Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thursday 07/01/2010 - Farewell Vanuatu

Today was a very sad day for us, as it was our last day in Vanuatu. We woke up early to say goodbye to Tony who's shift ended at 7am.

We breakfasted at the resort before packing up our stuff and checking out.

Once we'd checked out we walked back into town for one last shop, we bought a tam tam carving, a stone carving, a box of Kava for the folks back home and some books we found (one on the language of Bislama and another on the culture stories of Vanuatu). On our way back to the resort we took the long walk home, in an attempt to not forget any of the details of our new island home.

We walked one last time past the Nakamal Kava Bar, known to the locals as the Nakamal 'knock-em-out' as the kava there is very strong.

It was on the wall of the kava bar that I saw this hand written sign, which somehow seemed to sum up my feelings and the impressions Vanuatu has implanted forever on my soul.

When we returned to the resort there was a message with reception that Moses had come to visit. We walked back into town for lunch, we were walking down the main street when we heard a familiar catch cry - "MOSES". We both looked about frantically trying to see where he was. He had come into town to get some groceries for a friend. I was glad we caught up with Moses as spending time with him was a great distraction from the inevitable sadness of leaving Vanuatu. We decided on the pancake house for lunch where we shouted Moses lunch and some Tuska - the local beer. We returned to the resort to play a couple of rounds of pool with Moses before the bus transfer to the airport turned up.
The bus arrived and packed out luggage, I was preparing myself for the goodbyes to Moses when he said that he was going to catch another bus to the airport to sing us off - such a sweet gesture. When checking in at the airport we remembered that we still had the bottle of Champagne we'd bought when leaving Brisbane. The airline would not let us take it with us, even though it was still sealed, they informed us that we needed to find a home for it or we'd have to throw it in the bin. We give the champagne to Moses and told him that he had to share it with his French sister whom we'd me earlier that week. I figured as she was French she'd most likely have an appreciation of fine and expensive Champagne. I don't know if Moses realised but the bottle of Champers was worth at least a weeks wage to the local people. We sang with Moses and for the local people whilst we were waiting for departure, we sung the first Moses song of the year with some minor variations...

Moses sung -
"Don't forget Moses","You live in his heart now",
"for you are my brothers",
"please don't forget now"

To which I reply sung -
"We won't forget Moses,
cause he is our brother,
he lives in our hearts now ... and we are family"

Hearing me sing this to him in tune and timing with his culture song brought a small tear to his eye.

Moses would love to be able to come over to Australia this year to visit us, play some music and show the Australian people some of Vanuatu culture and artistry. We'd love to see him again, and we believe that with enough preparation we could organise a culture grant to help him out, he has so much to teach and share, things we can all get something positive from.

The flight home was very sad for me, I didn't take any photos out of the window of the plane as I didn't want any memories of leaving Vanuatu instead I read the culture stories book I'd bought in an attempt to slip into denial.

We miss you Vanuatu, I've felt more at home there then anywhere else I've been.
The people are amazingly positive and joyful, welcoming and accomodating.

We will return Vanuatu, one day, hopefully soon .....

Wednesday 06/01/2010

Today we took a stroll into town, to take a look around and get some food from the markets and convert some currency for the resorts final bill due 24 hours prior to checking out. We choose bananas and mangoes for lunch (it doesn't get much better) and walked down to the oceanfront to eat. Once at the ocean front we saw Sammy Ray Jones walking by, so we stopped and chatted to him whilst we ate our lunches. Sammy is an interesting guy with unique view of the world.
We said our final goodbyes to Sammy before making our way to 'Goodies' one of the best places on Efate to exchange currency.

Once we returned to the resort and paid our final bill we took a relaxing afternoon lazing around watching some DVD's we'd purchased.
At dinner Diana presented me with the handwoven bag her mother had made in her families traditional fashion, it's gorgeous and so very special to me, that Diana's mother would hand make me something without even knowing me, just from what her daughter had told her about me. I find myself wondering if people back home would do the same.

Photo to follow
Later that night the staff at Coconut Palms took us out for Kava, there were some members of staff that returned to the resort hours after their shift just to take us out on our last night in Vanuatu, that really touched my heart and showed me that they really do care about us, that we're not just another couple of guests - Thank you guys! At the Kava bar we shouted the staff Kava and a bottle of Bourbon we'd purchased earlier in the day, it set everybody off quite nicely.
As we walked back to the resort, after being informed that the staff bus had arrived to take the staff home for the night, the sadness welled up inside of me. I'm sure that if it weren't for the Kava I'd have been in tears, but I held it together enough to say good-bye to all of our new-found friends:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuesday 05/01/2010 - Lelepa Island

Today we went on a tour of Lelepa Island, the last of our booked tours in Vanuatu.
The Lelepa tour was just perfect. We were picked up from the front of the resort by the tour bus, which took us to the ferry jetty for Lelepa island, an island which houses a cave that used to be the home of local lepers whom (with very scant western medical treatments and supplies) used to live up until the age of 110 years. We walked from one side of the island to the other. The guide told us about the native plants on the island and their uses.

This palm is pseudo-sacred to the peoples of Lelepa and Vanuatu as a whole, the frond motifs are often found decorating the bodies of the warriors in the form of tattoos.

This shrub is used for toothache as the chewing of it's leaves makes the mouth numb.

This is a white wood tree (not the type used for the fire making of the people of Malekula).

We were then left to our own devices to swim and snorkel the day away.

The swimming was gorgeous, the island so welcoming and the staff so relaxed and friendly. It made for a great relaxing holiday whilst on holidays. The conch shell signaling that lunch was served...
After lunch we took a stroll along the beach where hubby found the largest hermit crab we'd ever seen along with what looked like cone shells (the locals informed that they were harmless and that they ate them cooked over the fire. We still proceeded with caution, just in case.

The below shell was so pretty I just couldn't resist a photo.

There were also plenty of these little lizards clambering over the rocks, they moved so fast it was nigh on impossible to catch one in focus.

We also discovered a mass of crabs making their way along the rocks. I'll be sure to upload some footage of their scurryings as soon as time permits.

The tour then lead us to the cave as mentioned earlier, there were strange marionettes strung up in the cave, (perhaps in an attempt to ward off evil spirits and the former inhabitants had left memories of their stay in the form of hand paintings on the walls.) The cave was now inhabited by tiny bats that on first inspection appeared to be either small birds or butterflies or moths, but were in fact cute little bats.

It was surreal to see these voodoo-looking dolls hanging in the darkness of the cave.

After exploring the cave we were guided back to the beach where we again boarded the boat. The boat took us around the island to a beautiful bay, with amazing visibility. We were given some bread and told to dip our hands into the water. The fish were obviously not afraid as they nibbled the bread from between our fingers occasionally pecking at our skin. After this 'fish feeding' we entered the water to swim with the fish, it would have been an awesome place to dive around all the bommies in that crystal clear water.

This rock formation looked suspiciously like the profile of a warrior to my mind.

We were then ferried to the other side of Lelepa island and Lelepa island village. Here we took a quick walking tour which ended in the middle of the village where the locals had set up some stalls and were selling handicrafts. It was here that I found my chiefs tusk, it was the most spectacular thing for sale that day and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it for hubby. I also found a turtle carved from a root of some description and a cowrie shell with a mirror finish.