By Kate Logan
Our initial arrival into Bougainville’s Buka town was a buzz with the excited trill of circling speedboats and curious locals all pleased to see us. After clearing customs we sailed down to Tinputz where we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins en route.
The welcome ceremony at Tinputz was mind blowing – and not just from the beetle nut. Our crew received a traditional welcome with sing sing and dancing, as well as a foot bathing ritual for safe passage on arrival. To reciprocate, members of our Fijian crew performed a kava ceremony for the chiefs of the village as well as an energetic Bole that was enjoyed greatly by all the locals.
There were many speeches made by local cocoa growers and members of the community about the importance of sustainable agriculture in Bougainville. Gabe Davidson from the Wellington Chocolate Factory spoke about the purpose of our voyage in transporting locally sourced cocoa beans back to Wellington, and how he hopes it will be the first of many future transactions to take place with cocoa growers in the region.
The Wellington Chocolate Factory team went and visited James Rutana at his cocoa farm and were able to see first hand the drying machine for which this project had raised money for. It was especially great for Mandie, one of our NZ voyagers, to be able to see this as she was one of the main sponsors towards this project.
Eventually the tonne of cocoa beans purchased from James’s farm were brought down to the wharf in Tinputz and with much sweat and gusto 16 sacks were loaded into both hulls of the Vaka. The local kids and adults who had been curiously watching the Vaka from shore were invited on board for a tour by Skipper Angelo. All in all it was a great spectacle and an enjoyable occasion for all involved.
Sadly for me now my time on this voyage has come to an end, as I have to get back to my land bound reality in Aotearoa. It has been an adventure of a life time and one I will cherish forever. It was a pleasure getting to know and document such and lovely bunch of individuals and I feel honoured to have been accepted in as part of the crew – vinaka vakalevu!
The Uto ni Yalo has now set sail for Honiara where they will stop briefly before continuing on into the wintery south pacific. I look forward to meeting them in Wellington and jumping back on board to document the arrival. Safe sailing till then crew. It’s been a blast. Moce.