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Published: September 23rd 2010
We had a pretty rough take off due to the bad weather in Adelaide, but the rest of the flights were pretty good. It was warm and humid, just perfect after a freezing cold few weeks. It was a pity that I brought a barking cough with me. The mini bus we caught was a very worn out red bus, but it got us to our hotel in one piece more or less.
The room at City Lodge Hotel was pretty basic but that went with the budget price. After dumping our bags, we bolted to the nearest café to have our first coffee in seven weeks due to our diet. It was great, and so was the view. After the coffee, we decided it was too late for lunch so we went for a long walk. By the time we came back, it was tea time, and we were exhausted because we had been up for about 16 hrs straight. We had to turn the water to the loo off that night, because it leaked and we had musical pipes in the room.
At 5.45 am, we were ready to get
up as it would be about 7.30 at home. We had breakfast of muslie and coffee at Nambawan Café again and then packed our things for the flight to Santo. We caught a mini bus to the airport and checked in. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the plane was a little bigger than I had expected.
The flight was a breeze, and we seemed to be there soon after we took off. We caught a taxi to Beachfront resort and it was every bit as nice as I thought it would be. The place was a fair hike out of the main drag, so we went for a walk down the street to kill some time before tea time. The fruit and veg market was still open which was surprising for a Sunday as nothing else seemed to be open. We bought a bottle of water and decided that it was too far to walk back, so we caught a mini bus back and had an early tea of fabulous Vanuatu steak.
After an early night and a noisy bunch of cackling older people sitting outside our window, we finally slept
quite well in between bouts of my coughing. We had breakfast and walked down to the main street again only to find out that it was a public holiday, so nothing was open again, including the tourist information office which we wanted to see.
We did find one of the dive offices open and booked a dive for Phil, as well as a free snorkelling trip for me which was also next to the ship that Phil was diving on.
We looked for somewhere to have lunch, but as everything was still shut, we went to the market and had a great lunch of cooked snapper, rice and veggies for only 400Vt (about $4.70) for a huge plate full. After such a big lunch, we decided to walk back and then take a swim at the beach which was refreshing and warm enough to stay in for a long time.
At tea time we met a couple from Canada in the French province of Quebec, who have been sailing around the world in a mono-hull for four years! They taught us a bit about the protocol of what you need to do every time you enter a
new country. You must fly a yellow quarantine flag until you have been passed and then you fly the flag of the country you are visiting. There are several boats parked out the front of this resort, some of them large catamarans mostly from France at the moment.
After breakfast, we were picked up at 8.00am by the Alan Powel Dive Centre and taken to the sunken ship, the Coolidge. The water was a little too choppy for my liking so I only snorkelled for a short while, otherwise I would have been sea-sick (a bit lame, I know) Phil had a great time and the guys with him took photos of him. The highlights were seeing a large moray eel, and wearing an old war helmet.
There was a bit of time between the next dive so we have lunch. We found a fancy place next door and finally had a real coffee again and a wonderful tuna salad. When we were walking back we found the driver already there, to pick Phil up. It’s not like Fiji time where everything runs late; they seem to be early here most of the time.
Phil enjoyed the second dive even more than the first. The dive master with Phil knew where to take him to the best spots for great photos. In the afternoon, we opted to stay in and have an early tea so we could plan the next day.
We packed our bags, and left them in the room and walked down the street again to buy more water and soap. We had to visit the fire station of course, which was quite a hike. It is amazing to see how basic the station was with almost everything in a state of disrepair.
After the station, we found a great place to have lunch called the Natangora café and then caught a mini bus back to our resort. There were other tourists on the bus and I asked the driver about taking us to Oyster Island, and it just so happened that the other couple in the bus were also going there. Luck was on our side again! We grabbed our bags and then we were on our way.
Oyster Island Resort was absolutely stunning. It looked like we arrived on a tropical island from a
movie set. We spent the afternoon taking loads of photos and snorkelling on the other side of the island. The food was also excellent and the views were awesome. Our little fare was gorgeous and it had its own bathroom on the side, which was once open air but now enclosed.
After a great breakfast of fruit and real coffee, we hired a canoe and paddled to the blue hole. The river wound its way around for 2 km and finished at the blue hole. The stunning water was bluer than the Blue Lake. The hole was full of fresh water fish, and there was a swinging rope over the water. It was cooler than the sea water, but not as cold as I had expected. It would have been a great place to have a picnic, but we were hungry and still had to paddle for about an hour to get back to the resort.
Unfortunately Phil was developing an earache again, so we took it easy for the afternoon, and besides the workout on my arms was enough to warrant a nanna nap. After the nap, we walked part way around the island
and then it was dinner time again. Time flys when you’re having fun. After another fabulous meal, we had another early night.
After another great breakfast of tropical fruit and coffee, we spoke to the woman from reception and organised the transport to the next resort by boat as it was only 15 mins away. Turtle Bay Resort was not as boutique style as Oyster Island, rather more casual but just as nice. The menu was fantastic with lots to choose from and the meals were delicious. The bungalow was large with its own verandah looking out to sea.
We went for a walk around the resort and found the block of land for sale that would be great to buy. Only $160,000 for a stunning view and about ½ acre of waterfront – oh well keep dreaming! Around the corner was a place that was built by an Aussie out of shipping containers and it looked really good. It had its own jetty and fully fenced tropical garden, verandah and tiled patio.
After a great meal of beautifully presented fish and a Banrock Station Chardy, we went to bed early and it is
amazing that you don’t need air-conditioning and not even ceiling fans as the temperature here is just perfect. It is very easy to sit and do nothing as the views are great.
Another relaxing day and a bit of a sunbake and it was dinner time again – I could really get used to this type of lifestyle! We spoke to Nikki on Skype. The internet was just fast enough to cope. It was strange to see Nikki sitting at home with the fire on and we were sitting here in the tropical warmth.
Time to get off our butts and do something. We walked across to the next island as you can, when the tide is low, and walked through the dense jungle of tropical trees to get to the other side of the island to the beautiful sandy bank, There is a house there and rumour is that a New Zealander is building another resort there. The dogs (Lolita and Nuca) came with us and splashed around everywhere. Their backyard is massive – these dogs have a great life!
On the way back we went snorkelling. The coral was
lovely, but the water was a bit rough and made me feel a bit nauseous so I had to get out after a short while. We had another lazy day, since Sunday is the day of rest and replanned the rest of our trip. We decided to shorten our stay on Santo because we still had so much to see in Efate, so we moved the flight forward to Thursday instead of Sunday.
We organised our ride to Lonnoc Beach in the morning and had to wait for a van to come through at around 3.00pm which was fine by us. The driver arrived just after 3pm and we drove through very beautiful country side. When we arrived, we were stunned. It was like a postcard, and the cute bungalow even had a power point in it which works for a few hours a day – if you’re lucky.
The bed was as we expected, thin foam over packing crates covered by a mossie net which had holes bigger than the actual mosquitoes, but that’s the price you pay for paradise. Breakfast was real coffee to our delight, pawpaw and toast with vegemite. The shower
was cold water out of a leaking handheld hose – very refreshing!
We walked over to Champagne Beach, and what a treat that was. The sand is very white and very fine and the water a stunning crystal clear. There were buoys out in the water where the cruise liners come in and park and about 50 or so stalls which they set up when the boat comes in to sell their wares. Only one stall was occupied, probably for the mini-bus tours that come through every day. We had the beach to ourselves that day which was lovely.
We were going to have to get the early bus back to Luganville, which leaves at 6.30am, but Bob the mini-bus driver said he had to take other people back so he would take us for a reduced price after breakfast – our luck is still with us! We arrived at Hotel Santo at about 10am and booked in. We walked to the Santo hardware and spoke to the Aussie owner and asked him if we could send second-hand goods over in his shipping containers for the fire brigade, and he was more than happy to oblige. We then
walked to the fire station again to find out sizes of the men who worked there.
It was warm so we went back to the hotel for a swim after lunch. The pool was unusually cold. Dinner that night was one of the worst meals I had had in Vanuatu. They put cheap tomato sauce on chicken caeser salad – Yuk! We should have eaten at the market instead. The rest of the place was nice though.
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