Last year on the world’s largest tourism trade fair ITB Berlin, we talked with just few people. The nicest guy was from… Vanuatu. From where? Is it a country, a city, an island? How many people know the answer? And know anything about Vanuatu? Do you?
It was clear we want to visit Vanuatu, once we are on the Pacific. Just not that easy to do it. The flights are from New Zealand, Australia or Fiji. Actually we decided to sail from Tonga to Fiji, only because it was on the way to Vanuatu. Good we decided to go and we stayed much longer that we planned (because Fiji is not only a commercial resorts heaven – as we were expecting – but also a sweet, sweet country). Bad, because then we had less time for Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is a country of 14 bigger islands (more than 100 square kilometres) and almost 70 smaller once (65 of them inhabited). It’s already Melanesia (like Feaniji, and Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia – all the west of the South Pacific), unlike Tonga, which is Polynesia. Just have a look on this map, to get a feeling.
First days in Port Villa, the capital of the country? Straaaange. As always, we spend most of the time at the market and in the port, where most people are, we drunk some beer with backpackers, had some whiskey with expats, we talked to get a feeling.
The days of Port Vila are divided between those when a huge cruise ship is coming and those, when not. Cruise ships come 3 times a week, full of white people (like 3000!), those kind of tourists, who have no idea where are they. They have a free time in the city from 10 to 16, so in this 6 hours the city is just for them. All the buses and taxis are waiting, shops are open even on Sundays, there is a special market (closing just after the last taxi boats are leaving), and the prices are also special during those days. People of Port Vila are used to tourists, live from them, are also used to using them.
And they are not used to travellers. Those, who stay for longer, are willing to do trips on their own, who ask questions and are seriously interested in their lives.
Streets of Port Vila are quite sad and grey. Most of the people you meet are men, coming from all around the country, to earn some cash. You can see that the wives are away, you can see that they are bored. There is a lot in media about violence (also against the foreigners) and about rapes. Not a good place to walk alone, especially as a woman.
But from the other side: it is! You can eat such an amazing passion-fruit cheesecake! And you can listen to more than 100 languages! (in Vanuatu there are 3 official languages: English, French and Bislama – such a funny mixture – plus 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken there!).
Also quite funny, because most of the things, driving on the streets, are little buses. Almost 100%. Each of the bus – is a kind of taxi. You stop it in any part of the town and you can get to any part of the town for 300 vatu. The only difference from the taxi is that there is more people in one bus and sometimes you will go the way around, because the driver has to bring the others somewhere else. But it’s still 10 times cheaper than any taxi.
Anyways, the island Efate (where Port Vila is located), is quite big and you can discover it for some days. We wanted to leave Port Vila as fast as possible to go to the other islands, but the ferry boat was broken for looooong days, so we drove around too.
Even if almost every car is a mini-bus (so you have to pay for it), it IS possible to hitch-hike around the island. We were there also in a funny (not funny;) time, when 7 most dangerous prisoners escaped away from the main prison, but the police couldn’t look for them, because they didn’t have enough money for the petrol to tank their cars! But that was a good reason for all the people to say that they will not let us travel alone, always stop and always bring us where we planned to get. Lucky us!
The coolest on Efate Island is Blue Lagoon. You can swim there in a heaven-ish water, without thinking about the sharks (in this Vanuatu you never know, where is it really safe). Wouldn’t you like to jump in as well? ;)
This post is also available in: Polish
Our first book is out!
We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
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