Thursday, 25 September 2008

Vanuatu - From Tanna to Efate

Thursday 25th September 2008

The anchorage at Tanna had become even more rolly and uncomfortable overnight so we decided to leave and set sail for Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu on the island of Efate. We left in the morning with sunshine and a good breeze which gradually strengthened and we eventually sailed though a dark and squally night. For a while we were in the lee of another island Erromanga which gave us some protection but clear of there we had 30 plus knots of wind. In the early light we can see Efate though it always takes a long time to actually make landfall. The entrance channel is buoyed which is great and we have just lined up the leading lights when the clouds roll over, the rain starts and the whole coast line disappears. Fortunately it clears before we need to make our turn through a narrow and fairly shallow buoyed gap into the mooring field of the Marina.

Assisted by Moses in the marina dinghy we are soon tied up and spot several boats we recognise from other ports. The day continues showery but between the showers we launch the dinghy and go ashore eager to find the cosmopolitan French shopping which we had experienced in Tahiti.

Well it isn't quite Tahiti and Dave was disappointed to find that even the Camembert cheese is made in NZ but the supermarket is open and so is the fruit and veg market. This apparently stays open 24hrs all week except Sunday and is very well stocked. As well as the usual fruit and veg are parcels of green leaf rolled up and tied. In his best attempt at French, Graham discovers that these are kits ready to make the local dish of laplap.

Mmmm yummo!! Yes, a staple part of Ni Vanuatu diet. It’s not for everyone but it’s worth a try or you can make your own (see recipe below, copied the recipe from the Vanuatu tourist site). You can buy Lap Lap at the market most days, but please don’t eat the banana leaves.
  • Lap Lap ingredients:
  • Coconut milk
  • Island cabbage (optional)
  • Taro or manioc or cooking bananas
  • For something different use a mix of any two above ingredients. Or add sweet potato (kumala) with your manioc.
  • Banana leaves for wrapping
Take some manioc or taro and grate to a paste. In a separate dish grate some coconut then squeeze to get the coconut milk. Discard the pulp. Spread some banana leaves into a large square or circle then sprinkle with some coconut milk and add a layer of island cabbage. Pour some more coconut milk over the island cabbage, and then spread a thick layer of the manioc or taro paste. Spread it out and make it smooth. If you want to add meat put a layer of chicken or stew on top.

Finally, top with more coconut milk. For the diet conscious use less coconut milk. Wrap in banana leaves, and put in your ground, rock oven, which you pre heated for one and a half hours with a wood fire before hand. Cook your Lap Lap for half an hour. For a slow cook to produce a dry flavour wrap in double banana leaves and leave over night.

In one section of the market are the food stalls with meals ready laid out on a leaf plate and as well as laplap there are meat and vegetable dishes. There are also crab and lobster for sale. I asked this gentleman if I could take a picture of the crabs all neatly tied up but he offered to pose for the camera too.
We stop for a pizza at a restaurant overlooking the harbour and then manage to dinghy back to Elly before the rain returns. We are all pretty well ready for an early night, night passages never give you a good night's sleep.

Friday 26th September 2008

We had checked in officially at Tanna but still need to obtain a cruising permit to travel to any of the other islands. This is obtained at the main port, a good hike up the hill out of town with a splendid view over the mooring field and the harbour. Paperwork sorted we have a few days to shop, do laundry and explore before we want to head out again. With the combined rule of English and French officials before independence we found the mix of cultures still exists with cricket coaching on the sportsfield and adverts for french events in town. The Bislama language continues to interest us with its unusual but effective spelling. Many of the traditional buildings in town have been replaced with modern ones but this little church up on the hill remains as well as the former British High Commission building. Apparently it was a competition between the two authorities to see who could erect the tallest flagpole at their offices around what is now Independence Park.

In town most ladies wear the traditional "Mother Hubbard" style dresses (which are sold everywhere) and carry a woven basket handbag. The indoor market has many stalls where they are made with ladies sewing through the day. Going to have to buy one before we leave I think (the basket that is not the dress) though that would make an distinctive outfit for the wedding we will be attending in New Zealand at Christmas.

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