Volcanic rocks on the windward side of Hunga
Whilst we were in Hunga we met Merji, one of the primary school teachers outside the little school. She and her husband are government-appointed teachers who are sent to the island schools for up to 3 years at a time; on Hunga there are 39 children from Year 1 to Year 6. The Year 6 (10-year olds) take an exam to get into secondary school – which is in the main town of Neiafu – and the exams were taking place as we met her, so the rest of the kids had two days off. She showed us the Science paper which looked pretty challenging – a two-hour exam with thirty pages and lots of questions on climate change, soil erosion, basic physics and biology and so on.
We asked her whether they would be interested in us coming to talk to the older children (who learn English from Year 3) about our travels and Merji was very keen on the idea. We went back to Maunie and put together a little lesson plan, with photos from England as well as from the voyage, plus maps and our inflatable globe, to go back into school on Thursday morning. Unfortunately we then received a message that both teachers had been called into a meeting in Neiafu on Thursday, so the kids had another day off and we had to move on so we didn't get to deliver what we think, modestly, would have been a very good lesson! Ah, well.
To make up for our disappointment we had a cracking sail to windward, up through the islands and are now anchored off Kapa Island. The snorkelling here is great and we're told that the locals in the tiny village here will supply fruit and veg so we'll go ashore to explore. Mind you we have several papaya aboard, all just turning ripe so we need to eat them; now that we have discovered the trick of halving and de-seeding them and marinating them in the fridge with a tot of Bundeberg Australian rum, they are our new Favourite Thing.
We've a couple more weeks here in this wonderful cruising ground and will take part in the Vava'u Regatta at the end of next week – a mixture of racing and socialising which usually attracts around 70 boats. It's not all playtime, though, as we are taking very seriously the prospect of the 1100 mile passage to New Zealand at the end of the month. This will probably be our most testing voyage for quite a while as we'll be breaking out of the tropics and meeting the SW prevailing winds at the end of the NZ winter; there's a very good chance of meeting a gale on the nose. We are therefore planning storage in the boat to prevent things crashing around if we meet big seas with the wind ahead of us and this morning got out the bright orange storm staysail (unused and pristine since it was made 15 years ago) and hoisted it to make sure we can do it relatively easily in 30 knots of wind with waves crashing over the foredeck!
We are out of range of wifi internet here so can only add the odd photo via the satellite phone but we'll add some more once we get back to town next week. Do send us any questions, comments or news to maunie (at) mailasail.com in the meantime.