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krisek Port-Vila - A travel report by Krys
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Port-Vila,  Vanuatu - flag Vanuatu -  (( Efate ))
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krisek's travel reports

South Pacific Extravaganza. Vanuatu. Efate.

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The people of Vanuatu surprised me. They were real stunners! Having seen only the gentle features of the Polynesians and the New Caledonians, the Vanuatuans bearing strong Papuan features made a great contrast. I loved it.

A magnetising look
A magnetising look
Vanuatu made it to this holiday's itinerary in the very last minute. Almost as a stop-over between flights. I was not preparing for any significant exploration of the area, therefore. Yet, as soon as I landed in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, I changed my mind. Still in the taxi from the airport, I made arrangements with the driver to take me around the island next morning.

Vanuatu has 63 islands. This report is about the capital island, the Efate only. And although life on the island is being geared up towards the modern life similar to Australian or European, a few villages boasted a few elements of the Vanuatuan traditional customs. It was appeared to me that the archipelago required a much closer look, to more remote islands and to have a peek at the unique and beautifully aligned with nature lifestyle. Vanuatu is now the country to come back to!

The taxi driver told me this: In Vanuatu we have chiefs, police, courts and the parliament. If you have a problem, you go to see the chief. If the chief does not solve the problem or the problem gets worse, you go to the police. If they cannot help with the problem, then you go to the courts. Each island has a chief. The chiefs come together to see the Chief of Efatu in the capital Port Vila and they discuss the policies, issues, needs and projects. Then the chief takes it to the Parliament. The parliament building is literally across the road from the beautifully decorated chief's house.

The people were real stunners. Their skin was much darker than of the fellow islanders in the South Pacific. Their features resembled the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, their eyes were dark and wide open. The Vanuatuan look was literally magnetising. The people of Vanuatu alone convinced me that this country is the one to go back to.

Favourite spots:
Anusua beach
Anusua beach
Anusua village had possibly the loveliest beach and picnic area on the island, although the beaches in Epau and Eton was also gorgeous. The owners of the rest stop, which included a large dining room under a traditional roof, were also very friendly. The sign at the gate read: welcome to our piece of paradise. And I have say that it was a true piece of paradise. The beach was small but the coastline was very dramatic with a number of volcanic boulders sticking out above the waterline. The ocean kept on shifting its colours from turquoise to light blue to navy blue to pistachio ice-cream. Small palm trees and yucca-type plants at the shore were green with their long leaves added to this dramatic picture. I wished I had been able to stay there a bit longer, chat to the people and explore the beach area. The spot might have been amongst the most picturesque beaches in the South Pacific.

What's really great:
Eton beach
Eton beach
Excellent safety of the Efate island was most definitely one of its main qualities. It was safe to walk around with a large camera swaying from one's shoulder, even after sunset. People were welcoming and there was no trouble anywhere on the island. Surely, there were opportunistic thieves on the island, so the general advice was to lock the house, keep valuables and expensive items in sight and not to leave them unattended. It is always a good idea to be street wise, regardless of the location. The locals might not rob you, but there could be some unsavoury visitors that could. Yet, there was no violent crime on the island.

The Chief's House in Port-Vila
The Chief's House in Port-Vila
Port Vila had few sights. The main ones were probably the Parliament building and the Chief's House. And then the rest was not terribly breathtaking. An interesting spot was the fruit and veg market, which remarkably worked 24 hours, except Sunday, and therefore closing at noon on Saturday and re-opening at 4am on Monday.

The attractions of the capital and the island would therefore had to be the lagoons and the beaches. Of which there were many. But the interior also boasted a waterfall called Cascade Waterfall, and miles and miles of lush jungle, which seemed totally impenetrable. A few pretty little villages with small houses and huts were scattered around the island, each having a school and a church. They provided a peek to the local way of life, local Vanuatuan way of life.

The beach at the Warwick Le Lagon Resort
The beach at the Warwick Le Lagon Resort
I stayed at the Warwick Le Lagon Resort & Spa in the suburbs of Port Vila. They charged £168 for a room by the lagoon. It was not worth it, I have to say. The grounds were nice and the main facilities kept up nicely, yet the rooms were rather basic. And for that price, the resort charged extra 500 vatu for a bottle of water every day. Not only was this an extortionate price, this did not make a positive impression on me at all. This is a perception thing. If they charged £170 per night then offered that damn bottle of water for free, it would make a completely different impact. Anyway, I did not have any of that water anyway.

I liked that the resort employed mostly local staff, who were very friendly if a little sheepish. English was their second language and management, in the welcome letter, asked to be patient with them even if one had to repeat oneself until understood.

Vanuatuan dancers
Vanuatuan dancers
I have not gone out at night on Efate. Instead, I was offered a night show at the resort I was staying. It was a great show. A group of locals, including small kids, the sweetest kids, performed a number of traditional Vanuatuan dances. The amount of energy and dedication that went into the performace was immense. And at the same time, it was very natural and did not feel choreographed at all. The little kids, who led a couple of dances were incredible, so agile and precise about the moves. I have always been rather skeptical about resort-sponsored performances, but this one was very different. It was all about the performers, their attitude, chemistry, style and approach. I saw seven shows of this kind during the trip to the South Pacific, and this one on Efate felt most natural with most personal touch.

Beach near the Hideaway island, in the background
Beach near the Hideaway island, in the background
Apart from the gorgeous beaches of Maslep, Eton and Epau, one could take a short ride to the Hideaway island, two minutes from the main island by a small motor boat. The island itself also had a small beach and a number of cafes and bars. Most charging about 1,000 vatu (£6.90, €8.70, $11) for a medium pizza.

The greatest quality of the beaches on Efate was that they were isolated and if you had a bike or a few quid to hire a taxi to get to them, you'd find that you'd be the only person there. Absolutely no other sould in sight. That was an incredible feeling. It was almost surreal to realise that there werse still islands of the South Pacific with gorgeous empty beaches that run for miles and miles. Even the beaches closer to the capital were not crowded. In total, I counted about 15 people on one of them.

Port-Vila panorama
Port-Vila panorama
Port Vila boasted a good variety of restaurants and eateries. Although pizza seemed to be a popular dish on the capital island, there was a good number of Thai, Chinese, Pan-Melanesian, Polynesian, Aussie, Italian and French restaurants scattered around.

Contrary to Polynesia and New Caledonia, beef was abundant in Vanuatu. Like Scotland has its Angus beef, Japan has its Kobe beef, Vanuatu also has its own. Dark and juicy - lovely! And since cows can be seen everywhere on the island, it's safe to assume that it was fresh and naturally grown.

Other recommendations:
The Vanuatuan Parliament
The Vanuatuan Parliament
A taxi ride from the airport to the centre would take about 10 minutes, depending on traffic and cost about 2,500 vatu. All the way to the Erakor Lagoon, where the resorts were located, it took 5 minutes longer and cost 2,700 vatu. The around the island tour with private vehicle cost 12,000 vatu and one should allow about 5-6 hours to include all of the attractions, do them at a comfortable pace and stop for photos.

Port Vila was not terribly well connected with the rest of the Melanesia. Few flights a week operated to/from Noumea on New Caledonia, Nadi on Viti Levu of Fiji, Auckland of New Zealand and Sydney of Australia and to the capital of the Solomon Islands. And on Sundays to/from Suva, Fiji's capital. All this on a combination of airlines; Virgin Australia, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Air Vanuatu, Air Pacific (soon to be rebranded as Fiji Airways), and Solomon Airlines.

Published on Monday November 26th, 2012

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Sun, Dec 02 2012 - 02:20 PM rating by basia

Very interesting report, Krys. Thank you.

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