Today is a very special day. One year ago today a very dear friend died, she was only 23 years old and just beginning her life. She would light up any room she entered and always made you feel special. Dear Jasmine, I miss you so.
I woke early and went on deck to watch the tenders being lowered into the water. We had already anchored off a most beautiful island and natives were paddling whole families in canoes over to the beach to entertain us. MBB was still asleep so I had a quick breakfast and joined one of the tenders for the trip ashore. We landed on a stunning beach dotted with dozens of native huts and shelters selling more colourful sarongs and shell necklaces (glad to see there was no mass produced plastic crap). Our island visit began with a tour of cultural life lead by Julie. It was a short walking tour, 10 tourists at a time through the rainforest to about 10 'stations' each with a different display of village skills: fire making, yam planting, warrior dancing, drumming and singing. Each station had a banana leaf on the ground for coins - native version of busking I suppose.
Tip 1: take lots and lots of dollar coins and give generously. They put on a spectacular show, very authentic and well presented, and they rely on the cruise ships for a large slice of their income - and there are only about four cruise ships which visit each month.
Tip 2: Take lots of Vatu currency notes. At the end of the day the villagers have pockets full of Aussie coins and they want to exchange them for local currency. You can always use the coins onboard in the casino.
After 40 minutes we were all hot and sweaty so we ran for the crystal clear warm surf pausing only long enough to divest ourselves of excess clothing. The water was stunningly divine and I did not budge for a full hour. More people had now arrived by the continuous stream of tenders and now I was sharing the beach with 1500 of my closest friends. I got out of the water and was dry before I even reached my pile of clothes.
I wandered down through the stalls and looked at all the wares. I bought a garland woven from palm leaves and decorated with frangipanis and bougainvilleas then struck out to the furthest end of the village (about a kilometre) to find a quiet spot. I asked the villagers if I could swim there and they asked what the garland was for. When I explained that it was a tribute to my dead friend they sang a nice song as I released the garland in the water. I was a very special moment.
At lunch time I jumped back on a tender for the 5 minute ride back to the ship. I grabbed lunch alone in the Horizon Court as there was no sign of MBB. I left her another note and went back to the island - spending the rest of the afternoon neck deep in water. It was a truly divine day and I would have been happy to have skipped Noumea and Port Vila altogether and just spent four days on Wala.
By 3pm we were all back on the ship ready for the 3 day journey back to Sydney.
The clouds were closing in again and it started to rain just as we were leaving Vanuatu. I haven't yet managed to see a proper sunset because of the clouds - and I did say I'd like to see a sunrise but I doubt that is going to happen as I have been sleeping so well!!