Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nguna

 View of Nguna from the boat.

When we first started planning our trip it was hard to decide where to go - especially given the 82 islands and all. I was keen to go to some of the more remote islands (Banks, Torres), but on investigation decided it would be too expensive. Instead, we decided to go to Nguna Island, which is a short boat ride north of Efate.

The wharf to Nguna - with the 'local transport'. Our hosts on Nguna arranged our transport, and were a little concerned that we would be okay with this 'local' transport - on the back of a truck, rather than a taxi or van. 

For us of course, it all added to the experience (plus beng cheaper!). The kids did enjoy it, despite this photo, which was actually taken on the return journey, after we had had to get up at 5am to catch the boat back.

Arriving on the beach at Nguna Island - right in front of our beachfront bungalow accommodation.


Our bungalow, basic, but the location was superb. The children loved this place, and spent many happy hours running around the sand paths and down on the beach. The roof was thatched, but had a tarpaulin on top, which we were particularly happy about during one nights torrential rain. This picture doesn't really show it, but the garden around this bungalow was quite lovely.

Dinner by oil lamp. It got dark around 6pm. No electricity here, although they did have the cutest wee portable generators. Not often used though - fuel was expensive. 
We did have running water, though only because they had built a structure about 3m high that held two 100litre barrels. Every few days they would bring a barrel of water and a generator and pump the water up to the barrel so we had gravity fed water. We tried to be careful with our use of water, but I imagine the locals still thought we were incredibly wasteful.

It was quite windy for a lot of our time at Nguna, but on the last couple of days it calmed down and we enjoyed walking along the beach, collecting shells, and snorkelling. The snorkelling here was the best we did on Vanuatu. It was great to see Alex gaining his confidence snorkelling. We took a reef fish book from the library, and we all enjoyed poring over it afterwards trying to identify what we had seen.


 Showing Dad her shell treasures. 

Next post - a walk around the village. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Efate

Efate is the one of the bigger islands in Vanuatu (there are approx 82, although not all inhabited). It is where Port Vila, the capital, is located. Port Vila is small, and the guidebook raved about it's ' french colonial charm' but we found this rather hard to spot. I was going to spend a half day walking round the centre to track down the colonial buildings, but despite being in Vila for ten days it never happened. Instead there was lots of  reading, snorkelling, kayaking, and visiting the market. The harbour is beautiful in the sunshine, and the water remains unpolluted, with tropical fish swimming right by the wharves. Long may this continue.

 We did manage to make it to the museum and cultural centre, where we were all fascinated by these sand drawings. They are drawn with one continuous line, while telling a the story that goes with them.


 I had read about Vanuatu's 'string bands' and wanted to hear one, we only came across one in our travels (as we tend to avoid perfomances/shows put on for tourists). This was at a 'local' restaurant on the day that we hired a van and a driver to drive round the perimeter of Efate. There was only one option on  the menu - wahoo curry. Wahoo is the name of a fish, we just liked saying the name.

Frangipani are Mike's favourite flowers. I have been trying to grow one here without much success, but am inspired to give it a better go.

We visited a turtle 'conservation' project. There were loads of little turtles, not so many big ones. Not sure about their success rate... but the kids loved seeing them up close. Alex in particular was quite taken with them, and would have quite happily stayed watching them for a long time.


Bamboo beach on Efate. Picture perfect. There were some basic little bungalows you could stay in here. I liked the little rocky outcrops that were common along this shoreline.

Unknown deserted beach that our driver took us too - getting stuck along the way on the overgrown path, Mike and I had to get out and push.

Coconut plantations - this one was about 30-40 years old. Apparently they take about 6 years before they produce their first coconut.

Melina's prize find. A little smelly at first - we soaked it in some bleach. Along with some other finds, we warned the children about possible confiscation by MAF officials on re-entry into NZ, but everything passed, except for a feather duster that was given to me.

 

I was pleased to find a sandalwood plantation. Vanuatu's original sandalwood forest were logged out, but they are re-planting them now, and re-establishing the industry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vanuatu - Part One of ?

We returned from our three week trip to Vanuatu a couple of days ago. It is cold here! We had a fantastic time away. It was the perfect blend of holiday and travel, with just the right amount of challenges and highlights for the children. And I got to stand on the edge of an active volcano - while it was exploding. One of my life's highlights. But more about that later. I came back with 700 photos. You'll be pleased to know I have edited them.

First part of our trip was in Port Vila, where we stayed in an apartment on the edge of Erakor Lagoon, a short bus ride into the centre of Port Vila, where the main attraction, for me anyway, was the market. Photo's in no particular order:
Choosing pineapples. They were only occasionally available, so we snapped them up when we saw them.

How to choose the best coconut?
These looked like sweet mandarins, but were incredibly sour.
Sweet finger bananas.
Coconut crab. The children were mightily impressed with the crab's ability to climb coconut trees and crack open a coconut with their pincers. From the little I read , I think they are endangered, or at least rare. They were an expensive restaurant choice anyway. We didn't try them.
Fresh ginger had a lovely aroma as you walked through the market.
These 'raspberries' caught everyone's attention whenever we spied them in the market. They tasted quite different to our raspberries, but were nice in a salad.

Manioc root. I have to say I liked the basket more than the manioc. Mike caused much mirth for our waitress at a resort restaurant one night when he asked what the 'local vegetables' on the menu were - he didn't want to be served manioc, or taro. The waitress, after she finished laughing, assured him that they didn't serve manioc at all.


Starfruit.
Natapoa nuts, ready to eat threaded on a skewer. Also known as 'tropical almonds' they did indeed taste like a cross between an almond and a coconut.
Starfruit.
I liked the origin labelling here - blong = belong, Epi is an island further North. And despite what the sign says, these were not sweet, for our tastes at least.