Monday, February 9, 2009

Vanuatu: Day I

I had every intention of keeping a travel journal on my recent jaunt to tropical heaven Vanuatu. I took an empty visual arts book with me. I stuck things I stole from the in-flight magazine in it. Heck, I even wrote a few paragraphs about the excitement of the first day. But not long after, it all kind of fizzled out, with the exception of me writing myself notes beginning with 'Don't Forget!' and a list of all the amazing things we'd done on that particular day. I still keep finding them; in my wallet, my handbag, my skirt pocket...and they've worked. I still haven't forgotten. I just haven't quite gotten around to editing them, and actually sitting down with pen and paper and completing my travel diary.

So, as a way of getting myself in the mood - and because, let's face it, I can type a WHOLE lot faster than I can write, and I have the added bonus of attaching pretty pictures - I'm going to blog it. Right here, right now, from start to *finish. Enjoy.
*maybe one day at a time...

Thursday, January 29th:

Sunrise over Victoria as we take off.
I stumbled out of bed, bleary eyed and sweating at 2:30am. As I hastily boiled the kettle for an eye-opening, middle-of-the-night-and-need-to-stay-awake-for-another-20-hours coffee, I Googled the current temperature in my suburb. It as a toasty 35.4c, and rising. At 3am, I was sitting on the front lawn awaiting my ride with Sarah, who rose above and beyond the call of duty to drive us at that ridiculous time to the airport. At quarter past, I start to panic, and call Sarah to make sure she did in fact wake up in time. Her phone is turned off. I panic some more. Ten minutes later, she arrives, and the process of emotional eating begins as we set off to pick up Cam before arriving at our terminal. Another coffee, cheese & egg McMuffin and some raspberry licorice later, we're ready to board - and sheer terror sets in.

Getting acquainted with the emergency exits.
I don't fly well. It's a well known fact. Given the engine blowing up and catching fire on a previous trip to England, I feel I have every reason to indulge in histrionics each time I board a flying tin can and hurtle through the sky, cheating death and... oh. Where was I?

Trying - in vain - to relax on the flight.
At Sydney, where we had an hour to transfer from domestic to international terminals and board our flight to Vanuatu, I discovered a little problem at Customs. My passport was confiscated, due to it's expiry date being a week or so earlier. Not a problem, our travel agent assured us - I was safe to fly on my British Passport, without needing a Visa. She was right - I could get in to Port Vila, but not back in to Australia; my Aussie passport providing me with my Visa back in to the country, which I no longer possessed as the rather unpleasant Customs man impounded it. After discussing the matter with Cam, and calling my mother to tell her of the issue, I decided to fly out anyway, and deal with the situation after our holiday. Ahh, the power of Dealing With It Later.

Cam & I once I finally settled down on the flight.
After adorning Cam's shirt with my mascara on take-off, we had a smooth flight to Vanuatu - until we were preparing to land. Apparently there were some large tropical storms blowing up over the hills surrounding the airport, and visibility was too low to land safely. We circled for quite some time, waiting for the storm to abate, while all the while I was indenting nail marks in my traveling companion's arm as I was terrified we'd fly into a mountain in the rain.

Once we finally cleared through the cloud to land, I was shocked at the size of the airport; it was tiny, with none of those sucky walk-way things that attach to the plane for you to disembark on. We literally climbed down some steps directly on to the tarmac, and walked in to the main room of the airport, and waited to clear Customs - luckily without incident this time. As we stepped outside to await our transfer bus to our resort, the first thing I noticed was the heat - it was humid, and the air seemed almost wet - so different from the dry, scorching 44c heat we'd been experiencing back in Melbourne.

Our resort :)
As we drove through the village on the way to our hotel, I was amazed at the lush vegetation - it was amazingly green as fas as the eye could see. And then we saw some villagers - and all waved at us, smiling, as we drove by. I had no idea what to expect when we arrived, and the squalor shocked me a little - but more than anything, the happiness and openness of the village people was beautiful. They were so colorful, and their radiant smiles lit up their faces; it was a dramatic contrast to the surly and rude people from Melbourne airport.

Got pothole?
Our resort was a 15 minute drive from the airport, over roads ravaged by the rain to form massive potholes, but it was one I will never forget - that first breath of foreign air and the feeling of tropical storms brewing as we drove through the enchanting - and rather bumpy - roads to our hotel.

Being welcomed to Le Meridien.
As we arrived, we were welcomed from the bus by Chief Sam, a local in traditional Melanesian dress blowing a conch shell, and I fell in love with the architecture and sheer size of the lobby.

The beautiful lobby. There was a bar behind that glass wall... my kinda place!
We were given our room key - which bore the name Mr & Mrs Cam's Last Name, which was to be attached to all documentation from our holiday, as well as the tags on my suitcase - and settled our bags in before we set out to explore the resort. As we walked out into the grounds to see the lagoon, we noticed the Pool Bar - and soon seated ourselves down and ordered the local beer and some burgers, which were amazing - and of which I had to take a photo for Melisa.

See? It's not just an Aussie thing - Vanuatu has beetroot and pineapple on their burgers, too! (It's kind of in the background, next to that vile weed known as tomato which both Cam & I detest)

My first tropical rain.
After consuming our delicious snack, we took a bit of a walk around the grounds. As we headed towards the lagoon, we found the 140metre suspension bridge we'd read about in the travel brochure - the one I'd been having fits over since I got it into my head we had to cross said terrifying bridge of death to get to our hotel - and decided, since I'd done so well on the plane, I'd have another shot at cheating death. As soon as we stepped out onto the shaking structure, it started raining - and in a way I'd never known. It absolutely bucketed down; a torrent of warm water which soaked us through in seconds, and which smelt amazing as it hit the hibiscus and frangipani's around the hotel. We stood on the bridge and watched it splash down into the lagoon; one of the many beautiful tropical storms we encountered whilst we were there.

Rain over the lagoon.
Deciding we were already drenched and a little more water wouldn't do us any harm, we made our way back to the pool, and had a splash before realizing it was happy hour.
We soon ordered ourselves some frozen margaritas, and polished them off quickly, discovering to our joy that they consisted mainly of alcohol, which a little lemon flavored ice. As we were happily consuming our next round, we got chatting to another couple - Matt and Hayley - who were from Sydney, and were more than happy to share their own travel tales, and pass on tips and information about the best things to do and see in Vanuatu, as well as how to deal with taxi drivers and so on. We talked for a while in the pool, and soon we had an invite to dinner with them and another couple from Sydney who were leaving the next day.
A very happy me @ Happy Hour @ Pool Bar.
After getting dried off and changing back in the room, we caught a cab into Port Vila and met up at a restaurant called Waterfront, which, funnily enough, was right on the waterfront. We ordered some mojito's (which again, were mainly all alcohol and went straight to my head) and Mexican, and chatted the night away, dodging awkward questions about how long Cam & I had been married, and listening to recommendations for things to do during our stay. After dinner and more chatting, we listened to dodgy karaoke - until 9pm, when I was ready for bed. It was a pretty common theme while we were there - restaurants closed early, which fitted in fine with me as I was exhausted from the days activities, and was keen to get back to some air conditioning and a good nights sleep.
I had no idea what to expect when we arrived, and was shocked at how relaxed I was, and how quickly I'd fallen in love with Vanuatu - and I went to sleep wondering what the next 6 days would bring.
And then we were ready for Day Two...

P.S Cam - feel free to comment me on anything I fail to remember! My poolside 'don't forget' list we did on what day is a bit confusing now I'm sober...


Anonymous said...

Hello gorgeous girl,
Don't forget list..
Day 1 - Hmmm - actually I think you have it very well covered... in fact you reminded me of things I had forgotten about - like dodgy Mojitos, the smell of tropical rain and how relaxed we were by half way thru day 1!
Hopefully I can remind you of something on Day 2 or 3!
Don't forget the kayaking adventures or tropical rain pool performance ;)
Luv C

k a t i e said...

I've got the kayaking, the market...and then I think my memory comes to a standstill. Actually, more than likely, didn't I sleep all afternoon??

Day three was the rain in pool/slip n slide/destruction of other couples/rat in the room adventure day. I'm excited for Day 3 :)

Can you do me a favor the mail me your entire photographic collection from your memory card when you get home?

Mmm...dodgy Mojito would be nice right now :)


Anonymous said...

Day 3 cont. and hideaway island, sunburn, first snorkelling, first pina colada, big smiles with lots of fishi!

Melisa with one S said...

Augh...this looks amazing.

Thanks for the burger photo: makes me hungry!!! I wanted to bite through the monitor.

What a gorgeous place!

Of course, I think my motherly instincts kicked in because I'm dying to know how you resolved the passport issue. (Obvs you got back into Oz, but I find myself worried anyway. I'm an idiot.)

k a t i e said...

Haha, trust me Big Sis, there are more passport stories to come...but luckily you have to wait until our final day to read about them :)

Sue said...

I'm with Melisa on the motherly issues, as in how did your mother fare the fires? You said they were near her place a few days ago.

Your vacation looks amazing so far, can't wait to hear the rest!

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