The past months have been spent living a nomadic life of a different sort…armed with suitcases, plane tickets and car rental bookings we have traversed the eastern states of Australia staying with friends, enjoying the Christmas spirit and eating and drinking our way well into 2018.
With 5 months from completion of Part 1 of the Oyster World Rally and the resumption of and introduction to new sailing exploits and destinations there has been loads of administrative affairs to contend to, family and friends to touch base with, weddings, birthdays and Rally friends to show off our wonderful country to!
Hiking or “tramping” has become a land based alternative to crossing oceans. The Milford Track and then the Bay of Fires took up most of February the only downside being the loss of 4 toe nails. The weather has not always been favourable! Cyclonic winds and horizontal rain impeded our time in NZ on several occasions – better when ashore than at sea!
Back in our Tassie homeland, J Nathan Tours departed Hobart with a Back Roads Touring size group of Brits and Americans who were treated to true Tasmanian hospitality! Several of our party commented their taste of Tassie was up there with some of their best travelling experiences.
Decision time – where and what next? Continue our “adventure before dementia” or drop the sails and head for land to resume our lives? After much deliberation and discussion our decision to continue on to Indonesia feels right; the sail of Miss Tiggy continues…for now.
The zig zag across the Tasman sea by plane finally ends in mid April and our crew is set for the sail to Vanuatu. Rob Boss, who joined us from Fiji to Auckland returns and Calum Tait fresh from the Scottish swimming team having competed in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast makes up our team 4. Great news for me – no night watches!
6 days of every type of weather characterised our passage to Vanuatu – no wind, good wind, strong wind, squalls and heavy rain but when we cruised into the island of Tanna on a beautiful sunny morning we realised that our days of shorts, tee shirts and togs had returned! Remote, untamed Tanna is one of the most southern islands of the many which make up Vanuatu. Big smiles of welcome and an active volcano, Mt Yasur, which treated us to a spectacular display of fireworks, made our arrival one to remember. Occupational Health and Safety is non existent in this part of Vanuatu….a walk to the face of the crater where a line was drawn in the volcanic sand by the heel of our Guide – no fence, viewing platform, protective clothing….two hours spent peering into the depths of the earth being entertained by natures most beautiful and deadly show. Any amount of lava, small or large, that lands on you can be a killer.
Erromango, Efate (Port Vila), Epi and Pentecost Islands all delivered their individual flavours to round off our Vanuatu experiences. Having Maryann Kirk as our “local” informant for all things Vanuatu (restaurants, supermarkets, tourism tips and medical) helped the fleet enormously!
Within 3 weeks we have seen local males prove their manhood by varying methods. On Pentecost (to which we flew in an old Cessna) every Saturday in May visitors are invited to watch Land Diving, apparently the pre cursor to bungy jumping. No strongly built frames to climb or strong synthetic support to keep you attached as you hurl yourself into a canyon, just a tower built of sticks and vines attached to ankles as the jumper dives down the hillside to the dirt below. All males on Pentecost must jump at some stage of their lives while many of the females from their tribe sway and chant topless to instil confidence in their men.
A week of passage making and two weeks later we witnessed the Australian version of male initiation at the Mackay Rodeo; men of all ages and stages riding large bucking bulls or horses, flinging themselves on top of young terrified steers and wrestling them to the ground along with other testosterone fuelled activities. Local girls in cow girl boots and tight jeans circuited the arena clapping and whistling their cowboy heroes while consuming cold beers or cans of Bundaberg Rum and Coke.
It is great to be home in Australia! Sailing Miss Tiggy, our own boat, through the islands of the Whitsunday group is magical! Gorgeous sunsets and a BBQ on the beach of Goldsmith Island has set the tone for 6 weeks of cruising the Coral Sea up to Cairns.