Tomorrow is the day to start exit paperwork. But today is relaxing Sunday. Here is a water taxi headed for church.
Notice the shipwreck at the beach behind them. Lots of WWII relics here. One was a 600 foot long cruise ship they made into a troop carrier. The Calvin Coolidge. It hit a mine and sank. Thousands of troops aboard and only one man was lost. We had a chance to dive on that. Very much intact.
I was planning on clearing out of Vanuatu Tuesday the 21st but I expect this will entail a lot of running around and probably take more of the day than I would have thought. So then I thought maybe I should get started Monday and see if I can get a few of the Elements of that project taken care of.
I got off to a bad start. I started to go down the road on my bicycle on a dawned on me that I didn’t have a passport and I don’t have any paperwork. So if I was actually offered the opportunity of getting something done I wouldn’t have the tools necessary but I was halfway to the immigration customs office so I said I’ll just go find out what’s necessary and then I’ll come back if I have to. So visit with the Immigration and they tell me that the port authority is right next door and I’ll have to go talk to them about checking out. They gave me a couple of forms which I wasn’t really able to fill out as I didn’t have the data. In particular I couldn’t remember what date it was we actually arrived in Vanuatu.
I took the forms and I headed back to the boat to get the information I needed. Everybody is closed at lunch so I had lunch at the Beachfront Resort and in the process of waiting for my food I filled up the water jugs to top up the tanks in Spill The Wine.
Back at the boat I set up a siphon to get the water into the tanks. And I sat down at the cockpit to fill in the forms with all the various data required. Tanks are full, forms are packed and I head back to town first by dinghy and then on my bicycle.
First stop is the govt cashier to pay the bill. But the official doesn’t know what to charge me because no one in the office seems to know exactly how much I’m supposed to pay per day. I think they’re used to seeing a Form walk in with a number on it and that’s just what you pay. I knew that was potentially a problem. I thought about going to the Port Authority first but that was way out of my way I’m trying to cut down the number of trips I have to make. I didn’t do well on that score today.
And I’m off to the Port Authority. They are supposed to close at 5pm. I got there a 130 and the door was locked. So they are technically open but they’re functionally closed because there’s no one here. I’ve a book to read. I’m going to operate on the theory that maybe they’re out doing some inspection of some damn fool thing and will come back before too long. We’ll find out how fruitful that little avenue is.
It worked. Someone showed up. And I got my port fees taken care of. And I stopped next door at immigration and they assured me that all I needed tomorrow was 2 passports and we could clear out. Rubber stamps and everything. Ok.
I stop at the duty free store to see what is required to purchase duty free alcohol. They tell me passport and clearance papers. Cool.
I decide I’d better visit the wharf to see what duty free fuel requires. Nice wharf. Lovely shipping containers. Friendly security and stevedores. Who speak only a little English. I enjoy Bislama but I no speak plenty. They were puzzled about my fuel question but I got the idea I would be welcome to bring the boat over tomorrow. Oh Kay…
Now it’s Tuesday. Kat arrived last night and is dead from siblings and travel. Let her sleep. Later she starts inventorying and cleaning the bilge storage so she can shop. It’s an 8-10 day crossing to Brisbane and we will stop at a New Caledonia reef on the way. Without clearing into New Caledonia. This is piracy. But we have a pirate flag so it’s ok. And I’m running out of pages in my passport anyway. No more stamps please! I think I have just enough pages to get back to Seattle.
Reef should be cool. Fishing. Catching up on sleep. Surfing the internet… Well, probably not an option. No people on this reef. Quite remote.
It’s Tuesday and I’m off for more checking out stuff. Passports to immigration. Get stamped out. Stop at Port authority next door. I didn’t get a good feeling yesterday at the wharf regarding fueling and I want to verify that I’m under control, went to the right wharf etc..
I review with Port official what happened yesterday. Ah. Wrong wharf. There is another wharf, domestic, beyond the shipping one. Bicycle up and off we go.
I find the domestic wharf. Some ships, some people, some children on the scene. I look for the person in charge. I’m freaking the children out. One goes running to his friends chattering away. Not sure what he was saying but I did get blah blah blablahblahblah white man. He probably said goofy tall white man on a funny looking bike. It is big enough for me. I can’t hide. I’m not from around here.
I did find the wharf authority. He seemed to know about fuel and I left with the impression that I would be welcome tomorrow. I felt as confident about this arrangement as I did at the last wharf. I don’t see any fueling equipment.
I go down the road a bit further. Oooo! Pacific Energy office on the left. Looks promising. In I go. Nice staff informs me no duty free fuel this week. Some equipment is broken. Too bad but no crisis. They tell me to go to a regular service station. I can do that.
Next I head for the duty free store to stock up on some wine. At the register I learn that passport and port clearance papers that I was told were all I need yesterday are not all I need. There is a form. Of course there is. I’m off for the customs office. It’s right by the wrong wharf. I know my way around this town.
Keep in mind that I started this a day early. So time is not running out. That makes all this educational and challenging but not stressful. And everyone is very nice. It’s still a beautiful day in Vanuatu.
The detour to customs is fortuitous. Turns out I was supposed to go here anyway. Checking in and checking out is very thorough, let me tell you. Of course I am telling you…
Customs officials inspect my entry papers. Hey! Spill the Wine arrived with three people and I’m leaving with two! I explain that Bas debarked in Port Vila. I debarked him with officials there but apparently my papers did not get updated. I tell this lot he flew to New Caledonia and they believe me. Thank you. I walk out cleared with customs and have my duty free form in hand. It has a cool official stamp. Bow down to the Great and Powerful Stamped Form!
It’s not over yet. Still have to go to the duty free with stamped Form and stock up. The duty free people need to fill in Form with what I bought. Then return the Form to customs office. Then the process is complete. I think. But I thought that yesterday too… Anyway we are leaving for Australia. Too soon. I love Vanuatu. Seriously my latest favorite place.
The next day I visit duty free. I have my form. I have my check out papers. I have my passport. I fill my backpack with beverages. Pay the bill. And I’m done. I ask if I can leave my heavy bag so I don’t have to tote it all the way back to customs to turn in my form on my bike. They are happy to help, of course!
Zoom back to customs. I turn in Form. Official wants our passports. WTF? They were stamped out yesterday. I’m not clear why he still needs them. But nevermind that. He does. Bike back to the beach. Dinghy back to boat. Collect passports. Dinghy back to beach. Bike back to customs. Share passports. I receive yet another Fabulous Form stating I am cleared to depart. This is the second one of these. I do not comment that I now have two. Such a conversation would not go anywhere productive. And the second one has even a bit more “Officially” look to it. You tell me which one you like better!
I’ve met up with Kat now. She has a taxi full of supplies. But there is room for my heavy bag. Yay! Taxi back to duty free store. They’re closed for lunch. Of course they are. Taxi back to beach. Driver was an interesting character. He had retired from police work. He worked for the government here when France and England shared management of Vanuatu. This has been an independent country since 1980.
Next dinghy to boat. Start stowing supplies. Lunch is over. Dinghy back to beach. Taxi back to duty free. Collect heavy bag and back to boat.
I lost track of how many trips. There were a few eh? Such nice people. A bit more organization to their border systems would be helpful I suppose. But I would not swap the people for any others.