Meph’s Report from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu

by Meph Wyeth

Mimi and Meph spent most of November in Solomons and, in Meph’s case, northern Vanuatu. They hoped to participate in Holau Vanuatu, a voyage from Taumako to Vanua Lava in the Banks Islands. Traditionally vaka would sail this route during November. riding the Patapu (northerly) wind, and waiting out the cyclone season before returning home in May or June.

Originally planned for 2015, the voyage was scuttled by Cyclone Pam, which tore through Temotu Province and Vanuatu last year, causing significant damage in both areas. Life having returned more or less to normal on Taumako, VTPSI members worked hard during 2016 to make two new vaka ready to sail. Mimi and Meph arrived in Temotu on 26 October eager to join them:–

They were equally eager to meet up with the Heritage Expeditions ship “Spirit of Enderby”, which was cruising in the region. Mimi and Simon had contacted the company after learning that the ship had visited Taumako in 2015,and found out that a similar stop had been included in the 2016 “Secrets of Melanesia” cruise. In return for a presentation about VTP, the company generously agreed to carry Simon and Meph, along with a considerable cargo of food, to Duffs. Accordingly, Simon, Meph, and the food boarded the ship in Lata on 31October.

The evening’s entertainment featured a premier of the latest version of the VTP video production’s rough cut. Spirit of Enderby’s passengers and crew were the first real audience for this new edition. They really liked it; their intelligent questions and comments showed that they had paid thoughtful attention. Simon and Meph appreciated their observations.

The next day the ship arrived at Taumako, where passengers and crew enjoyed a boisterous welcome dance at Ngauta. They responded by inviting nga Taumako to join them in the Hokey Pokey. which proved to be a big hit We shall not be surprised if a local version becomes a part of the custom dance repertoire!

Afterward the visitors were escorted to Tahua, where they met Mimi, who had arrived on the island on 28 October. She gave them a tour of the vaka workshop and explained more about VTP’s plans for the voyage to Vanuatu.

As someone once wisely remarked however, “Plans are made to be changed.” Change they did.

What should have happened, had all gone according to plan, was that Meph and Simon would continue aboard Spirit of Enderby to Vanua Lava to await the vaka’s arrival and assist Francis Hickey with preparations for a grand ceremonial welcome. Mimi and Meph planned to keep in touch via satellite phone.

What did happen was that Simon’s children begged him not to leave Taumako, so he did not. Meph therefore went on to Sola, Vanua Lava, and waited.

…..and waited and waited. Unfortunately, the Palapu wind did not blow at Taumako, (although Sola experienced about 4 days of it). What also happened was that the sat phones’ performance was, to say the least, unsatisfactory. Except for one brief conversation on 3 November, they were unable to communicate with each other. Meph was finally able to contact Honorable Stanley on 21 November and learn from him that the vaka had not left Duffs!

Since she and Mimi were scheduled to return home on 27 November, and since flights from Sola to Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, can be irregular, she left on 23 November. Mimi joined her in Port Vila on the 26, and they left for Honolulu the next morning as planned. The changes were not done yet, however.

A delay in their flight from Port Vila to Nadi meant that they missed their Nadi-Honolulu connection. This meant that Fiji Airways sent them to Honolulu by way of Los Angeles! A few more adventures awaited them before they finally arrived home on 28 November, but that is another story….

POSTSCRIPT: One of many delightful people aboard the Spirit of Enderby was master limericist Yoram, who summed up each day of the cruise with one or more of his poems. Here is his comment on the ship’s Taumako visit:

Vaca is the Spanish for cow

And I started to wonder by now

To sail like this

On all the salt seas

All I can say is WOW!

(Dedicated to Simon by Yoram, 1 November, 2016)