Vanuatu Pub Crawl
11 September 2017
Vanuatu has its own language. First discovered by the Portuguese the islands then passed through British, German, Spanish, French and back to British control and influence.
Imagine trying to learn each of these in turn, only to end up back where you started. The end result is that, and I'm theorising here, from this turnover of languages the Nivans gave up on trying to learn the language of the latest invaders and developed their own, Bislama. A verbal and cultural two fingers to the colonialists. Bislama is as good and refined a version of pidgin English as you'll get anywhere. Understanding the spoken word is near impossible but with a bit of effort and imagination it's possible to interpret the written word. Try these.......
1. Basket blong pikinini
2. Fatfat tumas
3. Bonebone tumas
4. Ruba blong fakfak
5. Hed blong em i no strait
6. Ringim Polis sapos yu gat eni infomesen
7. Drink tumas alkol i save inkrism risk blong......
- developem kansa
- Liva damej
- Bren damej
2. Too fat
3. Too skinny
5. Mentally ill
Espiritu Santo, where we are now, or were when I started this woffle, was the first island in the Vanuatu chain to be discovered way back in 1606. We discovered it after a five hour sail from Ambae, to the west and moved from people living in shacks to fancy mansions with lawns rolling down to the sea.......then you move one street back and its shacksville again.
Truck rides have become our thing and yesterday we hired and I drove my first Chinese car. A number 22 I think. (why Land Rover walked away from the "4WD consumer "truck" market is beyond me". Thousands of Mazda, Toyota and Mitsubishi 4WD copies wobble, scrape and grind their way past the rusting hulks of abandoned 1970's Defenders which would outperform these eastern built pseudo 4WD's any day. Or am I just being an old colonialist?)
Anyway, five of us squeezed into our rented Grand Tiger, a Chinese built, 4WD double cab, flat bed truck. Out in the back, Florian was relegated to the back patio braving the elements and the flies, hanging on for dear life, as he fought to stay aboard every time I forgot he was there and gave a bit of welly, just to see what it could do. Which wasn't much.
First stop, we talked our way into the agricultural research establishment. It's EU funded so we said we were there to check how the money was being spent. I think the guy we met took it literally as we were then led on a 90 minute tour over acres and acres of palms, coffee, cocoa and grasses, all being genetically or naturally modified to withstand everything from bugs to high winds. Nothing about stopping the produce giving YOU wind but I guess that's a next project.
Next up was a $500 (£5) visit to one of the much lauded "Blue Holes". AKA a limestone sink hole filled with water, which, if the sun is out, will be blue. In our case, it was more of a Grey Hole but we amused ourselves on the rope swings before pressing on north until the road ran out. So we had lunch by the beach while it tipped down.
By the time we got back to the big city, Luganville, it was getting dark. I had noticed some lights appearing on the road outside some of the properties we were passing and thought, "That's a good idea. Put up a wee light to show you where the house is when you come home in the pitch black". Street lights being as yet unheard of here.
I felt a bit naive when Sven said that what we were seeing was the kava houses opening for business. Unable to resist the temptation of another round of this unique beverage, we pulled in and wandered into our first kava bar.
Now, I've never been in an opium den but I suspect what we were seeing was a fair imitation. Inside a few old guys were sat on benches staring listlessly at the dirt floor, no doubt wondering where their hard earned day's wage just went or perhaps, just wondering aimlessly. At the "bar" mein host was dispensing 100Vt (£1) servings in plastic bowls. The only concession to hygiene I saw. Outside, two of his mates, the production team, were feeding kava root into a mincer, the kind your granny had. Two carefully measured handfuls were placed into the remains of a much used woven plastic sack and hand washed in a large plastic basin. After a bit of sloshing around and squeezing the two guys took the sack and together, twisting the sack in opposite directions, wrung out every last drop of delicious, tingly, narco juice. It just looked like dirty water to me.
As the designated driver and already suffering from squishy tummy I abstained but Sven and Florian got tore in. We waited and waited for the narcotic juice to kick in, in the hope of maybe an Abba number from Sven or a Viennese waltz from Florian but no, just tingly lips and the prospect of squishy tummy.