Approaching Vanimo on the mainland we’re full of apprehension – a bit like Manus Island, it has a bad reputation amongst yachties. In the last few years there’ve been several reports of boats being boarded and robbed at night. If we didn’t need to get our Indonesian visas here we’d be giving it a big miss, but we have no choice. So our plan is to get in and out in the same day if possible to avoid an overnight stay. It feels akin to riding into Dodge City to face the outlaws.
We’d intended to arrive on Monday 17th September but while in the Ninigos we discover it’s Independence Day, a national holiday. There’s also been a lot of political unrest in Papua recently, so it wouldn’t be a good day to arrive. Instead we leave late Sunday afternoon, aiming for a slow sail to get us in early Tuesday morning.
Huey, of course, has other ideas – what a cruel irony that we have fantastic conditions for a fast sail. It almost makes us cry having to slow the boat down. As it is, we still arrive in the dark in the wee hours of Tuesday morning (what was that about never doing a night entry again??) and have to carefully pick our way into the harbour past the huge bulk cargo carriers. We drop the pick and set about removing everything off the decks that could possibly be pilfered. We turn on the motion sensor lights which illuminate the rear steps and lock ourselves in for a not very restful few hours sleep.
Come morning we’re up early in order to get to the Indonesian Consulate when it opens. We leave the dinghy near the wharf where a security guard promises to keep an eye on it in return for a can of Fanta. No problem! The day goes like clockwork – we present ourselves to the Consulate with all our paperwork and they tell us to return at 2pm to collect our visas. From there we walk back into town and find a taxi-driver to take us to Customs, Quarantine and Immigration in order to check out of PNG. Everyone is exceptionally friendly and welcoming and we start to feel bad about judging the place so harshly. I guess everywhere has its’ bad elements, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by our short stay in Vanimo. We even have time to get some provisioning done before heading back to the Consulate. With the precious visas in our passports, we head back to the boat and we’re on our way out of there by 4.30pm. Not a bad day’s work!
We have some trouble getting the starboard motor into gear as we’re raising the anchor, and we’re soon to discover the reason. But that’s a story for another time …