Saturday, 24 November 2012

Our first atoll and mahi mahi

We left Buka later in the afternoon after our morning arrival. A ton of big dinghies with big outboards were zipping across the harbour constantly and most of them wanted to get as close to us as possible to check us out. Their wake combined with the current made the anchorage quite unsettled and with a big population like that, raskols (PNG name for criminals/bandits) would be a possibility, so that's why we left. We had three knots of current with us as we left, so we did get the times fairly right after all.

It was a little tough being on our forth night at sea, especially because we were close hauled all the time, at times with 20-25 knots of wind, but at least we were sailing, not motoring, and we could almost hold the course, so we didn't have to tack much. We arrived at Nissan Atoll (also called Green Island) at 8am in the morning and went through the pass without any problems, it was quite obvious where the passage was and the water was super clear and beautiful. It's our first atoll on this trip, so that was quite exciting. It's quite different from the Maldive atolls that are the only ones I know, as there isn't much beach and some of the island is quite raised. It's very densely wooded, we well as fairly densely populated. We read that 3000 people live here, but the local chief said 1700. We're anchored just inside the passage to the south in 3-4 meters of water, but with quite poor holding in coral and hard sand.

We had barely gotten our anchor down before the first dugouts arrived. One funny thing is the canoes now again have outriggers here in PNG, same as in Vanuatu, but different from the single hulls in Solomon Islands! The locals were very keen to trade with us, and we got yummy passionfruit, a local orange/mandarin fruit, paw paws, pineapple, eggs, bananas, starfruit, kumera, eggplant and lots more I can't remember. So despite the soil being fairly poor and sandy with lots of coral rock, it still is quite fertile! Sugar was especially popular to trade, but we also traded second hand clothes, fish hooks, line, pencils, lollies and salt. The only income possibility they have is copra and cocoa, but at the moment they aren't selling any, because the price is only 20% of normal prices. It's a 2-3 hour trip to Buka for them with their fast outboards, but it's very expensive in fuel, and hardly justify the cost of selling their produce at the market there.

Later when we visited the village and met the chief we learned we're only the 4th yacht this year. Some years they have had many more though, when the visitor book started in 2002 maybe 30 boats visited! There are a ton of kids and young people in the village and everyone are super friendly. It does get a bit tiring being constantly surrounded by canoes all day long (starting at 6.30 in the morning!), but on the other hand, it's also quite understandable, as we're the biggest and best entertainment they have had in a long time. Plus of course the trading possibility. After the first day we had to stop trading though, as we already had more fruit and veggies than we can eat!

Today we spent most of the day ashore being guided around by 16 year old boys. They took us to the school which is about 30 minutes walk away. It was Saturday, so no teaching, but it was still very interesting to see anyway and we spent a while looking at maps, books and stories written by the kids that hang on the wall. Some younger boys that were also following us climbed up really high in a tree to fetch us a local fruit that looks a bit like a green mango, but is more like an apple in texture and taste.

One big thing I forgot to mention in the last post was the Mahi mahi we caught on the passage to Buka! It's our first mahi mahi and it was so beautiful and golden that it was really sad to kill it and watch all the colour disappear. But it was really yummy!

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