Edit Blog Post
Published: September 26th 2018
Port Vila on Efate is a world way from our days in Papua. Port Vila is laid-back and safe. They grow coffee here so we wander along the harbour front to find ourselves a coffee shop, Nambawan Cafe. It does serve excellent coffee, Vanuatu-grown of course. The harbour setting reminds us of the Caribbean, with yachts, large and small, from all over the world .
In the South Pacific many islanders speak a form of Pijin English. By phonetically saying what we read, or listening carefully to what is said, we can understand a lot. Nambawan = No 1, meaning best; U no kam insaed = Keep out; Tabu sitapon step = Don’t sit on the steps.
We have a kitchen here, so shop for fruit and vegetables in the market. People are invariably friendly and happy to chat and offer cooking advice. Bananas, plantains, papaya, sweet potatoes and coconuts dominate the market, but there are also things that we cannot identify or don't know how to use: strange green leaves; pink roots; bundled up crabs at over £40 each; rolls of banana leaves; red taro root and yams.
Power cuts are not uncommon and are disruptive. Ever
tried shopping in a supermarket when the lights go out? And when you do find what you want, the tills don't work! Everyone else, of course, whipped out a torch!
Efate is the Vanuatu's third biggest island and home to the capital and the airport. We hire a car to drive around the island in a day on the only ring road. It's surprisingly good, rebuilt after the 2015 cyclone Pam. Trees still show damage from the cyclone and there are a lot of corregated iron building. Pam destroyed 90% of houses overnight.
We found many beautiful deserted white coral beaches lapped by the azure blue Pacific. Most are unspoilt with no more than a small fishing village. Others, may have a beach bar or a small, posh resort. There are also houses built by Australian expats but it is all very low-key.
There are about 65 inhabited islands in Vanuatu spread over a vast area; it is over 800 miles from the northern most island to most southerly. We can spot a few islands off shore, including one with an active volcano on it! Vanuatu is on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and boasts six active
Leaving Efate, we fly south to the island of Tanna and Mount Yasur, the volcano that has continuously erupted for longer than any other in the world. Our accommodation is a small bamboo and banana thatch hut on the coral sea shore. We eat and sleep to the sound of the waves.
Soon we are on our way to the volcano, crossing a large ash field – a desert of ash complete with ash dunes. And we hear our first BOOM from Yasur. We then swap vehicles into a 4x4 to climb up the volcano side, passing smoking vents on the way. Eventually we reach a small high plain from where we are to walk. BOOM again, this time heard and felt through the soles of our feet.
The walk brings us to the top of the outer rim. Just below us, in the crater, clouds of smoke and a red glow. BOOM. We hear it, feel it and see it as lava balls and red hot rocks fly out of the crater into the air. The explosions come frequently but irregularly, each one catching us by surprise. As the sun sets so the spectacle increases,
the red glow and erupted material all the more impressive.
Unfortunately, the volcano doesn't keep us warm. The weather has turned wet and windy and, combined with the sun setting, it soon becomes cold on the exposed mountain. Being cold in the tropics seems somehow wrong.
The next day we visit a local Kastum village, two hours from town up a muddy track. Here life has changed little. The chief greets us, dressed in just a penis sheath. Other men of the village are similarly dressed or wear grass skirts, like the women. The village subsist on root vegetables – taro, yam, cassava – with occasional meat from a pig or chicken.
In 2015, the village was devastated by cyclone Pam which not only blew away huts but also uprooted crops and flooded the area. After Pam, American and Australian aid agencies improved the village water supply and provided cooking pots and pans. They are still grateful for the water but have stopped using the pans, preferring direct cooking in the fire ash.
The chief now tries to get the tribe's children to go to school. But it is a two hour walk each way and
many villagers fail to see the benefit. Change will come slowly to these remote places.
Tot: 2.649s; Tpl: 0.034s; cc: 30; qc: 127; dbt: 0.0424s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.6mb