australia. It will take about nine days which will be the second longest crossing of our trip so far. Our next post should be from Cairns.

Flying from Port Vila to Tanna to see the volcano.

Flying from Port Vila to Tanna to see the volcano.

Tanna volcano

Tanna volcano

Looking into the volcano crater.

Looking into the volcano crater.

Sandie and Michelle looking into the crater while being sand blasted by high winds.

Sandie and Michelle looking into the crater while being sand blasted by high winds.

The Tanna volcano shoots lava high above our heads.

The Tanna volcano shoots lava high above our heads.

Persephone's forward berth was completely filled with relief supplies.

Persephone’s forward berth was completely filled with relief supplies.

A letter attached to some of the donated relief supplies.

A letter attached to some of the donated relief supplies.

The road to George's community was just partially opened 2 months after the cyclone.

The road to George’s community was just partially opened 2 months after the cyclone.

We were the first white people that this little girl had ever seen.

We were the first white people that this little girl had ever seen.

We had to walk the last 2 km to George's community.

We had to walk the last 2 km to George’s community.

George's boat was found under the fallen trees.

George’s boat was found under the fallen trees.

George's seed allocation from the Vanuatu relief effort.

George’s seed allocation from the Vanuatu relief effort.

The Sea Mercy team wait for a ride - Brian, Brian, Sandie, Sue, Val, & Stan

The Sea Mercy team wait for a ride – Brian, Brian, Sandie, Sue, Val, & Stan

Helpers carried our tools ashore for fixing George's boat on Emae.

Helpers carried our tools ashore for fixing George’s boat on Emae.

Putting George's boat back together.

Putting George’s boat back together.

Fishermen on the reef at Emae Is.; all boats were unusable.

Fishermen on the reef at Emae Is.; all boats were unusable.

Child enjoys a bike ride without tires (Emae Is.)

Child enjoys a bike ride without tires (Emae Is.)

Putting WHO lighting together in Taralapa, Tongoa Is.

Putting WHO lighting together in Taralapa, Tongoa Is.

Sandie & Sue enjoy riding in the cab while the men enjoy riding in the rain in the back.

Sandie & Sue enjoy riding in the cab while the men enjoy riding in the rain in the back.

View on the way to Nimair

View on the way to Nimair

Brian & Brian install lighting in the dispensary in Nimair.

Brian & Brian install lighting in the dispensary in Nimair.

Damaged school in Nimair on Tongoa Is.

Damaged school in Nimair on Tongoa Is.

Fixing rain catchment as the dry season approaches.

Fixing rain catchment as the dry season approaches.

Child on Emae

Child on Emae

This "cyclone house" held 50 people during the cyclone.

This “cyclone house” held 50 people during the cyclone.

Damage on Emae.

Damage on Emae.

We met up with Rainbow Warrior at Emae.

We met up with Rainbow Warrior at Emae.

The Buninga supplies were transferred to a local boat for delivery.

The Buninga supplies were transferred to a local boat for delivery.

Sandie distributed eye glasses and Lion's Club shirts at Emae.

Sandie distributed eye glasses and Lion’s Club shirts at Emae.

Our dinghy is filled with tinned fish and water bags.

Our dinghy is filled with tinned fish and water bags.

Last loads being taken off Buffalo Nickle.

Last loads being taken off Buffalo Nickle.

Stan donates his GPS unit to Joseph and the fishing association.

Stan donates his GPS unit to Joseph and the fishing association.

3,750 Liters of bottled water and a ton of supplies were off-loaded at Emae.

3,750 Liters of bottled water and a ton of supplies were off-loaded at Emae.

Final delivery of Sea Mercy Rotation 2.

Final delivery of Sea Mercy Rotation 2.

Celebrating Stan's B-day aboard Buffalo Nickle

Celebrating Stan’s B-day aboard Buffalo Nickle

We gave this wahoo to Max, a local fisherman.

We gave this wahoo to Max, a local fisherman.

Diving at Dick's Reef on Epi Is.

Diving at Dick’s Reef on Epi Is.

Diving at Dick's Reef on Epi Is.

Diving at Dick’s Reef on Epi Is.

Making roofing on Uliveo Is. to be sold in Port Vila.

Making roofing on Uliveo Is. to be sold in Port Vila.

We visited the soap factory on Uliveo Is.

We visited the soap factory on Uliveo Is.

The cultural Smol Nambas dance on Uliveo Is.

The cultural Smol Nambas dance on Uliveo Is.

We picked up lobsters at Uliveo Is. in the Maskelynes

We picked up lobsters at Uliveo Is. in the Maskelynes

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