Friday, 22 July 2011

Vanuatu

Last Wednesday, Tim and I were lucky enough to be flown to the island of Efate, Vanuatu, to attend their annual Kiwanis ball and race events. "Hooray," we cried, as we placed our Macbooks into plastic trays, "bring on the sun, sea and fancy hats!" And so on.
We arrived at 11.30PM, tired but happy to be baring our forearms in T-shirts again, and were greeted by Tim's cousin Samara, with whom we would be staying. Along with her partner Matt, Samara has lived in Vanuatu for a couple of years and works at a successful wedding and events planning business (check it out here http://www.evrisamting.com/). She had also taken on the volunteer role of helping organise the Kiwanis ball and races, which are apparently the social events of the year in Vanuatu; we were very excited and honoured to have been asked as special guests! And so, the trip begun...

DAY 1
Samara had to attend a wedding she had organised at a picturesque resort called The Havannah. Tim and I tagged along, snacked on a salad of local vegetables and went snorkelling. I'm certain that I tried snorkelling once or twice when I was younger, but this time, I found it quite a challenge; the part of the goggles covering my nose kept filling with water and I found mouth-breathing an epic struggle!







We lounged at the end of the hotel's pier, taking in the glorious view and watching the wedding take place nearby. I had a little cry! Tearing up at weddings and proposals (even on TV) is a new thing for me and rather embarrassing. I guess I am now just a sucker for love!





After a quick change and lick of make-up, we hit up the Kiwanis Charity Ball, held in a sizeable marquee on the expansive lawn at Le Lagon Resort. This year, the ball had a 1920s theme. I kept it simple in long, flowing, white Wayne Cooper with a back cut-out, accessorising with a gold metal cuff, peach and gold vintage-inspired earrings, and a vintage gold cuff that magically matched my Sportsgirl heels.

Dress: Wayne Cooper
Earrings: Colette
Clutch: Vintage
Cuff: Diva
Tim wears...
Jacket: G-Star Raw
Trousers: Hurley
Shoes: Betts

We located our table and enjoyed fresh rice paper rolls followed by a two-hour wait for main courses - apparently, the head chef thought that "everyone took a long time to enter and take their seats, so would want to wait". In lieu of food, the mainly older crowd of ex-pats had simply proceeded to get extremely drunk and hit the dance floor as a local band covered classics such as 'Hotel California' and 'The Macarena'.



My vegetarian main course option turned out to be a few steamed vegetables with marinara sauce on top (the mushroom rice was good, though!) and Tim said both his rack of lamb and rice paper rolls (mine just had vegetables but his had chicken inside) tasted like hot dogs and, after smelling his breath, I concurred.

My vegetarian main meal

The chef redeemed himself when the dessert appeared: berry cheesecake and a chocolate brownie topped with some kind of crunchy/nutty ice cream. 

DAY 2
Tim and I headed into the main town by way of local bus. They are pretty great here - simply regular vans that are cheap, can be flagged down anywhere and will drop you to your front door, if you wish!


We browsed the market, which is open 24-hours a day, Monday through Saturday, hosting stalls laden with enormous bunches of vegetables, fruit and various meat products, including these: 

Yep, dead bats. Five dollar dead bats.

We purchased coconuts (only 30 cents each!), drinking straight from holes the stallholder cut for us and perusing stalls selling traditional island meals. After a delicious lunch of egg, vegetables and a light curry sauce, we explored the rest of the town, chatted with locals, and cooled off with an evening swim.

The locals wear this style of dress (A.K.A. mumu) in bright floral prints. This was the only Tweety Bird one I saw and I kind of wish I had bought it.

The latest television sets on sale in a technology shop. I also saw a discman!

Tim wears...
Tee: Hurley
Shorts: Hurley
Watch: Nixon

Top: Tezenis (UK)
Skirt: Robb & Lulu
Bag: Marc Jacobs
Bracelets: Colette, Diva, vintage and from various overseas markets
Ring: Diva
Sunnies: RayBan

DAY 3
We rose early - unwillingly, in my case, as I'd awoken with a cold (on a tropical holiday? What a dork.) - for the Kiwanis Charity Race event.

Tim and I in the Birdcage!
Tim wears...
Jacket: Politix
Trousers: Hurley
Shoes: Betts
I wear...
Dress: Wayne Cooper
Hat: Diva
Shoes: Betts
Ring: Colette



Sunglasses: TopShop (UK)

We were in the prestigious Birdcage marquee and it was lovely to see that most attendees had adhered to the races dress code. Outside however, cargo shorts, T-shirts and thongs were de rigeur, much to my and Tim's dismay as we were informed that it was our duty to track down well-dressed racegoers and select ten people for each of these categories:

There was also "Best Dressed Couple" - now THAT was a challenge!

No pressure, huh? It was especially tricky selecting ni-Vanuatu (the name given to Melanesian ethnicities originating in Vanuatu) contestants, due to their bashfulness and the language barrier. Bislama is the first language here, often likened to baby language. Verbs have "em" on the end and "blong" means "belonging to". You want a local Tusker beer? In Bislama, you would say "me wantem Tusker". The name for a helicopter? "Mixmaster blong Jesus Christ". I even saw a sign that, in English, read "No running" and, in the local tongue, "Yu no run"!

Ni-Vanuatu ladies compete for "Prettiest Island Dress". The other women we selected were too shy to go up on stage.

"Most Elegant Hat" contenders. The girl with the bunch of flowers won... She definitely deserved it because she couldn't even fit through doorways!

DAY 4
Rain kept us mostly indoors during a barbecue at Samara's friend's house. All Australian ex-pats, we discussed the Vanuatu lifestyle and how it compares to that of our homeland. It's odd that they don't have certain products there, including wholegrain bread (you can only purchase stock standard white bread there... Yuck.), ricotta, cream, and milk (they only have the "Long Life" stuff, long-term use of which has been shown to reduce fertility in cats!). There are a lot of beef cattle in Vanuatu and it is cheap to buy there, so obviously they can run cattle on the land. But they don't have refrigerated vans and the ni-Vanuatu people live in very basic villages and do not own refrigerators.
Oh, we also went "tubing".


DAY 5
Tim and I made a quick trip to the markets to pick up some coconuts and raspberries, which taste the same as raspberries elsewhere but have much smaller drupelets (little round bobble thingies).


Scarf: Moschino
Ring: Colette


SMS seems to be a hot new trend in Vanuatu

We then journeyed to the Cascades, scrambling over rocks and clear, grey-blue pools to reach the magnificent waterfalls at the top.

T-shirt: Target (purchased for my Year 8 school camp! Good times.)
Shorts: Rip Curl
Thongs: Havaianas


Spot the Tim

We are way in the foreground in this photo... The waterfall was huge!


Bikini: Rip Curl


Hiding beneath the falls


Next, we took a bus and small boat to the resort on Hideaway Island for a yummy lunch and dip in the sea. The beach was covered in ouchie coral and hurt my feet. :-(

Boat to Hideaway Island





We stopped in at a supermarket on the way home to pick up some groceries for dinner. I saw a container of baby spinach, just big enough for a salad for one person. It was $15.00. Madness! I bought this giant grapefruit from the market for $1.00, though. I think it was bigger than my head.


DAY 6
Our last full day in Vanuatu was spent at the Blue Hole, a freshwater pool complete with rope swings for our amusement.


Tarzan Tim


Tim doing mad flips

Me, floating around the Blue Hole

As sunset approached, we checked out a kava bar. Kava is a drink traditionally made by men, who chew up roots, spit them out and squeeze them to make a delicious spit juice. Now, it's more commonly made with water and supposedly provides a sort of drunk feeling. You have to scull the kava drink as it tastes disgusting; the ni-Vanuatu usually follow this by loudly coughing up and spitting out phlegm.

Kava

Note my enthusiasm

TINY CAT AND PIGLET!

I don't think you can really tell how tiny he was from this photo. SO CUTE.

Love!

For our last night, we took a boat to Eracour Island for a lovely dinner at the resort's restaurant on the water.

DAY 7
Tim and I returned to Eracour for a quick morning swim and brunch. The shoreline was dotted with the largest and most beautiful starfish I have ever seen!



Before we knew it, we were back in rainy Sydney, impatiently waiting at the baggage carousel and trying to recall the the feeling of a warm sun on our skin. Bring on Summer!



April xx

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