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Tourist spots

As well as the many spiritual highlights we have been enjoying, we are also here for a holiday. And as Mum and Dad have not been before there is much to see. And we love it, so we have been enjoying going back to familiar places again.

So far we have been to the local markets of course. The variety of fruit and veg available has been affected by Pam, but there have been quite a few things being imported from the northern island of Santo which was not affected by the cyclone. There are lots of mandarins, lemons and limes and pompulmus (grapefruit). Coconuts, though drinking coconuts are only just making a come back. Not many bananas yet, but Mum was able to get a few last week. The cyclone destroyed the Mamas market which used to be along the harbour waterfront, but many of them have moved into the large undercover fruit market. So we have been able to reacquaint ourselves with many of them. Last year we spent a lot of time showing them my instruments and I have got a bit of a reputation and rapport with them this visit. They have asked me to make some more, as the last ones I left here sold for large amounts to Australian tourists!

We have also been to Mele Cascades. Click the link for more information. Cyclone Pam has changed this place, but we agreed it is probably for the better, if that is possible. If ever you want a fore gleam of paradise, without the snow and cold air of Tassie, this is the place to visit. The waterfalls are amazing. In fact the whole water system is amazing. The river is broken up into an endless array of beautiful, clear fresh water pools, each fed by, you guessed it, Cascades. The path itself meanders alongside and through these cascades. And when you get to the top, the waterfall is spectacular. No barriers here either. If you want to go into the pools or underneath the waterfalls, just use your common sense and go for it. I said the cyclone had improved the area? What it has done is cleared a lot of the taller trees. They were lovely too, but it now allows the sun to shine where it never did before. And there must have been some blockage to the river upstream as one part of the waterfall has stopped flowing. But this has just increased to flow of water over the main drop and really enhanced the sheet of water making the 50+ metre drop.

Last Friday we made the trip to another two must sees. Eton Beach and Blue Lagoon. Again, see the links for more info. The day was great. we all had a ball and enjoyed the beautiful surrounds. Eton Beach area was hit hard by the cyclone so there was a lot of damage to be seen. It was amazing to see the coconut plantations. Many of the trees had simply been uprooted. Most were still standing, but they had been stripped of any fruit. All of the shelters at the beach had been swept away but have now mostly been replaced. On the main road there was evidence of the huge tides and waves that had been generated. The sand had been washed up and over the road, in one place a new sand beach had formed several hundred metres inland.

Blue Lagoon was mostly unchanged. Again, many of the trees had been swept away or damaged, but the remaining ones are starting to flourish again. The two trees that hold the rope swings are still standing and I am pleased to say are fully operational. Dad even had a few goes on the rope swings, but soon came to realise his age. And the next day felt it even more.

They truly are beautiful places.

We have arrived.

Well, we have arrived and are settling in to Vanuatu life.

We arrive last Sunday after staying in Sydney at the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel at QANTAS expense. It was very nice to have that brief stop before flying on to Port Vila the next day.

We arrived at abut 3.30pm Sunday afternoon, straight into 26 degrees. Nice. With any mention of the beautiful weather and warm temperatures I am not trying to rub it in to those experiencing the colder side of life elsewhere, I am just telling it like it is.

As I was saying, 26 degrees was a pleasant change. We had prepared by wearing shorts and t-shirts from Sydney, which was a little brisk but paid off at the other end.

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Tanna Island

On the weekend we ventured to Tanna Island, which is just a 40-60 minute flight south from Port Vila.

The outstanding attraction is Mt Yasur, one of the most active and accessible volcanoes in the world. I will talk about that some more in another post, as well as Tanna Lodge where we stayed for two nights.

Tanna Island is a beautiful place. There are very few vehicles compared to Efate, which makes a pleasant change. Most of these are 4WDs which is due to the road conditions. Almost every road is gravel, though there are some parts which have been concreted to make them passable during the wet season. Along with the gravel roads are the many potholes, which make driving and being a passenger interesting. I decided to have a bit of a snooze on part of our trip, but only got a minute or so into it when I was jolted out and stayed out. Because of the lack of vehicles, there are lots of people walking everywhere. It is quite lovely to give them a friendly Halo and wave.

Lenakel is the biggest town on Tanna Island but really consists of little more than a market area, some produce shops and small supermarkets, a post office, bank and a few other buildings and businesses. The business area is called Black Man’s Town as no outsiders (such as the Chinese) are permitted to own businesses there. The market is open for trade on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There is a lot of locally produced fruit and vegetables at very reasonable prices. We found them to be quite a bit cheaper than the market in Port Vila. The day we went there was also a lady selling woven shoulder bags for a good half the price of similar items in Port Vila. Lois and I spoke with Mister Tom who has the fish market. He buys from the local fishermen and keeps the fish in freezers and on sells to the resorts and restaurants. He was very friendly and explained some of the varieties of fish they catch, such as Bonito (Tuna), Poulet and Wahu.

We noticed that we got a lot of attention from the locals. On the day we went were the only white people walking through the small market. There were others in the shops, but not many at all. We were able to chat a little in our broken Bislama which was a good experience.

A good story our bus driver told us was about one of the main streets, “Jennifer Street”. It is named after a local woman who he described as having something not quite right with her. But her story is interesting. Every day for many many years Jennifer has been going to peoples homes and asking if they need any cooking pots washed. 100 Vatu ($1.20) each pot. When they agree she takes the pots and follows the street down to the beach and washes them thoroughly. She does quite a lot of these each day. No one has ever seen her spend any of her hard earned money. And when she is walking down the street, she does not move for any man or vehicle, it is her street. Jennifer Street!

Life in Tanna is simple. People do not have much materially but they do have everything they need. The food is abundant, the houses made from woven bamboo and palm fronds are strong and offer good protection, and the family unit and village life is strong. It may seem primitive to us, and maybe it is to some degree, but it is a happy way of life.

Blue Lagoon

On Monday it was time for another road trip to see some of the unique features on Efate, Vanuatu.

We decided on Blue Lagoon and Eton Beach. They are close to each other and offer different attractions.

I will talk about just Blue Lagoon in this post, Eton beach in another.

In 2010 the entire main road around the island was sealed, which makes for quite a pleasant trip. It takes you past extensive coconut palm groves and lots of local villages and beaches. As we got closer to Blue Lagoon, we saw quite a lot of the beaches attract a small fee for you to swim there. Fair enough. The locals own the land and access points, and the beaches themselves are some of the best around. If you have the time, exploring these different beaches could be very rewarding.

About a 45 minute drive found us in the car park with about another 6 or 8 buses.

Entry fees are 500 vatu for adults and 300 for children under 12.

After a very short walk you see what the attraction is. A large, bright aqua blue water hole surrounded by beautiful gardens. There are many shelters with benches and tables to use all connected by coral sand paths.

The Blue Lagoon itself is probably 60-70 metres long and 30 metres wide. When the sun is shining the clarity of the water allows you to see everything to the bottom from the shore. In the water it is not so clear. It seems to have the brackish sort of haziness to it.  I am not sure what the deepest point is but I would guess 5 or 6 metres. We think it is a little tidal too as we did notice a small drop in water levels over a couple of hours. Hence the brackish I suppose.

The real feature is manmade a consists of two thick ropes hanging from branches of large overhanging trees. Wooden platforms have been built from which you can launch yourself out over the water before dropping into the beautiful water below. And again. And again. And again. I think you get the picture. Check out the videos and pictures below.

Lyndon demonstrating his acrobatics.