Espiritu Santo.

By the time we arrived on Santo, anchored off Beachfront Resort, I was SO READY for some urban life. That would be a guarranteed fruit and vegetable market and a supermarket. Luganville ticked both these boxes. I’m happy to rough it, but when food supplies get low after six weeks going from island to island, it means two things… 1) all the remaining food has to be cooked to be consumed – pasta – rice – tinned tomatoes – chickpeas – lentils – frozen peas. 2) I start to not cope because the heat of the stove sends my temperature tolerance into freak-out mode, which is not good for anyone.

Even though Luganville had been sparkling on my horizon in a come-hither manner for at least ten days, our first experience going ashore was less than ideal. One good thing was that we found GonYonda on the beach as we went ashore. They had checked out of the country and planned to head around to Ratua – a little island around the back of the larger Aore Island – to wait for a weather window to head back to Australia.

Our anchorage, at that point, was sloshing around a bit, so we thought that sounded like a good idea. We headed into the Beachfront Resort – an excellently equipped place run by a guy called Dave. We caught a taxi into town for the regulation 200Vatu and did a bit of shopping (after the ANZ ATM machine charged us $8AU for the privilege of withdrawing some cash). High on the list were the things we wanted, rather than needed – a bottle of wine and a bit of blue cheese. We had been cheeseless for six weeks, and it hurt.

The Smalls got a chocolate bar each and we gathered a few more essentials, planning to return the next day for the proper shop. I don’t know if I have mentioned but for many days we there had been intermittent torrential showers. One of these happened just as we made it back to the resort, which meant we had to stay for a drink – something required of us anyway to ensure we had access to the pool…

When the rain finally stopped we went back to the beach. Foamy was a sad and sorry sight – entirely full of seawater and rain-water. Too heavy to ever be dragged up very far on the beach, he had been bashed around by the incoming tide. All we could do was hold the nose into the waves and wait for the inside water to drain out into the sea. Poor Foamy, poor us.

Back on board it felt almost surreal to be sipping wine and nibbling cheese (M and I love blue cheese because we love blue cheese but also because the Smalls loathe it). More torrents of rain, more wave action. We cursed ourselves for not doing a huge shop so we could leave for Ratua as well. But there were Other Things that required attention. 

The main one was the fate of Honey the BoatCat – you can read about that here – the other was picking up an Important Parcel containing several things ordered from amazon.com – which included a secondhand Kindle for Small Z (who flails about without a reliable source of reading matter), filters for the watermaker, a waterproof light and other odds and sods. 

The post office in Luganville does not do Post Restante, but I had tried to think laterally and had asked a local cafe if they had any suggestions as to where I could have my parcel sent. “Here!” they said. “Send it to us, and collect it when you arrive!” I was so grateful – so a big shout-out to the awesome Aore Art Cafe – we went and picked up our parcel, and even though they were closed they made us a cup of coffee and let us pat their cafe cats and dogs…

Eventually we did make it around to Ratua Island – such relief! A protected spot out the front of the Ratua Island Resort – which, while quite high-end and extremely beautiful, failed to put any detectable alcohol in their very expensive drinks… 

Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
A dog. Some vintage wheels. 
Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
The Smalls ponder the largest goldfishes they’ve ever seen.

From Ratua Island we motored wetly across the channel behind GonYonda and explored one of the most beautiful places I’d seen – a blue hole. 

Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
The Smalls. 
Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
BoatKids. Blue hole. 

It was hard saying a goodbye to our friends on GonYonda – cruising is fully of goodbyes, and no more so at the end of the season when, for insurance reasons and cyclone reasons, everybody is departing. We weren’t sure where we were going to see them again – but we WILL be in Tasmania at the same time this summer, so there’s that…

Goodbye GonYonda. Fair winds. Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
Fair winds GonYonda!

One of the last things Mariko said before they left was something like, “If we had more flexibility, we’d be leaving on Saturday – there’s an amazing weather window…”

I had been quietly musing on NOT going to the Banks Islands – the increasing humidity, the feeling of being somewhat depleted, but I didn’t say anything. It was M who made the unexpected suggestion that we should grab that weather window while we had a chance. I enthusiastically enthused. 

So, one Big Expensive supermarket mission and a bittersweet Honey goodbye later, we were back at Ratua Island ready to grab that weather window. It was somewhat surreal – we had waiting for weeks and weeks in Australia for a window to leave (and in retrospect, should’ve waited longer) – and now? I cooked like a machine, freezing meals for the passage, and somehow, suddenly, we were ready…

We had a fancy, unintentionally non-alcoholic cocktail at that fancy resort with our friends…

Vanuatu to Australia.
Friends. Fancy resort. Sunset. 

Pandion at Ratua Island. Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
Pandion – having a sunset moment. Ratua Island.

We had one last shared boat dinner, and then went to sleep – our last night in Vanuatu. 

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