First Impressions of Vanuatu
09 October 2016 | 20 14.36'S:169 46.63'E, Aneityum, Vanuatu
We've been nearly a week at our first island in Vanuatu - Aneityum. Being the furthest South, this was a logical stop so we could follow the trade winds North to other islands. What we didn't know was what a shame it would have been to miss such a great place!
There are no roads, no cars, no bikes, no electricity except for a few solar panels. Simple, well worn paths through the grass that are the "highways" of this village of 500 or so people. Every time that we head ashore we are greeted multiple times and offered assistance to find whatever we want to find. The locals are incredibly friendly, and its a real bonus that they all speak multiple languages, including english. We commented earlier about the friendly villages in Fiji, but these people take that to a whole other level! All of the boats here have received gifts of papaya, bananas, tomatoes and other fruit. We try to offer them something in return, but they don't want our money. One of the boats, Kiapa, is giving out reading glasses to anyone that wants them, so I think that we are all benefiting from their presence.
As we walk through the village, the housing styles vary widely. The range is from palm frond houses all the way to cinder block home with tin roofs. Because it is never that cold here, they don't need too much in the way of a house. There are a couple of "fancy" buildings that have been erected in the last few years on account of the cruise ships that stop here now. One cement single story building has a tourist office and a even a bank that is open a couple of days a week. There are also two modest schools, three churches, and two very basic stores. Having a bank in this tiny village is proof that the villagers are making a great livelihood from the cruise ship visits - their only real source of revenue.
In fact, this village now gets about eighty cruise ships a year, over twenty just in the month of December. We had one twelve hundred person ship here today. In anchored in the bay just outside of the four sailboats and took its passengers to "Mystery Island," which is a beautiful sandy island nearly a km long and about 1/4 km off shore. The locals have built nearly a hundred rustic stalls that sell handicrafts, tours, and other stuff, plus a bunch of crap. Today, we visited the island while the cruise ship was in and it was thronging with white, very plump tourists from Australia having a great time. At the end of the day, after the ship left, the villagers were all coming back to the mainland in their boats, hooting and hollering, obviously in very good spirits. It's no wonder since most of them made some good Aussie cash today. Tomorrow there is another cruise ship, and then nothing for about a week.
Tomorrow we will be moving on as well. In company with Tranquilo and Kiapa we are going to head about 50nm N to the island of Tanna where the volcano Mt. Yasur is located. We will be climbing that live volcano in the next couple of days and hope to have one of those "bucket list" experiences.
Upper left: building a new house Upper right: many of the houses are very simple lower left: Irene from Kiapa running her glasses clinic lower right: last nights potluck on Speakeasy with Kiapa, Tranquilo, Marilyn, and Speakeasy