September 2006 Vanuatu
I appreciate Project MARC more each week; it looks like they will double our annual cash flow. MARC also gives us a tangible sense of purpose and a wider variety of experiences. Instead of just being visitors we quickly become part of the community. And it makes all the difference.
We got into Luganville after a month of visiting out of the way places with names like Bangon Point, Malfokal and Malua Bay. These places don’t even have electricity, much less internet services.
After picking up the new med teams in Port Vila we sailed to Sakao. There they inventoried the clinic and treated patients. Next we went to Banam Bay, on the west coast of Malekula. There we conducted workshops on health care and education. We gave away education kits and hygiene kits and had talk-talk on birth control and scabies prevention and treatment.
I took a boatload of 7 used mountain bikes ashore. It felt like being Father Christmas. Wish I could describe the smiles and wide-eyed amazement on the faces of those 25 kids as the tinny nosed up onto the sand. As I handed out bicycles and boxes of parts the beach became a spontaneous parade with each bicycle surrounded by a half dozen kids, all of them laughing and shouting, as the bigger boys rode off down the beach.
On the MARC team we had 4 British med students, two dentists, Alexia and Tasha; and two doctors, Lucy and Natalie. They were all smart, lively and very attractive. Also on the med team we had an older couple, Gene and Myrna, along with Eric a physician’s assistant. Also on the crew was a tall blonde Swede named Johanna and a Canadian physiotherapist named Elisa. We had an 11 to 4 female to male crew ratio and it worked out nicely.
Yachts rarely visit Matanoui Bay, on the south end of Malekula. No coral in this bay. It is formed by lava flows with a sand/mud bottom and a surf break on the beach. Landing the shore boat is not easy, but we manage to get the med teams back and forth, between the rocks and sand, only half soaked and little the worse for wear. From this bay the fast catamaran Augustina took the 4 med students back to Port Vila to catch their flight back to the U.K.
It was an overnight sail up the west coast to Malua Bay. Motoring into the Bay we were surrounded by a dozen dugout canoes and many smiling, curious faces. Here we did med surveys of 3 villages and gave out bandages and antibiotics to the local aid post.
It was another overnight sail to Luganville. This is a one street town with about a dozen Chinese stores that sell everything from bush knives through peanut butter to ladies underwear. We had a few days to re-provision for the next expedition, but not much of a choice in this one horse town.
Still on the crew from New Zealand and fast becoming old salts, were Kat, Brittany and Lisa. Staying on the crew from the last expedition were Gene, Myrna, Johanna and Elisa. Sarah returned to New Zealand and J.P. flew on to Australia to eventually meet up with his brother on a dig in Turkmenistan. Joining us were the dental team, Sean and Dana and Dr. Deirdre.
We stowed a truckload of medical provisions in the main saloon and sailed to Kuavanuji Bay on the south west corner of Santo.
Chris and Claire, on their 65-foot catamaran “Augustina”, had picked up the remainder of the med teams in Port Vila; for a rendezvous in Kuavanuji Bay. Joining us from the Cat were med students James, Emma, Trevor and Kate, along with a photographer named Jenny and technician named Claire.
From here, Dr. Deirdre, Gene, Myrna and Claire were dropped on the beach at Sulamari for the treck up to Jungle Mountain Clinic. The exploratory teams of James, Emma, Trevor and Kate were issued an iridium satellite phone and set loose in the bush, with Augustine standing by to pick them up when needed.
After 2 days of dental work and eye exams we sailed 22 miles up the coast to Remarkable Point and the little village of Wusi. We anchored 150 meters off the beach in an open roadstead, then sent the dental team and eye screening teams ashore treat patients and do med surveys of nearby villages.