Vanuatu: Visiting Ureparapara July 2012

Cruisers Wim and Annette report on their visit to one of Vanuatu’s least visited islands.

Published 12 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Vanuatu will undoubtedly be high on our all-time list of favourites and entering Ureparapara after a sleepless and stormy night is unique. It is the crater of a formerly very active volcano, the walls of which have partly caved in, creating an opening for the daring sailor-cruiser! For Google Earth: 13,32.5 S and 167,20.5 E.

Upon arrival, the chief of the village, Mr Nicholsson, came with flowers to welcome us and soon after us, some other boats came in. We had breakfast and slept for a while. There was a party that night, starting on Thetis and ending on Hako. There are nice people everywhere.

The weather forecast for the next five days promises increasing wind speeds, so we will stay. We don’t mind leaving in bad weather when the situation will improve while underway, but don’t like leaving when the weather will deteriorate! Chief Nicholson was having a big meeting to settle land disputes but found time the next day to proudly show us his village of 250 people. It is neat and well organized. He was excited about us bringing him a big tin of Nescafe and a telephone card. His wife Melody, who had made the flower garlands, also received some gifts.

We charged the chief’s house battery and telephone on board, brought some first aid items for Melody, who acts as the local nurse and also met with Selwyn, proud father of seven children and grandfather of 37 grandchildren. We had some nice walks along the beach, visited the gardens where they tend coconut palm trees and vegetables and waited for better weather. The weather deteriorated! I guess we will be here for another week. I never holed-up for so long!

In the meantime, we were invited to have dinner with Chief’s family on Sunday night. It was interesting and the food was nice, but a bit bland. While talking about different cultures and what people eat, I mentioned a friend of mine who prefers hamburgers in McDonald’s and the Chief asked:” What is a McDonalds”? I then realized that we are indeed at the end of the world here in Ureparapara! (A few days later, he must have had the same thought when he was on board with us and I explained upon request that “this is an electrical toothbrush”.).

Some of the huts have solar panels and during the evening we see some lights and hear the custom drums. The chief is planning to have a festival on the 30th of July and the youths are practising. In the meantime, we introduced “Jeu de Boulles”, which was received well. Annette made a pair of curtains for Melody’s kitchen/dining place!

We left on Monday 16, with a better weather forecast than what we experienced. Not always pleasant and too fast for our planning en route to Rennell Island. An irritating noise which had hunted us for some time (because it hinted at a problem with the rudder shaft) proved to be a steering cable which was too slack. We became mechanics again at high sea! On the third moonless, but starry night (Venus and Jupiter are bright in the night sky) a fisherman tried to collide with us, full lights on, nobody awake! It was the first boat we have seen in ages and we were forced to take evasive action! Annette called me and we went on another course for a while. The same night something else happened: without us noticing it, one or two Bobbies decided to use our bimini and solar panels as a resting place. The next morning we found ample evidence that the day before had been good for fishing, although we only caught a five-kilogram Skipjack tuna. Because we were too early, we had to heave to during part of the fourth night.

Wim & Annette

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