12-27 Further Adventures in Transport in Vanuatu

Our ride to the ship was…interesting…
But we got to board the ship like pirates!

I think I’ve mentioned on this blog that the ships are a slightly questionable way to travel. As I write this, I’m on another one. This time, I’m on the Efate Queen, the passenger liner that services Pentecost. We’re going to Santo for New Years.

So, the adventure of getting on the boat. First off, I had to find out when the ship would arrive. I called the office, thinking they might have an idea of when it would get to Melsisi, given that is the job of the office. After talking to the woman, I remembered that I live in Vanuatu. She told me the ship would be out at 1 pm and arriving in Pentecost at 10 am. There are 2 problems with that statement, the ship leaves port at 3 pm and it only takes the Efate Queen 16 hours to make the run to Pentecost. So, I started asking around the village to find out when it would be coming through. The general consensus was “morning but not really early, like 5 or 6 am.”
We went to Melsisi last night and slept at Jason’s house. We got up at 4 am and were at the dock by 5 am. We waited. We took naps on bags of cement and had a lovely breakfast of day old bread, atomic cheese and passion fruit. We waited some more. Around 8, a man stopped by and told us he’d seen the boat in Waterfall, the port before ours. We waited.
Around 8:30, we were told that the boat would not in fact be coming to Melsisi. Sorry, come again? The ocean was too rough for it to come to the Melsisi “dock,” so the captain had called all the agents and told them all passengers were to come to Waterfall. Our agent hadn’t informed us of anything. In fact, we didn’t even know where our agent was, he wasn’t waiting for the boat like I would have expected him to do.
Alexandra took a nap while we waited for the ship.

Jason went to call the captain, which required walking up the Melsisi hill to find service. The captain didn’t pick up. He went to find the agent. The agent wasn’t at his store or his house. Someone said he was in mass. Jason went to mass and found the agent taking communion. As soon as he had his wafer, Jason called him out of church to ask about the boat. The agent had forgotten his phone in the village and hadn’t gotten the message that they wouldn’t be docking in Melsisi.

We started making phone calls. Lots of phone calls. We called the captain, who didn’t answer. The agent tried some people, who didn’t answer. I thought to call Silas, a man who lives in Waterfall. He answered but is currently in Vila. He gave us the number of one of his kids who would be meeting the ship. We called him, he answered. He said to call back in two minutes while he went to go find the agent in Waterfall. We waited. We called back. The Melsisi agent talked to the Waterfall agent and told the ship to wait for us.
Good. Progress. At least it wouldn’t leave without us, well, not without waiting for a few minutes before leaving without us.
Made it on board!

Then we started to call about transport down to Waterfall. We called the school driver, he didn’t answer. We called my papa, who was in the village and told us the driver was no longer in the village and my uncle had taken his truck on top. We called Pierre Paul, who didn’t answer. We called my papa back and asked about Jason’s papa’s boat, turns out Jason’s papa had just pulled his boat out of the water because it was too rough. We’ll get back to that issue. We called Silas back to ask for the numbers for the two trucks in Waterfall. Neither of them answered. Mass finished and we asked the priest, but his truck is broken. At the point where it was time to start panicking, I heard a boat. We ran down to the water and found an unfamiliar speed boat pulling in, as well as Pierre Paul’s truck. We asked Pierre Paul. He said no. We asked the boat. He said yes.

We got our things and threw them in the boat and loaded in with five ni-Vans, including a 7-year-old who was going to Santo to go to school and was the only other passenger for the ship.
Remember how Jason’s papa had just pulled his boat out of the water because it was too rough? Turns out, it was kind of rough. By kind of, I mean that the waves were taller than my head while I was sitting in the boat. We had a lovely ride down to the ship. I got a couple of waves broadside and am well salted on the right, though not on the left. Jason hid in the bow and is being all smug about his driness. Alexandra is not really a fan of boat travel. It was good she took a lot of dramamine or I think she would have been freaking out. The little girl was holding on to the two men she was sitting between. She had a death grip on both of them and was staring straight ahead, poor girl.
I’m using my phone to talk to the person on shore. 

The driver was good and knew how to ride the waves. We had to get out past the reef, which is fun on any day that isn’t calm like glass. If today was like glass, it was a bottle being tossed out of a truck doing 60 on the highway. Not the kind of glass that makes for smooth sailing. We took a couple of big waves head on to get the angle right then the driver put as at a slope and the ride calmed down. On the way back towards shore where the ship was, we surfed the waves. That is as much fun in a boat as it is in person.

Getting into the ship was a smaller adventure. We passed up bags first. Each time a wave came it pushed us up level with the side of the ship, so then it was just a hand off. Next, we passed the little girl up the same way. Lastly, we passed ourselves up. The trick was to stand on the edge of the boat and grab the hand of someone in the ship. When the wave came you stabilized on their hand and then stepped into the ship when the boat came level. If you missed it, bad things would probably happen involving swimming lessons. Luckily, we all made it without issue. 

Now, we are between Pentecost and Ambae with another 6-8 hours of boat travel to go. Alexandra is doped on dramamine, I’m writing blogs and Jason is reading over my shoulder. We’ll see what amusement Ambae and Santo bring us.

Some more PCVs joined us from Ambae

He also boarded like a pirate

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