|View from Tamanu on the Beach|
We spent Easter Sunday mostly hanging out at A Room With a View, but also went for a walk around town. The next day we would make our way to White Sands Beach where Chloe and Trevor would be getting married on the Tuesday. On Monday we called Cheryl (the bride’s mum) who organised someone from the resort to pick us up. In no time at all, much less than we thought actually, we were at Tamanu on the Beach chatting to Chloe, Cheryl and Paige, Chloe’s sister. If I may say so myself, it was a pretty spectacular resort, and the outdoor dining area and accommodation were all right on the sea. Needless to say, the views was spectacular, and the view like something directly out of a movie; iridescent white sand, waving palm trees and turquoise water. Tomorrow, the wedding would be held on the beach. Hugs all around and then we hung around and chatted for a while before Cheryl took Alex and I to our accommodation.
|With Shelley, another guest|
The guests were staying in a range of places from Tamanu on the Beach itself, to various places in town as well as close by. Alex and I were staying in some beautiful apartments very close to in Tamanu with Cheryl and other friends and family. What a gorgeous place; very open, yet very serene and tranquil. It was lovely to spend a day just relaxing and hanging out, as usually when Alex and I travel, it’s fifth gear all the way! I take responsibility for that too! In the afternoon, I went into town with Cheryl and her gorgeous friend Alicia, and bought some groceries as well as some fresh fruit by the roadside. As we had a car, and we saw places that perhaps public transport would not normally take you, it was interesting to observe how the people really live here in Vanuatu. They are not ‘poor’ as such, and are subsistence farmers as they live off the land. They are most certainly not rich by our standards, but they mostly have clothes on their bodies, a roof over their heads and food in their mouths. As we zipped around, I observed … as I love to do.
|Chloe with Paige and cousins Jess and Kate, gettin’ ready …|
The night before the wedding was spent just hanging around and chilling, and getting to know the people who were staying in the same apartments that we were; all really lovely people. Early Tuesday morning we were woken by lightning, thunder and an alluvial downpour! I know that Vanuatu is in the tropics and that it was the wet and humid season, but … OMG, I thought the wedding may just end up being a live rendition of Singin’ in the Rain! Having said all of this, apparently an alluvial downpour followed by rays of sunshine were not an uncommon occurrence. Fingers crossed!
|Cheryl gives Chloe away|
Alex had volunteered to take some casual photos of the wedding throughout the day, so he was up bright and early and snapping the bride and her bridesmaids before they’d even began to get ready. If I may so myself, he did manage some pretty spectacular shots. Most of us started to get ready after lunch as it was to be a late afternoon wedding. Putting on makeup in the humidity was no easy feat. Thank goodness for air-con! As I am not really a drinker, I offered to be the taxi-driver between our accommodation and the venue. By 3.00pm, everybody was down by the sea and ready. The rain had disappeared, the sky cleared up and the sun was bathing us in its (hot and humid!) rays. Yes!
Everybody mingled, chatted, introduced themselves to persons unknown, had a drink, snacked on delicious hors d’oeuvres …and waited for the bride. It was a nice little gathering of some 25 people or so, and Alex and I felt honoured to have been invited. The time had come … Trevor and his groomsmen had waited patiently on the beach (decked out in their snazzy suits), and we all turned around to see the stunning Chloe walking towards him, being given away by her equally gorgeous mother. I had a lump in my throat; it was a very special moment. Cheryl, I am sure that I was not the only one who was proud of you on this day, you made everyone proud, and least of all your Chloe! The ceremony was picture-perfect and idyllic … “I do” she said, with the breeze billowing through her hair.
The official photographer took a few more pictures on the beach, and then we were all treated to a lovely sit down dinner, in the open restaurant overlooking the sea, of course. Then … it was party time! What a night! Some of us danced all night, including the lambada. Getting too old for that? Hey, I kept up with the best of them! The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, which was much more likely to have been the result of hours of non-stop dancing than lambada-ing. I’ve still got what it takes! That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. It was a really fun night, but like all good things, they must come to an end. And so, the taxi-driver began her ferrying the revellers back to their accommodation. A few short trips and everyone was ‘at home’. With memories of a great day and night, it was time to go to bed!
The next day Alex and I took the opportunity to go around the island with Cheryl and Alicia in their hire car. The idea was that we would then be dropped off in Port Vila at the end of the day. We all had a leisurely breakfast and then took off some time after lunch. We spent a relaxing afternoon going around the island. It only takes two hours if you don’t stop, so with a few stops here and there, it took us around four hours. Speaking of stops, in Vanuatu, mostly everything is owned by the people and not the government which means even looking at a beach costs you money. We were still able to get some fantastic views of both Efate (the island we were on) and the several outlying islands. It was just after 6.00pm on the Wednesday night that we were dropped off at our ‘home’ in Port Vila, A Room With a View. Justine took us to ‘our’ room and offered us a cup of Tanna coffee. How we were going to miss this place! As we sipped our coffee, we chatted about how we would spend our last three days.
We were thinking of going to visit the island of Tanna, one of the more southern islands, which is famous for Mt Yasur, said to be the world’s most accessible active volcano. Our enquiries were delayed for a day due to a nasty migraine and when we did finally enquire at the local Air Vanuatu office … it put a whole new spin on island time! Astoundingly slow is an understatement! We did finally get some answers in the way of when flights would be available, but unfortunately the next available one would not see us get back to Port Vila on time to fly back home. Pass!
And so our last days were spent visiting the famous Mele Cascades and the Tanna Coffee Factory.
The cascades were only a short local bus trip away, and as we arrived it was pouring. In fact, it was raining so hard that we had to wait for half an hour before entering. After baulking at the $25.00 entrance fee (there’s just something about paying for nature and loos that does the head in of the average Aussie!), we made our way to several pools of stunningly clear aquamarine water that have formed beneath a 35 metre waterfall. The walk to get there was beautiful, as was the ‘final destination’. Alex went for a swim, but I passed, and contently observed. It was raining on and off and just as we made it back down , the alluvial downpour began once again, so we had no option but to wait a couple of hours before moving on. So we sat, observed and chatted. Time to move on!
|Hideaway Island, near Tanna Coffee Factory|
Once the rain stopped we started to walk towards the Tanna Coffee Factory, which we were told was only ‘down the road’. The freaks were back! As is often the case we were the only non-locals walking. A great people-watching exercise, we chatted to and observed the locals in their natural habitat, as opposed to how they ‘needed to act’ for tourists. I love this stuff! I always jokingly say that I was a social anthropologist in a past life … maybe I will study it yet in this one! It was probably about a half an hour walk and at some point we turned into the aptly named Devil’s Point Road, a somewhat lonely road that snaked along the coastline and awarded us with some spectacular views of the outlying islands.
|Nuvi makes a nice, strong coffee, Tanna Coffee Factory|
I was beginning to think we were not ever going to make it, when we suddenly stumbled upon the sign to the entrance. It most definitely had a plantation feel about it and walking up to the main building felt a bit like I was walking along the yellow brick road. The small roastery and cafe operate out of a 1903 Catholic Church. It had a very cosy feel about it and Leitau showed us around and explained how ‘it was all done’. A small enterprise indeed, the Arabica coffee comes from the island of Tanna, which has perfect coffee growing conditions. Leitau’s lovely wife Nuvi, made us a couple of espressos, the first was a medium roast and the second dark. We were totally impressed! Italians move over! We bought a big bag of coffee beans (medium or dark? medium or dark? dark!) and started to walk home. Again, the walk made for some pleasant sightseeing and some great observations. We noticed people coming out and hanging up lamps outside their properties. We were later told that this is a sign to say that the nakmal, or traditional meeting place, is open for kava drinking. What is kava? Is it a drug? The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative and anaesthetic properties and is supposed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Perhaps … but that muddy taste and numbness of the mouth that I had experienced in just one sip at the Melanesian feast was enough for me.
|Lit lamp outside a Nakmal|
As it began to grow darker, Alex and I jumped on a local bus and made the short ride back to Port Vila. It had been a big day and we were exhausted. Second last night in Port Vila so we decided to go for a meal at Chantilly’s. The food really was exquisite and Alex went all out with a ceviche dish followed by a lobster pasta. Our last day was spent hanging around and going into town (yet again). We ‘popped into’ a downtown hotel to escape the humidity; you know, just strolled in like we were staying there, and made ourselves comfortable on the guest couches. Yep, I know, more front that Myers! As it works out, Cheryl and Paige were staying there too! “What are you doing here?”, Cheryl exclaimed as she walked towards us. What can I say … escaping the humidity … as you do!
|Last brekkie at A Room with a View|
And so, this trip was coming to a close. We had an early morning flight and the lovely Justine said that she would drive us to the airport. She had really spoiled us. Packing has become second nature to Alex and I (as has waking up to get to and from places at ridiculous hours!) but we got ourselves organised the night before. We thanked Justine as she dropped us off; it’s people like her that always make our trips that extra bit special. Cheryl and Paige were already at the airport when we arrived, as they were on the same flight as us. It was all rather relaxed; Port Vila airport is no LAX! It seemed that as suddenly as we had arrived, it was time to depart!
Goodbye Vanuatu! Thanks for some great experiences and adventures. I would like to say “till we meet again” but there are still so many places that I want to visit!
“Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self”. – Erich Fromm
|Love this shot of Chloe and mum Cheryl!|
Dedication: This one’s for two people, and in no specific order. Cheryl, you are a remarkable mother and friend! I was so touched to watch you walk your gorgeous daughter down the (sandy) aisle. It was the most befitting act and you did it with love and integrity. Chloe, you were the most gorgeous bride. When I met you as an absolutely beautiful six month-year-old baby, I never thought I would be attending your wedding in Vanuatu! You looked stunning and you surrounded yourself by those who really love you. Well done! We were honoured to be part of your special day! You know you can always count on Alex and I.
Special mention to both Paige (Chloe’s sister) and Trevor (her husband) – we love you too!
|Perspective … bamboo, Mele Cascades|
|Alex, Mele Cascades|
|Tanna Coffee factory|
|Entering the Tanna Coffee Factory|
|Tanna Coffee Roastery … one machine affair!|
|Slow Down Vanuatu style!|
|Vanuatu plant life|
|Library, Port Vila|
|That’s what I call an avo!|
|Cheryl and Alicia|
|A brilliant day comes to a close|
|Time to party, Peter and Alex|
|Janine and her girls|
|Done and dusted … married!|
|Some of the guests|
|L to R: Taryn, Kayne and Shanel|
|With the bride and groom|
|Chloe ready to go …|
|Chloe … getting ready|
|Getting ready to say “I do”|
|About to say “I do” …|
|Wedding on Tamanu on the Beach|
|The spot where they would say “I do”|
|Ready to go … Trevor and the boys|
|Alex and Trev, day before the big day!|
|Just outside our accommodation near Tamanu|
|View from our accom. near Tamanu|
|Chloe and the girls about to get ready for the big day!|
|L to R: Groomsmen Peter and Aaron with Trevor, the groom|