On day two of our holiday in Vanuatu, we were recommended by the hotel staff to go for a round island trip with the native tour there and it was so worth the tour.
The total population of Vanuatu is around 200,000 but 79% of people don’t have a job. They live in these villages where they grow their own food and catch fish for living. They don’t have a bed so they sleep on the floor and their house is merely a hut made out of local materials like leaves and the trunk of the coconut trees. There is no electricity and proper sanitation. They seem to be living with the basic minimal but each and every one of them seems to be happy. They all have this smile on their faces and they waved at us when we passed by them every time. Sometimes I wonder if these materialistic things we possess are making us happier or sadder but that will be a whole another post for later.
During the round island trip we stopped at many villages. The first one was called Eton Village (named by the British of course) and it had one of the most beautiful beaches there. It has this magical place with white sands. The day was perfect for a quick swim and the water was just the right temperature. I am one of those tourists who love to take photos with the locals so after the swim, I asked one of the local ladies who was swimming there if it was ok for me to take photos with her kids. They were just so adorable and I have the photos to prove it.
After the swim, we were served morning snacks which were fresh papayas, passion fruits, pineapples, fresh coconuts with orange juice and coconut Tim Tam. I ate heaps of coconuts as it was really yummy.
Our guide Joel was quite an interesting man, as he kept saying; there is only one rule on the tour which is “NO RULE”. He explained to us what has happened to Vanuatu and its people since they got their independence from the British and the French in 1980.
We stopped over to see the local friendly spider (according to Joel) and the oldest tree in Vanuatu. There were many more villages on the way that we passed through. While looking out the window of the van to these villages all I saw lots of smiles, kids were happily swimming in the waterfall, women were washing the clothes in the river and men were just relaxing by the rivers, a very simple life indeed.
We stopped at a village called Epau for traditional Vanuatu dance. Joel had warned us that they would be wearing the traditional customs and would come running towards as if they were going attack us. The warning was really great because as soon as we got off there, they asked us to stand in a line facing the gate of the village and suddenly all these men in traditional customs came rushing towards whooping in their own language and brandishing bows and arrows and clubs and spears in a very threatening manner that without the warning I would have been very scared.
As it was it was quite fun. They gave us hibiscus flowers to put behind our ear and we sat in the shade while they performed their traditional dances. It was really fun to watch that. We also had time to take photos with them. Then we went to the stall to check the handicrafts they made there. We bought a really nicely carved walking stick. It was AS’s choice and he just loved it. The handle is like the head of an octopus and at the top of the stick is its two eyes and its tentacles are flowing down the stick grasping at an old man’s head with a flowing beard.
Then it was a short drive to stop for lunch. It was a traditional Melanesian lunch (I am not sure if I could survive with that for a period as they have some distinct taste). They served rice, yam, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, beef curry, chicken curry, and carrot and dessert was papaya and coconut. They also served fresh lemon while a band was playing their songs.
After lunch we had sometime to walk around and the view from the place was just beautiful with the white sandy beaches and blue-green sea. The blue sky added more to the already amazing view. We took lots of photos there and then we were back in the van.
There were a few more stops to look at native plants and animals. One of them was to look at the Kava plant. The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative and anaesthetic properties and in proper quantity can even be a little hallucinogenic. Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. It is a really famous cultural drink of the south pacific nations including Vanuatu.
One of the stops worth mentioning during the trip was the stop for Coca-Cola bottle museum. It is not a real museum but a small tin hut. In there was man who has collected coke bottle for the last 30 years. He also has different types of beer bottles from around the world. I never knew that the glass coke bottles had year of manufacture along with the place it was manufactured stamped on the bottom of the bottles. The most fun part was that the man who owns it has a very distinct American accent. He was so into it that he could talk about it for half an hour without stopping.
From there we were off to the hot springs. When the guide was telling us about the hot spring I was thinking it would be something similar to the one in Hanmer Springs in New Zealand which I really enjoyed and was so relaxed by. I was day dreaming of relaxing here as well but was so disappointed when we reached there. It was just a mud pool with hot water and seemed like no one maintained them as I could see lots of death insects in the water there. The guide was telling us that the water had healing capacity but I was not going to swim in that. I just soaked my feet and found that the water was really hot. Maybe from the next time I should imagine a little bit less.
Then we were off to our last stop where the guide explained that the Survivor was shot, it was a beautiful beach. We swam and enjoyed the sunset while we were served tea/coffee and biscuit. I really enjoyed the day and it was getting hard to get in the van to go to our resort. One of the best experiences to see Vanuatu up-close was with native the guide.