A Travellerspoint blog

Vanuatu: Time to Say Goodbye

All good things must come to an end?...

sunny 29 °C

Well, the time has finally come to end this wonderful holiday. A new job and new adventures await in San Francisco. After a few weeks in flip-flops, I hope I can remember how to wear shoes.

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After days of diving,...

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...and snorkling,...

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...and relaxing on the beach,

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Its finally time to go.

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Our last night was a wonderful Melaneasian feast, complete with music by the local string band...

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...and kava drinking...

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...and dancing around the fire.

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Then it was an early morning flight back to Sydney...

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...and our last night abroad.

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All in all this has been a wonderful trip. We learned so much about both the Maori and ni-Van cultures while exploring these places. The people of Vanuatu especially are so warm and friendly, it will be an experience we remember forever.

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Posted by TravelWithTom 17:28 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Vanuatu: Hideaway Island Resort

Relaxing at the reef...

sunny 27 °C

Since I will be starting a new job shortly after we return to the US, we decided to spend our last few days in Vanuatu at a beach resort. We chose a place called Hideaway Island Resort. It is a little coral island located about 15 minutes north of the main city Port VIla. We picked it because it is located right next to a marine reserve.

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And it has a great white sand beach,

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And a nice little beach bar...

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...to keep us smiling.

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We checked into this cute bungelow right up from the beach...

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...and started relaxing!

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The real highlight of Hideaway Island though is the wonderful reef that is right off the beach.

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Just wading out and snorkeling we saw huge groups of colorful coral and fish.

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It was amazing to see so much life right off the beach!

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Posted by TravelWithTom 21:12 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Vanuatu: Makekula Part Two

Hangin' with the locals...

sunny 29 °C

After a full day touring around the island, we decided to spend our last day in Malekula relaxing and exploring the local village.

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It was easy to relax at Rona's bungalows and we found a number of ways to do it.

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We spent a little more time out on the reef.

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These guys were gathering crabs for dinner. Yum!

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After a while we headed into town. The local transport system involves walking or flagging someone down and getting a ride in the back of a pickup truck.

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The town of Lakatoro is a dusty little provincial capital.

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As you can see there is not much traffic on the roads...

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After getting dropped in town, we visited the local cultural center.

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Where we were met by Sarafina, who showed us the various artifacts in the museum.

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Clubs. "used to be for killing people, now for pigs"...

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And clay decorations.

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The bird on the front of this canoe is to encourage the spirits to give smooth seas.

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After the museum, we headed back into the main part of town.

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We walked through some of the government buildings, along the way. As there are over 100 different languages in Vanuatu, all of the country speaks a native pigdin language called Bislama. It is a combination of English and French. Its pretty easy to sort out, if you sound it out. "Bia blong mi" means "my beer" and "Mi no save" means "I don't understand"

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We grabbed lunch at a local market...

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...that was also the local agricultural commodity buyer...

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...and enjoyed the outdoor cafe seating.

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After lunch it was time to say our goodbyes to our wonderful hostess...

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...and head back to the airport.

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"What happened to the lounge?". Apparantly to kustom landowner got into a dispute with the government and burned down the terminal buliding.

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Oh, well... the temporary lounge is has pretty nice views!

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Back on another little old plane for the hour long ride to Port Vila

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Nice job landing!

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Time for a little relaxing at our own little island resort.

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Hideway Island Resort located just outside the village of Mele on Efate

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Thank goodness there is a 24 hour boat service.

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Posted by TravelWithTom 14:37 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Vanuatu: Malekula

Kava, Kustom, and Cannibals...

sunny 33 °C

Well, we have been a bit off the grid for the last few days, so I will be covering our last four days in this post. We decided to get away from the tourists for a while, so we headed to the island of Malekula. Malekula is one of the largest islands in Vanuatu and has the provincial capital for the Malampa province. It is primarily a rural farming island and, as we found out, doesn't see many tourists.

We got to the airport in Santo and saw this small plane waiting outside the airport and thought "Man that's small".

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It turns out that was the big plane headed to Vila. We were on an even smaller plane...

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Air Vanuatu definitly works on island time. We took off about an hour late and headed to Malekula. The ride out of Santos was quite scenic.

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25 minutes later we landed at the Norsup airport at the north end of Malekula. We quickly figured out that tourists were a bit of a novelty on Malekula. We were met at the airport by camera crews and interviews. Apparently an Australian NGO has been working with the people in Malekula to help them learn to promote the island for tourists. They had set up a new website and call center, and we were the first "real tourists" to use the website.

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After the first of our "Real Tourist" interviews (the camera crew followed us around for the next two days...), we headed over to the Amel Toro Guesthouse where we would be staying for the next three days.

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Amel Toro is owned by a wonderful woman named Rona Newman who grew up in Malekula and has been running this guest house for the last ten years. The accommodations are spartan (cold water showers), but adequate (connected to the grid for electricity and water).

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The best part of staying with Rona though was the food. The northern part of Malekula was governed by the French, so Rona's cooking is amazing french cuisine made with the local produce. It was amazing!!

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Right in front of our bungalow was a nice reef with great tidal pools to explore at low tide...

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...and good snorkeling at high tide.

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Amazing corals and fish.

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That evening we went to the local nakamal (kava bar) with Rona's partner Joe. Kava is a local drink made from the root of the kava plant. It has mild sedative affects and is consumed by most of the population of Vanuatu every evening in small nakamals like this one. In small communities like Norsup, it is a big social event, bringing everyone in the region together to talk and catch up.

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The next day we had arranged to visit one of the more remote villages to see some of the kustom dances. Our driver picked us up at Rona's and we headed north. Along the way we stopped to see how cocoa is produced in the region. Similar to copra, the cocoa is grown locally and harvested.

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The fruit is then split and the seeds are removed. These will then be fermented for 7 days and dried for another seven before being exported.

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We also stopped in to see how they make kava. Basically theses guys peel and chop the root. Its then run through a grinder and mixed with water. Pretty simple.

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After another hour of rough roads, we arrived at the home of a group of Small Nambas. Here we meet up with our faithful camera crew, and a number of other journalists and tourists. There was even one other "Real Tourist". A German named Tomas who was spending a month in Malekula.

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While the villagers were preparing for us, the chief's daughter and her son took us around to see the village.

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Here we are seeing the kitchen where a portion of our lunch is being prepared.

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Once everything was ready, a few of the local ladies came up to great us and give us some flowers.

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Then we moved into the dance area where a few of the guys were playing the drums.

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Then they started showing us some of the kustom dances. The first dance was a man's dance and told the story of how the Small Nambas went to a neighboring island and captured 30 men to eat. Did I mention that these guys used to be cannibals? Apparently there are still people alive who have eaten people...

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The next dance was a woman's dance called the flower dance. The people seemed to be so happy to be singing and dancing.

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The another men's dance. One of the things that was great about the kustom dances is that they younger boys are out there learning how to do the dances. They really use these demonstrations as a way to pass the kustom along to the next generation.

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Following the dancing, they took us down to the beach to see some of the traditional activities. First we saw the ladies preparing Lap Lap. This is the staple food in Vanuatu and consists of yam, banana, tarrow or manioc which is ground into a past and then cooked. Here one of the ladies is grinding the yam roots.

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Once it is ground up, the yams are placed into hollowed out pieces of bamboo for cooking.

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Of course before you can cook, you need fire!

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These guys were showing the traditional fire starting method.

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While we were waiting for the Lap Lap to cook, the ladies showed us how they use palms to weave everything from roof thatch and mats...

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...to toys and jewlery.

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Then it was time to eat!

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Dinning in the village is done family style...

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...with every one reaching in to help themselves...

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...and I do mean everyone!

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After lunch, we joined the locals in the public dance and then posed for some photos.

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All in all it was amazing to experience a culture so different from ours and see how it is still practiced today.

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Posted by TravelWithTom 20:33 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

Vanuatu: Touring the East Coast of Espiritu Santo

White sand, blue water and coconuts...

sunny 33 °C

Today we hooked up with Alfred, one of the guys from Alan Power Diving, for a tour of the east side of the island. In a bit of dive humor, Alfred calls his company Residual Nitrogen Touring. Residual nitrogen in your body is what causes the bends. So divers shouldn't dive within 24 hours of flying. Did I mention that diving was the main reason people come out here?

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The first thing Alfred wanted to show us is how most of the people in Vanuatu make a living. 75% percent of the population still lives in rural villages and many of them survive by farming copra (coconut) for export. The people start by clearing land and planting the coconut palm. These trees will grow to over 30 meters and can be productive for up to 70 years.

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About 4 times a year a copra farmer will gather up his friends and neighbors to go and pick up all of the coconuts that have fallen on the ground. Once the coconuts are harvested, the coconut meat has to be dried. There are wood fired dryers like this one all over the country side.

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The coconut meat will stay in the dryers for a couple of days and then is ready for shipment.

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This guys job is to keep the fires going during the drying process.

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After drying the copra is bagged up and taken either to the port for overseas shipment or to the coconut oil press in Luganville. Most of the coconut oil is shipped overseas, but some stays here in Santo and is used in a diesel generator used to power the island. No more diesel imports for Santo!

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After a bit more driving, we pulled into little place called Champagne Beach. We had to make a payment to the kustom owner of the land and then went out to the beach.

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Champagne Beach is one of the most perfect white sand beaches I have ever seen...

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...and we had it almost completely to ourselves.

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I guess one a month a cruise ship pulls in here and the place is a zoo with locals coming from miles around to sell things and do kustom dances, but not today. Nothing but waves crashing on the deserted beach...

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It put smiles on our faces for sure!

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After the beach we headed down the road to the Lonnoc Beach Bungalows for a wonderful lunch.

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Paw paw (a fruit) curry and the ubiquitous Tusker beer alfresco with an amazing view!

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On the way back to town, we stopped in at one of the many "blue hole" swimming spots. These are deep freshwater pools in the limestone that have amazing (but cold!) blue water.

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It was a great way to end the day.

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Posted by TravelWithTom 17:02 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (0)

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