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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: -17.7404, 168.321
Our next stop was Port Vila on the island of Efate, Vanuatu's Capitol. As mentioned previously, Vanuatu was colonized by the French and English. Port Vila's was/is divided north (English) and south (French). It was colonized from 1906-1980. They drive on the right of the road, have no traffic lights and no speed limits. They are the friendliest and happiest people I have ever seen! I would say that of the 80 plus people we walked by in our travels during the day or the groups we passed in the bus, over 70% waved or said hello and smiled. It was brilliant and something missing from our lives at home in the city.
Vanuatu is comprised of 84 islands and has approximately 270,000 inhabitants and 40,000 of those reside in Port Vila. Families select either English or French primary schools and attend the opposite during high school. Residents typically speak 3-4 languages, including their village dialect of which there are 13 on Efate and 115 across Vanuatu. The is an earthquake of some form every week. Cyclones or typhoons become harvesting opportunities when large bamboo stands or trees come down.
Two of the islands of Vanuatu are in Port
Vila's harbour - one a resort (Iririki Island Resort). The largest village and the other a village. The villages have chiefs, but councils run the villages and are elected by villagers. The largest village in Vanuatu is Mele, which own Cascade Waterfalls, the site of our morning tour.
The waterfalls were a short 20-30 minute drive from the wharf. A quick drive through the town and then through a number of rural villages. It was a spectacular walk up to the big falls along a series of smaller falls and crystal clear ponds surrounded by lush vegetation . The water was wonderful, as I was roasting, as always. There was an option to travellers wishing (through prior arrangement) to scale the big falls and then repel down! At the bottom, another swim, but this time with a sea turtle! Magic!
We got dropped on the East side of town to explore before heading back to the ship. we checked out a couple of restaurants/bars - one looked very nice, possibly too posh, so we decided on the busier one with a more laid back appeal - Anchor Inn. We enjoyed a few pints and a very unique clubhouse, which had an
egg and pickled peets! It was actually quite good.
We watched as helicopters took of and landed from what I thought was a swimming dock, jets boats skipped about the harbour doing fish tails in front of the deck and a school of fish flew through the air escaping a pod of jet skis.
We were reminded it was Australia Day when the one man band on the electronic keyboard broke into the song "Living Next Door to Alice" (Released by AU trio New World in 1972, but later became a worldwide hit for the British band Smokie. The uniquely Australian element comes at the end of the chorus, which has a lengthy pause into which the Aussies insert in loud unison "Alice, Alice, Who the F is Alice!" I still laugh when I think about that afternoon and I expect that you really had to be there. I uploaded a video that caught the tail end of the show in the Anchor Inn, but the YouTube live concert audio version is much better.
After a good chuckle and a brief chat with one of the Aussie couples, who turned out to be the owners of the jet boats, we sauntered
back through town. We visited the local market, which is 24x7 and the women sleep under their stalls until their produce is all sold. There was an outdoor market with colourful dresses that attracted Bonnie's shopping, so I found a little bar and another beer 😊
The walk back to the ship was about 2.5km and it was very very warm! Fortunately, after we turned on Wharf Road, we spotted a craft fair. Yes, more shopping, some more pints and a WIFI connection!
The scene at the Vanuatu ferry terminal, immediately adjacent to where the cruise ship was docked was quite the scene, with hundreds of people scattered all around it waiting to get on. It looked quite chaotic, but no one seemed too bothered.
The day ended with drinks on our balcony deck watching the village fires light up on the harbour island, as the villagers prepared dinner. We enjoyed watching kids running in and out of the water as they waited for dinner and saw a large school of fish skimming and rippling the surface of the ocean as they travelled. It was a very peaceful end to a super day.
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