Saturday 19 July 2014
Melsisi to Apatuntora Pentecost Island
A beautiful morning, calm, warm and humid. We had an early breakfast, finished packing and then had a lovely, though way too short, swim and snorkel … then an early lunch, packed the utes and headed for Apatuntora.
The driver who drove us from Pangi had said this trip would take about five hours, another driver said 4 hours and yet another said that the last time he drove to Apatuntora it took 6 hours. All said the road was rough and bumby and impassable in the wet season. So we really were not sure what to expect.
The road climbs very steeply out of Melsisi. The first 1KM is concrete the remaining 45 KM red clay or gravel. After the aches we all felt from the 2 hour trip from Pangi we were gritting our teeth and thinking this was going to be a long drive. But it actually turned out to be really interesting, more comfortable and only three and a half hours. The fact that we averaged 13 KMH indicates just how rough the road was but because we had packed smarter and had two standing up behind the cab, all nine of us travelling Vanuatu style arrived in pretty good shape. Holly even managed a sleep, but then Holly can sleep anywhere!
This road is the only road and runs mostly along the centre ridge of the island with one dogleg down to the west coast and then climbs back up along the middle again. We drove through many small villages. Sometimes it felt like we were driving through thier living room. Nearly all the little children would come running yelling exuberantly and waving as we passed through making me wonder how many trucks actually use this track. It really is a track and at times we had bushes brushing down both sides of the ute
Above: John and Marcel (from Fruit of The Pacific) giving the oral health and hygine talk to waiting patients
Above: Loaded up and on the road to to Apatuntora
Like most villages in Vanuatu, subsistance farming is the way of life. Occasionally we would see a copra drying oven but up on the high plateau ( about 300M above sea level) there are few coconut trees, so we did not see any obvious money making ventures. But the people are creative and ingenious and since nearly everyone has a mobile phone there must be some way of making cash.
It was easy to see why the travel times the different drivers quoted varied so much as a recent rain shower would make the clay track as slippery as ice.
That reminds me I haven’t mentioned the great weather we have had since we arrived in Vanuatu. Only one sprinkle of rain. Lots of rain would make the team work a lot more difficult.
Apatuntora (our destination) is nestled in a steep little valley that terminates in rough coral beach about 120M wide. At first glance it seems to be a town of about 100 people but actually serves a nearby community of about 300 and another few hundred up above in the bush. Located in such a sheltered valley Apatontora doesn’t get much wind so is much more humid. Most of the coast line of the north half of Pentecost Island is cliffs with an occasional small coral rock beach, whereas the south has a flat coastal strip with long coral beaches between headlands.
In Port Vila and everywhere we have been on Pentecost there have been absolutely no seabirds and not many birds in general except chooks. It is odd to be in what looks like a wilderness which should be teeming with birds of all varieties but to see and hear very few. Some have said that on all inhabited islands rats have eaten the eggs out of the nests and wiped out entire populations. It is a bit melancholy. We had a rat eat our coffee during the night! Hope he couldn’t sleep.
Till next time