It was hard to say goodbye… we had spent three unforgettable months in Vanuatu. This beautiful, extraordinary country of about 82 islands and it’s welcoming friendly people who shared parts of their traditions and every day life with us. Also three months of great company… We explored Mount Yasur and Efate with our South African friends from UBEJANE, experienced customs and every day life of Penthecost and Ambae with our German friends from ZIGZAG and enjoyed blue holes and beautiful beaches in Lelepa Island and Santo with our Australian friends from QUINCO.
So it felt strange to finally leave and for the first time after many months there was no friends boat heading for the same destination. Like when we left the Carribean for the Pacific this felt like the beginning of a new chapter of our journey.
It was September the 5th, when we dropped the buoy in Aore resort in Lougainville and waved our Australian friends Quinco goodbye. We set sails for the Louisiades in excellent sailing conditions.
Unfortunately our code zero broke. Many hours in the sun had weakened the fabric. In addition André had a fight with some red footed boobies every evening when the sun was down. They wanted to sit on the bimini and on the solar panel but of course André did not like that. So he chased them until they seemed to give up… all except one. One boobie sat on the bow until we reached the pass to sudest island of the Louisiades.
Our first stop was Tagula on Sudest Island. While we were preparing the dinghy a few boys passed by in a small fiberglass motor boat, making some advertising for the shop on land. A little bit later we were ready to go. This shop seemed to be some kind of meeting point as it probably is the biggest store (maybe also the only one)in the Calvados island chain… and we are talking about some really tiny type of store…
We met the shop owner Byron, who is also selling diesel and gold (altough the mines are shut down, locals still search and find gold). We asked for a SIM card and wanted to pay with US or Australian Dollars, but he explained us that they do not accept foreign currencies because it is almost impossible for them to change it in the local PNG kina. At the end he just gave us a SIM card and we promised to come back with a chocolate cake for his kids the next day.
There was a nice footpath through the woods and after asking some locals if it is ok, we went for a walk. Everyone we met was greeting very friendly. After a while we turned around and walked back. About half way back to the village we crossed a guy we had already crossed before. He introduced himself as Owen and said he was looking for us. He was curious to know who we are and where we came from and he wanted to show us his new home that he had built all by himself. It was a beautiful hut indeed. Unlike the ones we saw in Vanuatu, this hut was not built directly on the floor. It was built on stilts. We sat down and Jaël was allowed to paint on his wall while we were talking. He told us that he is the president of the local school and would like to show us around the next day.
So next day, after having brought a chocolate cake to Byron, Owen proudly showed us the village and the school. It was a beautiful day. Owen also invited us for celebrating Independance Day with them on Monday. We lifted the anchor next morning to go and explore the anchorage of the neighbouring island called Nimoa. As it was weekend the celebrations for Independence Day had already started. Many beautiful sailing outriggers came from the surrounding islands. We changed anchorage as it was a bit too shallow for our taste and as soon as we had dropped the anchor on a better place the first canoe arrived.
And soon we realized that now we were the biggest shop in the bay ;-). The locals paddled in their canoes to our boat with things they wanted to trade. They offered bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tiny little eggs and oranges. They were looking for clothes, stationary, needle and thread, fabric, fishing lines and hooks, fins and dive masks. We had stocked up in Australia for exactly this purpose but still we should have brought so much more…
In the afternoon we took the dinghy to go on land and have a closer look at the beautiful sailing outrigger boats and the small village near the catholic mission. As soon as we stepped on land we had a bunch of kids around us and Mary, a curious and clever teenage girl showed us proudly around. There was a small hospital, a school and a church. There were two local teams playing football and some teenagers played volleyball near the beach. The sailing boats were fantastic to look at. They are the only way of transport between the islands as there is no ferry or other public transport. But of course these sailing boats are expensive and only few people can afford one. That’s why they are very often loaded to the maximum. The person sitting in the middle always has to bail out the water as they are not 100% watertight.
So if one thinks that what we are doing is adventurous, I must say that it is nothing compared to what these people do. They sail without GPS, without autopilot, without a dry cabin, having just a small space to sit. But this weekend it was just a funride for them. They made a little race up to Nimoa island to join the party there.
Sunday afternoon we sailed back to Tagula to be on time for the Independence Day Celebrations at Owen’s school on Monday morning.
We were welcomed as guests of honour together with a local priest and a politician from Alotau on PNG mainland. A huge flag was presented by the students and another one was hoisted on the flagstaff. A few speeches followed about Papua New Guineas young history of independence and about the challenges the country has to face in the coming years. After this official part some games followed and lunch that had been prepared by some parents. For us this was a very interesting day and for the local kids it was exciting to see some Dimdims like us (Dimdim is the name for white people in Papua New Guinea).
The following day we said goodbye to Owen and moved on to Hoba Bay in Pana Numara Island, where we stayed two nights and after that we sailed to Panapompom, where all the sailing outriggers come from. They are made of a special tree which grows only on Paneati Island just next to Panapompom. On both anchorages we had very nice encounters with local people. In Hoba bay for example lives David who traded a beautifully crafted wooden board with glued shells saying „MIRABELLA“ against dive mask and T-Shirt. He lived in Port Moresby for several years, working as a printer but decided to go back to his home island. He prefers the island life. It is very basic but more relaxed and as there is enough land to grow your own food one is not so dependent on money. In Port Moresby which is an urbanized area with more westerly standards the living costs are of course much higher. It is full of Australian expats and people with a small salary struggle to make a living. In the small village of Hoba Bay we also met Patrick, who showed us how to make baggi necklaces. Like the red mats in Pentecost baggi necklaces are also used to pay outrigger sailing canoes, pigs, family ceremonies, schoolfees etc. They are made of red shells and it is a lot of work as they use very basic tools. We traded one of his beautiful necklaces against a dive mask.
On Panapompom Island we met Martin. He showed us his sailing canoe, which was almost finished. But he still had no sail. We offered him our old Genoa sail and he was very happy. A bunch of kids walked with us to the local school an Edith the teacher showed us around. They even have a small garden where they grow some vegetables and salad.
Mirabella trade store was busy again. Twice André had to save some kids, because the weather was a bit too rough for the small canoes and two boys with their baby brother forgot to bring a bailer… so the waves flooded the canoe and they were in trouble. André rescued them with the dinghy and brought them on shore ! Another time a family in a sailing outrigger asked for help. They had a damaged sail and wanted to repair it before heading to their home island Utean. They were looking for any kind of stronger fabric and we gave them a bag that was a gift from the guy who made our lazybag. Hopefully they made it safely back to their home island…
After two weeks in the Louisiades our tradestore run out of stock and we headed towards Port Moresby, to get ready for the next passage through Torres Strait to Indonesia. We arrived in Port Moresby at night. There were several squalls and we had to wait until there was a clear period to pass the harbour entrance through the reef. The marina allowed us to tie on one of the first pontoons near the entrance, which was perfect for us. It was strange to arrive in a city with so many lights after all our time in Vanuatu and the Louisiades, where we visited many places with no electritity.
In Port Moresby there is a big Australian expat community. Many of them live on a boat in the marina, as it is a lot cheaper than renting an apartment. While checking out the Royal Papua New Guinea Yacht club the evening of our arrival André met Cameron who is working for DHL and lives on a Bavaria yacht in the marina. He encouraged us to order our replacement for the broken gas spring of the boomvang in Australia and have it sent by DHL to Port Moresby. Normally this would have been a risky thing as it always takes longer (especially when you are on a tight time schedule) but Cameron was very optimistic that he could speed up things. And he really did! So we ordered the new code zero sail as well to Port Moresby. This one took a little bit longer but at the end it worked out perfectly.
When we aŕrived in Port Moresby I thought how nice it would be to meet some kids boats with a similar route like ours and guess what happened…. After we had changed to another pontoon we saw this aluminium boat with many stickers on it…. ALDIVI was the name. We started chatting and invited them for drinks in the evening. That was the beginning of our wonderful friendship with Alejandro, Bernadette and their three kids Alexa, Diego and Vital from Mexico! They were also heading to Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Red Sea. Jaël and Amina quickly made friends as Diego is the same age as Jaël and Vital the same age as Amina. The following day Jaël and Amina were already invited for a sleepover on ALDIVI.
We spent a fantastic day in Port Moresby Nature Park together with our new Mexican friends and learned a lot about the Bird of Paradise (which is on the National Flag of Papua New Guinea) and other local animals. The following day friends of ALDIVI arrived, a German Chilean family on a boat called POLARWIND with two kids, Antonia and Theo. They were also heading for Indonesia, Thailand and the Mediterranean Sea and they knew each other from Fidji. What a nice surprise! This is gonna be great! Indonesia here we come!
Jane is selling beautiful handcrafts in the garden of the museum