Monday 29th July 2013

A canoe paddled out and David introduced himself and welcomed us to the island. We arranged with him to come ashore where he would take us to visit the chief then to a welcoming ceremony at his new “yacht club” building.

Ashore we were introduced to chief Jason. He was busy preparing a 5 year management plan for the island to present to the President of the Southern Province at tomorrows Independence Day Celebrations. We were asked if we could duplicate some documents for him as the school photocopier had broken down. He also invited us to join the village celebrations tomorrow as honoured guests.

David then showed us his nearly built “Yacht Club” which had 3 guest rooms upstairs with magnificent views over the Bay. David and his sons had done the whole construction including felling, milling and dressing all the timber. It is a huge undertaking with such limited financial resources. We found David to be a man of vision prepared to work hard to fulfil his dream of putting Erromango on the tourist map. Over the next few days we talked at length with David and his son Richard about their plans to establish eco tourism on the island.

David's wife had prepared a gift of fresh fruit and vegetables for us and we gave then foodstuff gifts as well.

We took the dinghy for a quiet ride up the William's River before heading back for lunch

That afternoon David took us to a couple of caves. The first, a large one, used to house a tribe before the missionary's came.it was also known as the ” Cave of Hands”

The second was a small burial cave of a chief with his wife and children.

Back at the village I noticed a young man with scarf around his neck and over his mouth. I asked David about it and we spoke to the man who explained he had a bad toothache. I could see it was an inflection of a broken off central incisor. I offered to fix the problem for him after tomorrows celebrations.

Tuesday 30th July 2013 Celebrating 33 years of Independence for Vanuatu

On land by 9.00am to take part in the parade. The President of the Southern Province with his police guard together with 4 other dignitaries was there.

The children and ladies sang as we walked and the young boys performed custom tribal dance.

 

Many speeches were made and we were made to feel like VIP's especially as Aussies because Aus gives so much aid to Vanuatu. (Local expats we met later laughed at this because they reckon most of the aid money ends up in the politicians personal bank accounts).

We were invited to eat from the top table at the feast with the other dignitaries. The villagers had prepared laplap which is food wrapped in banana leaves and cooked between layers of hot stones. Here they were unwrapping a Tapioca Bread.

The fish and beef were delicious esp. some of the spicy casseroles available on our special table. We had a good chat to the police officer accompanying the President.

Later in the afternoon I ran into George, the young man with the toothache and we operated then and there to remove the infected root of a central incisor.

Word got around fast and before long I was requested to do a dental clinic for the village. We arranged it for the next morning.

Wed 31st July 2013

Dental Clinic at 9.00am at the dispensary. The keys to the small hospital/dispensary seemed a little elusive (we suspect some politics at play here but never bothered to get to bottom of it) so Libby and I with the help of some of the villagers set up a table under a mango tree near David's house and began work. The women were the bravest and first to front up. Libby and I dealt with 7 patients and extracted 8 badly broken down teeth. They were very appreciative and gave us lots of vegetables, fruit and coconuts.

Clive and Lea had been transporting water all morning to refill our tanks. The water was piped from a high mountain spring some 12 km away from the village so we thought the water would be ok. We filled the DemiJohns at a tap in the Sandlewood nusery where plantation seedlings are nurtured until planting.

Had a nice walk up the river that afternoon and checked that all patients were ok.

Thursday 1st August

Woke around 2.00 am to find the wind freshening from the west putting us on a lee shore. Thought we would be ok untill dawn but by 4.00am we were bucking about and waves around the boat were starting to break. Time to leave! Up anchored and headed out into choppy seas. Clive and Libby both unwell with the combination of rough sea and darkness. Headed around the top of the island then down to Pot Narvin on the east side of the island. We anchored around 10.30am then caught up on some sleep.

Went ashore around 3.00 pm to be greeted by Chief Joe and a man with a toothache. Word had got out that the dentist was here (comms are by mobile phone now, no longer drums). We agreed to do a clinic tomorrow morning. Chief Joe took us for a walk through the village showing us the school introducing us to the other chief and then up to a nice little waterfall.

This village has around 300 people, lot of kids, is neat and tidy but not as well kept as Dillon's Bays Village.

Friday 2nd August

Clinic Morning at 9.00am. We had described what we needed yesterday but nothing was organised. Finally some ladies took the initiative and set up a clean sheet and pillow on table in the unfinished community house. We started work and the queue built. The other chief was going through the village with a megaphone drumming up more business for me. I was a bit overwhelmed by the demand and told them it was limited to people in pain only. Clive took over negotiations and sorted it out as well as organising what gifts of food would be given to us. Libby did a great job dental nursing and we dealt with 10 patients with difficult extractions for badly broken down teeth.

I called it quits after 2 intense hours in the heat. Lea had been worried because there were about 5 men crowding in behind me to watch what I was doing. I never even noticed them.

We asked to do the walk up the mountain to get the view across to Cook's Bay on the other side. That afternoon we set off with 4 guides, 2 of Chief Joe's daughters, Susan and Minnie,

Don the school teacher, and Chief Joe himself. It was a tough steep climb and Clive struggled but we all made it. There was a new phone tower on the peak but the view was limited due to the dense forest all around.

Phone service was good though and Chief Joe was getting numerous calls on his mobile. A woman in the village was having trouble with her labour and Libby was asked to put a drip in as the woman had been bleeding heavily and the nurse was still an hour away coming by boat. (No roads on Erromango between villages). When we got back to village Libby and I went to check on the woman but had to give them the bad news that both the mother and child were dead and had been for a couple of hours. This was very sad for the village so we left them to their grief and planned to depart the next day. From the history we got from the midwife the women should have been airlifted out the afternoon before. The helicopter had been requested that morning but it was busy and unavailable. The closest nurse was 1.5 hours away by boat but was still on her way when we determined that the woman was dead. It really is the 3rd world over here.

Sat 3rd August 2013

We moved off first thing in the morning and headed up to the northern anchorage in Ponamais Bay to wait until evening before setting sail overnight for Port Vila. Clive and I had a quick explore ashore then after a final check of the weather we headed off at about 4.30 pm. It was a very quiet, calm and pleasant sail under Screecher averaging 4-5 knots to bring us just off the entrance of Mele Bay at dawn. The only complaint was that the clouds covered the stars. Clive and Libby did the 2300 to 0100 watch then got up to do the dawn watch as we approached Efate.

 

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