Dixon Reef…..Francis becomes Francois, for 5 days

I was thinking of giving you a break from village blog posts in Vanuatu (and me, a break from posting), but then I went back through my photos from the last 2 weeks, and reminisced the experiences. These are too special. not to share.

I am so lucky to be doing what I am.

I left Luganville and went down to west coast of Malekula, stopping at a village called Dixon Reefdue to the coral in front of the village, I had to anchor in the bay to the north

and commute in, in AlbertI had caught a fish, a 3kg barracoota (unlike the East coast of Oz, they don’t have a ciguatera risk in Vanuatu), not up to my usual VILLAGE FEEDER standard, but enough to break the surface with the villagers, who (of course) invited me to afternoon kavaWhen I told them my name was Francis, “the same as the pope“, they did not understand. Apart from the fact, that it is a French speaking village, they are Roman Catholic, so they know the pope as Francois (pronounced FRANCE wah). So Francois, I became for the next 5 days.

Luckily, John had spent 2 season picking fruit in Australia, with his good English he became my guide/friend.

We decided to go fish trolling behind Albert in the morning over the new few morning trollings, we caught a few more barcoota, a giant trevally and a coral trout

after lunch John took me for a walk to the garden, were he and his family grow the food to feed themselvesalong with his two eldest daughtersthe eldest Helen, has big hair and an even bigger attitude, plus a hip gyrating walk, that would go straight onto a catwalk in Paris (every father’s nightmare). Elenore has a smile that lights up the world.After the propeller issue last week, I  spent Saturday morning, redoing the alignment of the propeller shaft, with the port motor (it was slightly out, once fixed, the new engine shake, was no more).

When I went ashore at 4pm, the village was mostly disserted, due to the parents and children, all being in their family gardens, working on producing the food to feed themselves. 

Rodrigues offered to take me to his garden, as I need to stretch my legs after spending the morning crunched up in the engine bay.

On the way back he knocked some drinking coconuts out of palm.and prepared them for drinking (the ease with which these people handle a bush knife, is joyous to watch)the congregation was called to mass the next day, not by a bell, but by these hollowed out logs. the church had a presence  the box  in the middle holding the flowers, was a 12 volt battery case (that would have been cut open to get the lead to make fishing sinkers).

The pews were made from locally felled timber and dressed with a chain sawthe French influence can be seen in the girls’ namesJohn was there with all of his daughters (the baby’s name is Antoinette) The singing in the Roman Catholic villages in Vanuatu is GOOD, with plenty of harmonies

the woman and girls all ware Mother Hubbard style dress, homemade on hand operated Singer sewing machines
after Mass, I put the drone up, for entrainment for the whole village

(the background of the last photo, is South West Bay, my next anchorage).

Everyone wanted to know about my children, and see the photos of my daughters, I had on my phone they were so eager to see more, that I went back to Logic and got the photo album, that Kate had put together for Phoebe’s 21st

This is a lovely village, made even lovelier by being the first one that I have been too, were they clean up the pig styles daily, so there is not the ever present flies, that I had become use too.one of the ways they supplement the protein intake, in their very plant based diet, is hunting the wild pigs, with dogs and a spear. The recently killed a wild sow, and were hand rearing this very young piglet, which is having it’s stomach rubbed by Victor  (who I was told was a very good pig hunter)my Santa Clause beard, is starting to influence my personality, because I then suddenly out of blue, offered to take a load of the children out to Logic to watch videos.

This was the equivalent to a trip to Disneyland, for children back home. They see the yachts come and go, but have never been onboard one. The look on their faces as we went out in Albert was priceless. there was a traffic jam, as they all washed their feetone can not have a movie afternoon without red cordialand popcornElenore gave me a hand with the popcorn makingthe children had never seen a flushing toilet, so they were lining up to use it.

after the first, more younger children’s movie was over, the older ones wanted an action one. At which time the youngies adjourned, to exploring the rest of Logic.

I put the SUPs in the water for the boys

dugouts kept of arriving with more children, to add to the boat full of smiles

All to quickly the sun was starting to set, time to get everyone back to the village and home.

There was a very different look on the children’s faces on the way back, compared to the way out we raced one of the dugouts homeone last kava session, with the boysin the morning it was time to move on, to the Cultural Festival in South West Bay.

Going past the reefs, that John I had trolled off

Daniel and I anchored off Lembinwen Village last yearChief Tom was very pleased that I had come back and gave me a big hug and an invite to kava, that afternoonthe boys don’t have a field to play soccer on, having to use the beach at low tideand the school was just as authentic as I remembered, all made from local materialstoday was Independence Day, 39 years ago The New Hebrides gained their independence, changing their name to Vanuatu. 

So at 9am, it was time for a flag raising ceremony with the children singing the national anthem

I was looking a bit dorky with the Vanuatu flag in my hat (the same flag that Tannis had in her hair, last Independence Day), so I put it in this little boy’s hairThe boys name was Jason. From then on he referred to me as “my white man” and I to him as “my
piccaninnywhenever I came ashore “my piccaninny”, would hold my hand as I walked through the village.

While Jason was being bought up by Tom’s daughter and son-in-law as their own, his birth mother was the son-in-law’s sister, who while working on big tourist boat was impregnated by a guy from The Gilbert Islands, 1,000 miles to the north. His mother has moved to Port Vila, where she will inevitable find a husband from another island and go and live there, having plenty more piccaninnies with him.

Jason’s features are lot finer then a Ni-vanus’ (very like the local guy, who was Phoebe and my canoeing guide in Palau, 6 years ago, his name was Fonzie, after his mother’s love of Happy Days).

I am so grateful that this is Vanuatu, not a western country, were  my piccaninny, would not be with us.

the sun setting was the cue to head for the kava bar, ashoreI had gone ashore with the box of reading glassed PED and Jackson, had given me for Christmas, to use as trading goods. This is a very feeble attempt at poetry, based around Banjo Patterson’s famous “Man from Snowy River”.

The word had got around the kava bar

That Francis was there with a box of reading glasses,

So all the locals, that were having trouble reading their Bibles

Gathered around to find a suitable pair

(If a better poet than me, can spruce it up, please do)

in the end there was only a pair of x4 left

It would not be a visit from Logic, without a  gifted soccer and volley ballThe next morning Bill, Cedrick and I took Albert up into the big inland lagoon, behind the villageas per last year Bill was at the helmI was having trouble locating the village in South West Bay, were the Cultural Festival was going to be located. There was a rumour, that it had been cancelled due to the 5 yearly big National Cultural Festival that was going to be held in 17 days time, which I wanted to confirm. So I headed off in Albert, to see what I could find out.

This village I had been told by another cruised, had a swimming hole of the sweetest water, which Nelson guided me too, for a swim the next village was the home village for the speaker of the national parliament. No waiting for the tide to go out for the boys here, he had got all the machinery to level a soccer field for themI’ll have to come back next year, just to see how they retained that bank, after a monsoon season.

There would be a very interesting story attached to what happened to the cabin on this excavator, but it obviously still works this man (I won’t say old, as he is probably younger than me), was filling in his day, making thatch for roofing

I could not find anybody, who knew anything about the Cultural Festival, so I threw in the towel.

One of things that makes the villages in Vanuatu so special is how clean they are, all the open spaces are raked at least weekly (by the woman)

It was now Sunday, time for churchThey could not tell me what denomination they were, it appeared to be their own version of Pentecostal, with plenty of talking in tongues going on…….. It was very different. 

I had a good long chat to the pastor afterwardsthen it was back to Bill’s for lunch, were his daughter had prepared plantain laplap, boiled manioc and fried island cabbagethen a flick of the pages, on the story of daughters’ growing up (Bill in his new glasses)I had been hoping for a weather window to get around to the bottom Malekula, were another cruiser had stumbled on a couple of great villages, but it kept on staying 4 days away, and then it was only 2 days before the 15-20kt SEly came back. Time for Plan B, there were no big winds forecast for up at Maewo, so I decided to head back to Luganville, then over to Maewo.

Along the way the dolphins were obviously from Vanuatu, as I could feel them performing for the camera.when I got back to Luganville the wind to get me to Maewo was now a light, on the nose, easterly. Time for Plan C. There are some lovely villages behind some offshore islands on the north eastern side of Malekula. Ideal to arrive on a Friday, for the week end, when the children will not be in schools. then head down to Ambrym for a cultural festival there from 15-17th, then back to mid Malekula for the big national festival 19-22nd.