We spent a few nights in the calm, protected anchorage of Loltong Bay at the northwestern end of Pentecost. It was a relief to have a calm boat for two nights in a row! There is a small reef at the northern end of the anchorage that made for a good snorkel (not much coral, but a lot of fish and giant clams). There were turtles around, and we got lucky with a dugong sighting as we rowed the dinghy between boat and shore.
On shore there is a small yacht club in the making. Mathew, the chief’s youngest brother, is the proprietor. He cruised out to the boat to introduce himself and gave us a lengthy tour of his village. We saw the nakamal, the community center that functions as town meeting hall, kava bar, lost and found, and the sanctuary (“This is where you should come if someone is trying to kill you,” he told us).
The village was lovely, thatched structures perched along the coast line, some built atop coral outcrops with elaborately carved entry ways. He showed us the Anglican church and the Catholic church, the best views of the bay, and hurled branches into tree tops to bring delicious ripe mangos raining down for a snack.
I feel like I say this with every new island we visit—but this was the most fecund island we’ve visited yet, with incredible biodiversity. The variety of flowers in bloom, the number of fruits heavy on the branch and plump for the picking, was like nothing we’ve seen. Maybe this has to do with the fact that we’re getting closer and closer to Papua New Guinea, the source of a lot of the plants and animals that made their way across the seas to flourish in the South Pacific islands. Either way, it makes for a feast of the senses.
Mathew turned out to be an interesting character. Many years ago, while living and working in Port Vila, he fell in love with a girl from France and traveled to Paris to visit her. He seemed to have traveled throughout France, from Brittany to Marseilles, and was so inspired by the elegance of French cuisine that he decided to return to his home village and serve South Pacific food with the same panache.
With such a preamble, we couldn’t turn down a meal at the yacht club cafe. For lunch the following day, he and his wife served us ten courses of Loltong’s finest—papaya and tuna salad dressed in coconut oil, smoked papaya with shaved coconut, pumpkin topped with island cabbage in coconut milk, taro stuffed with fish, fresh fruit salad, and, the crowning jewel, udu omelettes.