Sunday, September 15, 2013

Epi Island

As we slipped away from Port Vila (Vanuatu), it was a great overnight sail with a good easterly trade wind breeze putting us in to Lamen Bay at 07:15, ahead of our ETA. It was easy to find anchorage (S16°35.742' E168°09.815') even though we had to compete with the many sea turtles and 6 other cruising boats.

Surprisingly, Lamen Bay lies on the northwest end of Epi Island (not on the small Lamen Island watching 1.5 nautical miles offshore). The Island and reefs calm any ocean swells and the Bay is on the lea of the big island providing a relaxing and safe harbour.

Sea Turtle anchored between Epi and Lamen Islands

Epi's wide beach was unique in its varied colour. It started on the south as almost black sand and at the other end had phased into a light golden colour. Through the tropical trees, we could see a smattering of buildings and a windsock stating the location of the airport grass strip where the occasional drone of a small plane splits the paradisiacal peace.

As we walked the beach, the gentle slap of the lazy waves prefaced the village life. The beach yielded to our now obsessive compulsive shelling which has become as subconscious as our gait. We were greeted by the occasional convivial denizen with their usual questions like Where are you from? or Do you like Vanuatu? and were always pleased with our truthful affirmative answer to the latter.

Our return was along the road just behind the beach and along the various homes, the school, and other motley array of buildings. The palette of progress showed older traditional humble thatched huts giving way to newer concrete block buildings with pleasant colours.

Splitting bamboo for a traditional dwelling

Just before leaving, we met Atis Jack, a Ni-Van (a born and raised local). He was full of recondite lore. He told us that at 1 time there was no village here on Epi Island but the village was on the little island of Lamen out front. When their population grew, so did the number of pigs and consequently the ever diminishing good gardening on the little island was further deteriorated by the routing pigs. So they started gardening in the vitiated soils on the main island, making the 2-way passage almost daily in dugout outrigger canoes.

Over the years, some relocated to the main island, however there is still a sizable population on little Lamen. In many ways though, nothing has changed here. The outriggers still make their morning journey, and as the afternoon easterly breeze builds, with canoes laden with rich produce, they raise a rudimentary sail of palms to supplement their propulsion home.

Palm leaved, wind powered outrigger

Atis said that he and his family could provide an entertaining evening with a custom dinner, demonstrations of their cultural ways, and folklore tales of his people. It would cost 1000 Vatu (~$10 Cdn) each and would require a minimum of 10. So we agreed to round up 10 cruisers for the following night...

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