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Saturday, May 02, 2009
The sandy beach of Hideaway island
My skin colour set me apart from the locals and the usual tourists, but I couldn't feel more at home in Port Villa. It felt like I had taken a step into a time rich society nestled in paradise where all they need is supplied by Mother Nature. The water is clean; the earth is rich and the people honest and friendly.
Cultural show at one of the villages, ATTACK!!
Upon landing we walked on the tarmac into the international airport building and on our way to the custom officials, passed a number of men cuddling their instruments and singing local songs. This should have served as a warning that the adventure ahead would have captured our hearts.
Gorgeous starfish everywhere
Starfishes, corals and shells carpet the ground far into the horizon (careful where you step)
Customs was fast and efficient, but next came the sexy luggage search. I wasn't quite sure what the officials were looking for in my sad, bare and almost empty suitcase. There weren't many things that they could confiscate apart from my clothes and tripod. I would have taken some pictures but at this point the place was so foreign that I thought I'd better behave.
Au Peche Mignon, Port Villa
Almond biscuit from Au Peche Mignon
We were picked up by the kind people from Vanuatu Adventures and it was so funky. We all got into a minibus and the driver handed us each a bottle of water and wet towelette. The drive into town was eye opening and by the way, they drive on the right hand side. At first glace, you'd think "Oh my God, I have landed in the middle of nowhere" until you see the water, until you see the market and personally for me, until I had tasted the chicken pie from Au Peche Mignon, a little French cafe in town. I fell in love with this town, with how they sell fresh vegetables in the market, how the fishermen come in with an esky of freshly caught fish, holding them up for sale in bunches like bananas for Vt 400 each.
Grilled poulet fish on a bed of rice wrapped with bokchoy from Wild Ginger
We spent Sunday in the resort because nothing in town is open, or so we were informed. We swam in the beach, we swam in all the pools, we drank at the pool bar, we tried out the BBQ lunch, explored the beach, tried Wild Ginger restaurant in the resort, canoed over to the neighbouring island, but mostly we behaved like how Asian tourists are, we took what would have been a tonne of photos if not for digital camera and digital storage. I took more than 4 Gigabyte worth of photos and the amount spilled over to my back up memory card.
Ginormous seafood platter from Chill restaurant in town
Cosmopolitan and strawberry daiquiri from Sebel Hotel
Resting in the pool bar after a day of exhaustive exploration, I talked to the bar staff. I was curious about how they really live because despite having turned almost every rock and pebbles in the beach in search for shells, we had minimum contact with the locals. I wanted to know how they lived, how they perceived their young independence from the French and British colonization, what time they started working and if they have enough time with their family and I'm not convinced that life there is as easy I thought it was.
Local children at the beach
It is naive to think that this primary version of self-sustainability is sustainable in the long term. With time, the globalisation of multinational corporate giants will engulf this beautiful paradise as they have conquered many. It was a sad discovery when I was told that there is no compulsory education and schooling were charged at Vt 9000 a term. I thought it would be impolite for me to ask the average income, but our tour guide did mention that many children do not go to school because parents often cannot afford the school fees. How will the children of their children live without having the currency to exchange for education? Without education how will they have jobs that will provide proper nutrition, clothing, land to shelter and future for the next generation?
View from Cafe du Village
As for now, I am minimally assured by a simple question posed by my travel companion as our plane touched down on the autumnal Sydney soil "Do you realise that there is no MacDonald's in Port Villa?"