29 August 2013

Wanderings:Pliz Slo Daon....Island time in Vanuatu

Pliz slo daon, no not a spelling mistake that is Bislama, the pidgeon English that they speak in Vanuatu alongside French & English. And it is very easy to slow down in Vanuata.  I find there is something about all of the Pacific Islands, in that the minute you arrive you you slow down to island time, no longer in a hurry, happy to amble along, let things happen when they happen.

Hello - Halo
Goodbye - Ale Tata
Good Morning - Gudmoning
Good Night - Gudnaet
Please - Plis
Thank You - Tankyu tumas
Excuse Me - Skiusmi
I’m Sorry - Mi sori tumas
How are you? - Yu oraet?
I am fine thanks - I orate, tankyu

Vanuatu means “Land Eternal” & the local people are Ni-Vanuatu; of Vanuatu. The locals have been here for centuries & still today more than 115 cultures & languages thrive here.  Dances, ceremonies, status, animals & crops vary from island to island & district to district. Some 80% of people still live in rural villages, mostly small & clan based with less than 50 people & each headed by a chief & to this day pretty much live off their land.

Honeymoon Beach
These villages are peppered throughout Vanuatu, sitting incongruously next to luxurious 5 star resorts.  The tin roofed huts & basic, ramshackle structures that make up the villages where cooking is still done over open flames in stark contrast to the 5 star luxury sometime just across the road.  

They work hard to look after, clothe & feed their families.  The older kids looking after the younger ones & so on.  Don’t be surprised to see 5 or 6 year olds playing with machetes!  Unemployment is high at around 70%, however with it being so pastoral & community based if 1 or 2 people have a job they then look after the rest of the family. And when there is a celebration the whole village celebrates.  We spotted 2 pigs being prepared for a local wedding, celebrations for which would go on for a week.

Their needs are simple & they are happy & friendly people with beaming smiles, the 21st century not so prevalent as yet, though I imagine that will change as more & more fast broadband & the connection to the outside world becomes available.  Many of the villages still have no electricity & a few have solar panels, however apparently these are mainly for charging their mobile phones! They may have basic homes, grow their own food & cook over open flames but almost everyone has a mobile phone!  So, the 21st century has begun to encroach.

Port Vila is the capital on the Island of Efate, one of 83 that make up the archipelago of Vanuatu. It is set in a beautiful harbour but the town itself is fairly dusty & run down.

Getting around is quite easy.  You can hail a bus or a taxi from just about anywhere.  Buses’ license plates begin with a “B” & taxis’ with a ‘T”.  Buses are by far the cheaper option, though you may have a few stops along the way before you get to your final destination. The rule being; last on, last off.  Just flag one down, hop on & let the driver know where you want to go & you’re on your bumpy way.  Many of the sealed roads are pot holed & once you’re off the sealed roads you are indeed for a bumpy ride!

We were blessed to have picked Kooyu Villas for our stay on Vanuatu.  Just passed Pango village, 15 minutes out of Port Vila & on the sheltered northern side of the Pango Peninsula in the aptly named Paradise Cove. 

The villa itself...idyllic, tropical, wonderful! Sliding doors that open on all sides to make the most of the balmy, tropical warmth.  Plus a hammock & outdoor beds for lounging around poolside.  It was a perfect 26C-27C most of the time we were there the ideal for slipping in to the rhythm of the tropics, lounging around in the hammock, reading by the pool, lazing on the beach or for the more adventurous snorkelling, paddle boarding & kayaking. And if the evening feels a little cooler you can have a beachside fire, the pit is all ready to go.  The only thing we were missing were a few marshmallows.

For us in & out of town was via Pango Road. This is an ever changing coral road that wanders through Pango Village, or for a welcome break from all the bumps grab a water taxi from Coco’s Beach just next door. Or if your very brave take the most direct route & kayak or paddle board the 3km to Port Vila!

If you are driving drive slowly through the village, one the road is quite rough with potholes & rocks...yes beware of the rocks!  Also there are likely to be village kids or pikininis playing in the middle of the road, not to mention the dog who kept trying to outrun our car. Just slow down you are after all on island time. And don’t forget to smile & wave!  In return you will  get some of the most beaming smiles you have ever come across. These people could out smile anyone.

We stocked up on provisions at Bon Marche Nambutu, not the best, but the best on the island & a good selection of French cheeses, perfect for that pre dinner nibble with a little aperitif as you watch the sun go down. And for some of the local beef or veal, which is some of the best meat I have ever eaten, head to the butchery in the Leader Price Supermarket.  Not surprisingly there is something to be said for happy, free range, grass fed cows. Also as it is local it is very reasonably priced...we had a whole season rack of veal for about $12 a kilo!!

And for fresh produce avoid the supermarket & head to the waterfront markets in the heart of Port Vila.  The produce is fresh as you get & for all intents & purposes organic at this bustling hive of activity.  You can just smell how fresh it is.  The markets run 24/7 from Monday morning through to Saturday.  There is beautiful fresh produce piled everywhere along with mud crabs & even the odd chicken.

In amongst all the chillaxing we did manage to get out & about...I think I am still on Island time so more on that soon.


  1. You've got me convinced that our next tropical escape should be to Vanuatu. Looks totally gorgeous if a little pot holed.

    1. Definitely worth a visit Julie, the pot holes just make it a little more interesting!


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