Thursday, October 27, 2011

Louisiades Rally – Part 3 (5th October – 10th October)

I have been a bit negligent and not provided a whole bunch of information about the Louisiades so before I go further with our trip here is a bit of background info.

The Louisiades is a chain of islands lying 100 nautical miles east of 'mainland' PNG with the Solomon Islands lying to the east.  The Louisiades comprise sand cays, lagoon reefs, limestone outcrops (uplifted coral reefs) and continental islands.  With abundant coral reefs there is snorkelling, diving and fishing galore.  There are skull caves. hills to climb, coral cays to explore, mangrove lined creeks, coconut shaded trees to sit under.

The people of  Louisiades are Melanesian and are very warm and friendly.  They are exceptionally welcoming to yachts and will paddle out to say a welcoming hello and of course to trade their local produce and crafts for other items not readily available in the Louisiades.
The locals look similar to the folk of the rest of PNG (and for that matter the Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and to some extent Fiji!).  There are three main languages spoken by people in different areas in the Louisiades, Misima-Paneati, Nimoa and Sudest.  Whilst Pidgin is often spoken throughout PNG in the Louisiades the majority of people speak their local language and English.

Life in the Louisiades is simple and unburdened by the ownership of many material possessions.  Many place are completely self sufficient and have little need for money.  The economy of many islands is not based on cash and the only use for such would be a long trip on a sailing canoe to a trade store
Many folk live in villages, which are home to any number of families from a few to a few hundred.  The villages have no formal or traditional chiefly system, but every island has a Councilor, who forms part of the local government.  Most villages have a church where the locals practice Christianity.

The sailing canoe (Sailau) is the main form of transport for locals to get around the Louisiades.  These are hand crafted from trees growing on Paneati.
5 & 6 October
Since we had such a nice stay in Bagaman last time we decided that it would be a good place to spend a few more nights before moving on to Misima.  After some discussions with the other rally yachts anchored in Bagaman we headed off on a walk firstly up to hill to the north east of the anchorage which s the place of worship for the local villages.  It was a pretty windy morning and even more so once we got to the top of the hill but the views up there made it all worthwhile.  We then made our way across to the other side of the island which has another village (sorry cannot remember the name of this one) and we went for a long stroll along the beach before heading back to the yacht for an afternoon of some serious R&R.  Team Leyla joined us for sundowners at five on the aft deck and after some high power bartering we ended up with an excellent trade where we ended up with a very nice bottle of red in exchange for a 6 pack of Gordon's G&T
View of anchorage at Bagaman from Worship Hill


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Sailau Ride
Gina did some awesome work in the morning of the 6th and arranged for a Sailau ride for us Mustang Sally Dim Dims - especially those of us that were not brave enough to take on the elements for the trip across to Panniet!.  The crew seemed to enjoy the 3 hour cruise around the bay and unlike the SS Minnow they didn't get stranded on an uninhabited island.  As they had such an excellent adventure and also noted that the sail on the sailau was in pretty back nick decided that is would be a good thing to donate a few tarps and twine to the skipper of the boat.

After the sail we were all so full of beans we decided to go for one last snorkel at Bagaman and headed over to the east side of the bay and found some lovely coral and plenty of fish which kept us entertained for a good hour or more.  Amazing how much time one can spend with one’s head under the water looking at fish and coral especially when the water is a balmy 28oC

7 October
Misima Market
Today is when we head for the big smoke of Misima.  As it is a fair hike (~30NM) all the yachts had the same idea and got up early for the trip across.  As it was a good sailing breeze we all made good time and ended up having to slow down to give Guy on Sanctuary enough time to arrange things before the fleet arrived.  Misima is where we finally get to clear customs and quarantine.  As we can’t get off the boat until clearing we get to entertain ourselves on-board for a while until we get clearance at around 6pm but finally we get to put pull down the Quarantine Flag and officially put up the PNG flag (despite the fact that we have had both up for the duration of the rally to date). 

8 October
Elementary School Welcome
Today is the day of the Misima Festival.  After arriving ashore we were greeted by the elementary school and led down to the parade grounds where most of the festival activities occur.    The locals are very proud of their traditions and are keen to be able to put on these displays for us visitors.  This also gives them the opportunity to keep some of their culture and traditions alive. 

The Dim Dims on display
(local for white folk)
Local Dancers
Miss Misima Contest
After lunch the activities continue and we start the afternoon with the Miss Misima Contest which is a little different to your standard beauty contest.  This was followed by comedy hour and we concluded the day with the Pem Pewa which is a gift giving ceremony – apparently the women in Misima and surrounding islands / villages undertake a special selection process to be involved so they were all pretty chuffed to be there.  We had spent many weeks collecting items for the Pem Pewa so we hope they appreciate the items we had put together.  In return the ladies prepared some amazingly presented baskets and bags full of fruits, vegetables, carvings, shells etc and were very keen to introduce themselves and learn a bit about us as well.  Unfortunately there ended up being more of their Pem Pewa’s than what we had planned for so we ended up giving a small gift of Kina in exchange – despite the minor muck up they all they were all OK and were just happy to be able to give us their gifts.  Despite not having a lot of material possessions the people of the Louisiades are in general very generous people and more than happy to share what little they have – this is quite a refreshing concept for us Dim Dims and something that I am sure will stick in our minds once we are all back in civilisation.
The Pem Pewa - Local Style

The Pem Pewa - Dim Dim Style

The local kids were keen to help us get our load of Pem Pewa gifts back to the boat so we ended up with a what must have looked like a scene from the Pied Piper as we all wandered back down the main street to the dinghy wharf.  After much sorting and negotiations we eventually made it back to the boat for a clean up and also a sorting of the Pem Pewa gifts - you wont imagine how much fresh fruit and how many baskets we ended up with and were lucky enough to be able to give some of these goodies to some locals as we were never going to get through it all.  After a bit of a break we are on the move again and this time off to the Guest House for a yummy dinner and auction.  As with many of the activities on the program they are aimed at raising funds for the Nimowa clinic and other worthwhile causes (there are plenty of them!).  We ended up with the highest bid on  many items with some of the stand outs being a really lovely Bagi, Bundy Bear Wind Sock, and a bottle of marmalade which ended up costing 60Kina (~$30AUD) .

MV Reliance Crew

The Local Drop
9 October
After the fun of Misima we were still keen to move on and took the opportunity to depart from Misima once we had finished our morning tasks.  We decided to head for Robinson's anchorage for the night (~30NM) which proved to be a great spot for the night before we head over to Sabira in the morning.  We followed Little One over to the anchorage and we ended up being the only 2 yachts here for the night.  Mark and Lisa from 'Little One' were kind enough to donate some of their HUMUNGOUS Mackerel that they had caught on the trip over.  Mark was even kind enough to fillet them for us.  We decided the best thing to do was wrap the fillets in foil with some herbs and chuck them on the BBQ - this was all pretty YUMMY - especially as fish hasn't exactly been a staple food in our diet so far  On the fishing front Mustang Sally hasn't been doing all that flash and seem to have developed a reputation for losing lures and being fish lovers not killers!.  So far the score is fish = 4 and Mustang Sally Dim Dims = 0. 

10 October
Up early again as we have about 20NM to do today on our way to Sabira and are keen to get there as we have heard that it is a really beautiful spot surrounded with small limestone islets.  We arrived just before lunch and were not disappointed with the beauty of the place, crystal clear water and sandy bottom – YAY – no bommies to worry about here.  Chief George was pretty keen to come out on his dug out to greet the yachts as they arrive and in most cases hoped on board to lead you through to the best anchoring spot
Village at Sabira Island

After lots of swimming and snorkelling in the arvo we head to the shore to participate in the five o’clock drinkies with the five or so other yachts that have decided to come to Sabira.

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