A reunion with an old friend

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January 3rd 2015
Published: January 3rd 2015
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I'm one of those people who finds the human condition endlessly fascinating. What is it exactly that controls our emotions, the mystical trigger to determine our likes and dislikes? And yet these very preferences are different from person to person, as by definition personal taste is an individual thing. But there does seem to be a constancy in our genetic makeup, such that the things individuals like do not really change as the years go by. It has been twenty years since I last visited Vanuatu, where I stayed on Efate for a month chilling out by the beach, and discovering the rhythms of the local culture. It all seems so long ago, yet the positive memories of my time in Port Vila have always stayed with me. The years roll by and memories of past experiences begin to fade, but I was thrilled and a little curious to revisit my old stomping ground. I felt positive emotions for the country straight away, and landing in Vanuatu feels like having a reunion with an old friend.

The journal continues from where we left off at the conclusion of a lovely visit to New Caledonia. My flight from Noumea to Port Vila took just an hour, and it's interesting to see cars driving on the right as they do in New Caledonia. Despite being close to Australia there is a strong French influence in Vanuatu, and both French and English are spoken by the local people. In fact the French and English cooperated in a system of joint rule for the country over the course of many years. If my plane ride is any indication, Vanuatu is a popular destination with the French as the Air Calin flight was full of French speakers. The difference in infrastructure levels between the island countries is immediately apparent, but there's a natural grace and charm to the locals of Vanuatu which I remember clearly from my previous visit. At least the airport is the same, as my driver informed me most of the infrastructure on the road from the airport would not have been in existence twenty years ago. To be honest I had to take his word for it, as my memory was drawing a complete blank until we arrived in Port Vila itself. Upon arrival in the capital I checked in to the lovely Paray Lodge a short walk from the town centre.

There are many occasions travelling where everything seems to fall into place for a special visit, and my time in Vanuatu is a perfect example. The lodge is clean and elegant, and the staff are friendly and relaxed. You can't help but fall in love with the place, and to top it off a special group of travellers were in the lodge for the duration of my stay, it was an absolute delight to hang out with them as the days rolled by. Efate is the main island in Vanuatu, famed for some spectacular beaches, however the capital Port Vila is more a harbour than a beach destination. There are only a few spots with sandy beaches to enjoy, and the most famous is the legendary Iririki resort, just a few minutes on the ferry from the harbour. This little island paradise is where I hung out for a month all those years ago. I spent my days and weeks basking in the sun, swimming like a fish, and conversing with the locals until my life in Sydney seemed to be a distant memory.

And here I am doing the same thing, albeit for a shorter visit this time around. As I explored the centre of Port Vila, memories kept coming back of my visit all those years ago. The added bonus this time, however, is the opportunity to hire a car to get around Efate and see what the island has to offer. One of the most famous tourist attractions on Efate is the stunning Hideaway Island, which is not far out from the capital on the main loop road. I parked the car by the wharf, and waited for a boat to transport me over to this tropical paradise. You can arrange a day visit to the island including snorkelling gear for less than 20 dollars, and it is an absolute delight of an island. The beach itself is made of blunted coral, and the coral and tropical fish are in abundance as soon as you dive into the clear blue waters. I was pleasantly surprised to bump into two Brazilian girls I met on the flight over from New Caledonia, and find life on the road often seems full of pleasant surprises and coincidences. We just happened to be on the island at the same time, so hooked up for lunch and a great chat while taking in the views of this magnificent little tropical island. Hideaway Island is famous for having the world's only undersea Post Office, so you will need scuba diving gear to post a letter, however there is a helpful sign pointing out to sea to let you know where the Post Office is situated!

I drove the girls back in to town so they could prepare for their flight out, then swung by the Lodge for a pit stop. My dorm friend from NZ was around, and I asked if he fancied driving out to The Blue Lagoon for the afternoon. We piled into the car and drove off in the opposite direction for an hour or so, before arriving at this magic little spot in Efate. The water is stunning and inviting, and the trees around the lagoon make for wonderful photo opportunities. Of course we had to have a swim, and the water was quite pleasant once you got out to the centre of the lagoon. It's a mix of sea and fresh water apparently, and the locals were having a real time of it using a rope swing to propel them out towards the centre of the lagoon. We stayed for a fair while, just relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery. What a gorgeous lagoon it is too, and to think I was at The Blue Lagoon in Jamaica just six months ago!

The drive back towards Port Vila is famous for the beautiful beaches that abound, and we stopped off for some memorable sights and photo opportunities. The water is a brilliant blue, but it is the unusual fauna and trees that really make it a magic part of the world. I was delighted with the scenery and photos from these wild and untamed beaches, it's just so beautiful in Efate. We headed back to town, and I was buzzing from such a wonderful day in the company of terrific like minded travellers. For me this is the joy that travel provides on the road, and meeting new people while enjoying beautiful scenery is quite an enticing mix. Time marches on however, and my visit to Vanuatu is rapidly drawing to a close. I just hope it won't be another twenty years before I have another opportunity to visit my friends in this lovely country, basically all of you should be here now!

No man is an island. No man stands alone." Dennis Brown

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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3rd January 2015

Great blog! I never even knew this island existed.
4th January 2015
Locals on a swing

Memories fade
Memories sometimes fad but the impression and warm feelings do not. Glad you felt like you were visiting an old friend again. Sounds like a grand time and glad going back was so positive.
5th January 2015
The beautiful Blue Lagoon

The beautiful Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is in fact artificial and was made as an over-spill pool for the adjacent Svartsengi geothermal power station. And when electricity and the heat has been generated from the water, it is then pushed into the lagoon
6th January 2015

The best of it, it seems to me..., is that the whole place has not been spoiled yet.

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