23-Jan-2013 -- The story starts at 43°S 147°E and continues from 21°S 165°E.
Vanuatu - an archipelago of 83 island deep in the Pacific Ocean - remains for most people just a dream or, in our case, a one-in-a-lifetime experience. The happiest people in the world, great beaches, wildlife, climate... etc. And there is only a single confluence on land - we had to go, even if such a visit would involve some effort.
Coming from New Caledonia, we arrived in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila on 18 January. The next day we flew to the island Espiritu Santo, on which this confluence is located. We landed in the main town Luganville, from where it is another 60 km to the confluence point. There is no scheduled bus transportation, but people suggest hanging around at the petrol station in Luganville and sooner or later there will be an opportunity for a ride in a truck. And indeed, just when we arrived at the petrol station, there was a pick-up about to leave for Port Olry, a village located only 10 km from the confluence point. The road to Port Olry is (in contrast to the visit in 2007) already asphalted, such that it only took one hour to get there.
Thanks to the excellent report of the first visitors - the Millers - we knew exactly what had to be done to reach the confluence point. Actually, this is the first time I can say, that the report of a previous visit was crucial for a successful visit!
In Port Olry, we quartered in Stanislas's hut. This would be our home for the next couple days. We asked for Jean, a guy who was helpful douring the first visit of this confluence. But he is now working in Luganville and therefore not available. But when we showed our host Stanislas the picture of the visit 5 years ago, he immediately recognized Roupen, the tallest man of the village. Stanislas promised to contact him and ask him if he would guide us to the confluence. A visit without guide was impossible due to two reasons: first, the landowners are very picky about strangers trespassing their properties and secondly, the dense jungle where the confluence is located required a team to get through.
In the evening, we had a kava session with drinking 6 cups each of us. But we didn't get the miracle feeling everybody seems to have. Probably it is similar as having your first cigarette or beer: the brain does not yet know the drug and there is no flush.
On the second day, Stanislas reported that he had contacted Roupen, who was now off to the landowner to get permission for a possible visit. In the evening we met Roupen, who told us that he would only be able to guide us on Wednesday (it was Sunday). We accepted this delay, because we had enough things to visit in the area, i.e. to hike along the coast, visit so-called Blue Holes, nature-parks, beaches, etc.
On Wednesday morning we got up at 5 AM in our home in Port Olry. We were picked up by an arranged truck at 6 AM. We then picked up Roupen and his 78-year old friend Orseiv. He also had been to the confluence in 2007 and was to help Roupen's guiding and bush-fighting. Also two kids and Stanislas joined the group. The truck was able to take us from 10 km beeline to 2 km beeline to the confluence, on small and overgrown jungle tracks.
We then started the hike. Up to a distance of 800 m the going was very fast, because we were on a jungle path. Roupen seemed to remember the direction very well from his visit five years ago, such that I didn't have to help him with the GPS. At a distance of 600 m, progress was very slow, about 10 m/min. Roupen and Orseiv alternately took the lead with their machetes. At the distance of 300 m, we reached a hilltop. Ahead of us was a clearing, but all plants were overgrown with the 'Mile-a-Minute' vine, also called Kudzu that was introduced to Vanuatu during World War II and is now an invasive species damaging the endemic flora. Going was even slower, so slow that I sometimes doubted if we ever would make it to the goal.
But now comes the big surprise of this whole story: at a distance of 200 m, we encountered a freshly beaten path! We went along and found ourselves at the confluence point two minutes later! How come? Had there been other visitors before us?
Then Roupen lifted the miracle: he had been there the day before (without GPS!). Just to make sure, we can get there. Since he knew the area from his previous visit 5 years ago, he also knew that there is a longer, but much easier approach, coming from the east instead of south. But now the question arose, why we didn't use the easy approach. Well, the answer was that he thought that the way how to get there is part of the concept - believing the miracle black-box instead of an experienced jungle hunter.
The confluence is actually in a part of the jungle with a lower fraction of Kudzu but a lot of lianes. It is located in a valley, such that there is no view and hardly a GPS signal reception. At the confluence, we had a water break and shared a packet of biscuits. After taking the group picture, we started our way back - but this time we used the easy route.
We walked all the way back to Port Olry, because the truck driver had to do other business and could not wait for us. After a walk of 3.5 hours in the heat, we were back to Port Olry. On our way back, we learned why it wasn't necessary to carry water and food. Water is taken from the coconuts and carbohydrates from banana trees.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to an asphalt road: 10 km
- Distance to a footpath: 500 m
- Distance of car parking: 2 km
- Time to reach CP from car parking: 2 hours
- Time at CP: 9:30 AM
- Measured height: 235 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 0 m
- Position accuracy: 8 m
- Topography: mountainous
- Vegetation: jungle with high diversity of plants
- Weather: sunny, 33° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: Roupen's Confluence
More pictures of the trip can found at mautz.net.
The story continues at confluence 2N 103E.