Olal, on the island of Abrym.
Being overly hot is something I strive to avoid. I spent many years pondering which was worse – sweating or freezing? I decided it was sweating. It’s easier to throw on another coat when you’re cold, but when you’re hot? If you’ve ripped all your clothes off and you’re still melting, there’s not really anywhere to go, except underwater.
However, where we are right now, the water temperature is 28 degrees – not a temperature that has been seen in Melbourne since about March. While it is refreshing to submerge, you can’t flollop around in the water forever with toes questing for the cool lower currents.
Small DB and I went to shore before 7am this morning to make a little fire. Rubbish is an ongoing almost unsolvable mystery of liveaboard life. At present we are washing out all our empty tins and milk containers and keeping them in one of the front lockers until we get to a place with waste disposal.
Although, realistically, it’s just going to be taken to a hole somewhere and end up as landfill.
Based on this premise, we have begun throwing our glass jars and bottles overboard, with instructions to become seaglass. We’ve never done this before, and would never do it if there was a possibility that we might be able to get to somewhere with glass/paper recycling; but it seems to make more sense to give the glass to the ocean, where eventually it will return to sand / sea-glass, than bung it into landfill, where it will remain, taking up space, indefinitely.
An ecological compromise.
And so we scoop out a depression in the fine black volcanic sand and build a fire, using pandanus leaves and dry twigs liberated from under the greenery fringing the beach. Into it we feed scraps of crafting paper, a Port Vila newspaper, Weet-Bix boxes, milk containers, a Frankie magazine that Small Z has deemed inappropriate – page by page all the cutesy, samey illustrations crinkle into smoking ash.
The smoke, unfortunately, does not deter the clouds of flies that have surrounded us since leaving the screened confines of the boat. Ugh. I do pretty well at roughing it, but within certain strict parameters: no heat, no flies. Small DB and I, on our paper erradication mission, have both. I will never be a desert dweller. I will probably never be a desert visitor. But yes, I will have dessert.
After an hour or so, we’d burnt all our paper and took turns using an empty tin to slosh seawater over the ash and embers; lots of hiss and steam. We covered the evidence with sand and then marked out where the fire had been with a ring of driftwood, on the small chance that someone might stand on it while it was still warm.
Back to the boat, over the water – translucent British racing green – the seabed 20 feet down as black as the shore, but with white shells glowing here and there. I took the dinghy past Bella Luna and tried to capture it all. It would have been better if I’d taken it while floating in the sea – which is what I had to do once I got back, because there was a cup of tea waiting for me that could not be imbibed unless I cooled down.
After hours and hours of hot bloody sun beating on to the boat, after the Smalls had torn each other new orifi (singular?), after trying to read under the fan with only my undies on and failing because flies kept landing on me, I was about to completely do my noodle. M had tried to cajole me out of the boat a few times, but outside was H-O-T.
Eventually I went with him in the dinghy around into a different bay. The salesman that he is, he had spruiked a wonderland of shadiness in a little bay fed by an underground hot river. Some part of me thought it sounded idyllic. And if it had been a cold day, that’s exactly what it would have been.
But I was still hot. And I got out of the dinghy into hot bathwater, which got hotter and hotter the closer I got to the cliff at the end of the bay. There was a black sand bank at that point, and then a pool around the area where the hot water emerged. You could poach eggs in it.
I wandered, sweating, unappreciative of the Hobbit-like landscape, back into the water, and felt my way like a blind person walking out to sea – following the cooler currents that had not yet been invaded by hot volcano water. There I stayed, cooled from the hips down. Hot air is not the only thing that rises.