The first order of business when we arrived in Port Vila was all the paperwork to clear into the country, requiring visits to the boat by quarantine, immigration and customs officials – each a separate department. Having arrived on Friday afternoon this process dragged on into Monday, although at least we cleared quarantine promptly and were allowed off the boat. When first arriving in a new country we fly a yellow quarantine flag and are not allowed to set a foot ashore until inspected for suspect food, agricultural items and dire diseases. We have been issued a cruising permit for Vanuatu waters; interestingly enough it was presented to us in a sealed brown envelope and we are under instructions not to open it ourselves!
We also had some repairs to organize – stabilizers and steering first and foremost. AVATAR’s exterior needed a thorough freshwater wash down and inside the cherrywood cabinetry benefitted from a thorough application of furniture polish. General housekeeping chores and several loads of laundry were accomplished in record time.
Port Vila’s harbor is a busy and interesting place. Within walking distance are all kinds of tourist attractions – parasailing, game fishing charters, scuba diving, dinner cruises etc. Close by is a small island hosting a nice resort with bure cottages on stilts over the water. A shuttle takes the clientele back and forth from island to port on a steady basis. The resort staff commutes to and from work by open boat laden to the gunnels with 15-20 people aboard. The scenery is inviting enough and the water clear enough to entice me into some morning kayaking exploration.
Just across the road from the harbor is the main street with quick access to town. An easy walk down the waterfront is the produce market and a bit further on the handicrafts market. A booth with giant loudspeakers and sound system belted out Vanuatu gospel music full blast, enough to entertain several city blocks. I bought the CD for 2500 vatu ($2.50). There is a lot of traffic and a lot of exhaust fumes – I suspect emissions control must not be a requirement here! Drivers go fast and don’t make much allowance for pedestrians.
Close by our berth is an assortment of good restaurants including our favorite, a French bistro charmingly draped top to bottom with vines dripping large lavender blooms. The food is outstanding, especially the creme brulee. Interestingly, the only wine served was a single red and a single white, both offered only by the glass because they were boxed wines! However we were free to trot back to AVATAR and fetch in our own bottle.
We celebrated our passage arrival dinner here – Rod’s theory is that generous amounts of spirits after a passage helps acclimate the body system to a full night’s sleep uninterrupted by the watch schedule! My theory is that a bed that doesn’t pitch and roll has a similar effect – but we had a lot of wine anyway. We occupied the prime table front and center on the veranda overlooking the waterfront, candlelit and surrounded by flowers. At one point during dinner all the staff ran to the steps and whistled and waved as an island freighter pulled out of the harbor. Apparently someone’s brother was aboard, en route north to Santo with supplies.