Espiritu Santo – Part 10

Espiritu Santo – Part 10


The Santo Story

Our love for Vanuatu is incredible, the people and culture and the pure essence of happiness. This is our raw honest  and humble experience of over 3 years of owning land in the tropical Pacific Island of Espiritu Santo

Prologue– 123456789 – 101112 –13Epilogue


Kitchen Renovation

I have to figure out a better way to secure the tarp over the kitchen. Last night the wind got up again and blew all night. Apparently it to do with the el nenio weather pattern. This year it’s extremely windy and dry and prediction are that Espititu Santo we’ll get no rains until March 2016 ( that’s 5 months from now). Chris our neighbour said the wind come each year but usually are over by now. Nevertheless I’ve got to do something, the noise of the tarp kept me awake hall the night.

Simion said he’ll drop by with a couple of fresh coconuts this morning. I hope that the yoghurts we bought are still good as it’s a fruit salad breakfast this morning.

While Moses concentrates on gutting the grass and making our track, today it’s my job to burn all the grass piled up along the path. Moses is so determined to get the path done before we go, he’s working like a man possessed.

Getting organised takes a little longer this morning as we make the decision that the only way to secure the tarp is to move the kitchen to a more  sheltered position. The hardest part of moving is getting Elena on side as everything needs to be perfect, the chances of finding level ground to place everything is like striking gold an only adds to the frustration.

Relocated and rebuilt, the kitchen is out of the wind.

Finally with the move completed we setting down to yogurts and fruit for breakfast. I’m almost finished when an old friend wanders throughout the bush with Moses. Torquil’s  the guy who first showed us the land and has been following our progress ever since.. He lives on his own island not far from our place ( yes, his own island ).

We talk about our goals and ambitions for our land and explain why our path is narrow. Torquil reckons you could get a small car down the track, but not his 6.1lL monster. I would really like to see his island, but like so many places here we just have to leave them until next time. We want to wait until the have friends here with us to experience all that Espiritu Santo has to offer, and after all we have a lifetime to explore this island.

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The Rock edging is looking good, this is the beginning of our path to the beach
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Burning off the grass along the jungle path

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Moses has blazed a trail throughout the bush as I walk  Torquil to the road. With fond farewells and promises to keep in touch I wander back to start on my days task. I never made it to Burning Man, but today I’m gonna be one. The track is littered with coconut shells and one continuous pile of grass. Today’s gonna get a little smokey as I find a dry palm frond to place on the ground and gather a few pieces of dried wood to get the fires started. It’s not long before several fires are raging along the path. The smoke is white and billows up through the trees  blocking out the mid morning sun. It’s dry, hot, sticky and humid, I don’t know where Moses gets his energy, maybe it’s because I’m the boss and he’s working next to me today. It’s a hum idling feeling when he refers to me as boss. I’m getting to be ok with it, but it’s still weird.

As I return with the wood, the fires self ignited with  the heat from the fire the night before and is well under blaze. Elena’s got dinner on the go, pasta and mushroom with local island broccoli. I’d love a beer but I’m fearful that I have four bottles left and 8 days to go, I don’t think Elena will let me do a bottle store run to town.

By 2 pm I’ve had enough and go for lunch and a swim, I haven’t been in the ocean for a couple of days now and I’m starting to smell a little funky, who needs a shower everyday? This smell is human… Get used to it baby…… Baby?

Why you standing so far away?

Oh you’re trying to stand up wind.

Moses reckons that by tomorrow night he will reach camp with the path and on Monday his friend will be coming to help clear the grounds from the camp to the Rock Garden. Elena’s made a list of tasks for Moses to do once we have left. There should be enough work to keep Moses busy until the end of the year, then we can keep home on doing casual maintenance work. I really don’t want to loose him, he’s a great and considerate guy.

I go to get firewood from Yens place next door as he’s got huge plies of pre cut timber in piles ready for burning. Yens is there taking one last look as he’s flying back to Germany tomorrow. His plan is to return in January for a month with some of his family, so if we can get a 3 day weekend in January we’ll come back. Here’s hoping as our holidays are pretty much used up for this epic journey., February next year is booked for Tasmania.


Wind and rain is what Espiritu Santo is serving for breakfast this morning. We had a lot of showers during the night, initially when we had rain and I would wonder if the tent would hold up and all the fears of a first time camper kicked in, now I just don’t care, I’m warm in bed and as long as I’m dry to hell with the rest of the camp.

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My first time opening a coconut and I kept all my fingers!

Dodging the rain I managed to make a cup of coffee and took my first attempt at opening a fresh coconut left by Simion yesterday. The outer skin is hard and take a bit of effort. I made sure that I watched Simion carefully the day before so I knew where to cut and preferably not my fingers.

I had a call last night from Andrew and Theresa (friends  of Torquil) who live on an island off the coast from Velit Bay. It seems they have a container for sale and it’s just up the road located at Turtle Bay. It may be what we’re looking for so I’m going to see if I can borrow Bruno’s motorbike and go take a look at it . That is when the rain shower stops. I’ve retreated back into the tent with coffee, coconut juice and crackers.

No sooner that I settle in and get into moving all the photos to the laptop from all devices do I notice that it’s now,
sunny outside and the heat in the tent is increasing. It’s getting stuffy and the humidity is climbing. I’m frustrated because I’ve not taken the time to really understand the functions of the apple notebook and moving photos is proving more difficult that I initially imagined. Hot and bothered and with all devices fast running out of battery life only adds to my now somber mood.

I head for the beach, is strange how even the roughness of the waves at low tide can flatten the resentment I have for Steve Jobs right now, damn you Steve, why couldn’t your devices be more like Windows?

We’ve gone from collecting clam shells to collecting smaller more interesting shells. Now the new game is finding glass. Yup small trinkets of brown, green and opaque gold that washes in with the tide. Beach piece is like a treasured possession. The morning disappears as we while away fossicking for our fools gold. We check on our bubbling underground aquifers on the low tide mark and taste the purity of the water. This is the only place in the world I’ve ever drunk water right off the beach.

Lunch is light, fruit and crackers before we set off down our newly built path to go visit Bruno and Jocylene.  The walk up the road is not as warm as days gone by. Previously I’d be working up a sweat I the midday sun but the weather events oft helots week have seen the mercury drop to the mid twenties. Everyone can’t wait until the winds stop, they’re usually from July to August but they’re still here!

Makita is quiet today, she’s not her jumping playful self, yet she still rolls over for a tummy rub. She’s still a pup but will make a beautiful natured guard dog in years to come. Bruno and Jocelyne are just finishing lunch and ask if we have eaten, which we have.

The windows for the kitchen have arrived and Bruno is real excited about fitting them this afternoon while I borrow his motorbike and go heck out Andrew and Theresa’s container. Bruno and Jocelyne have been living in stage 1 of their bungalow style house for just over 2 months and are still waiting for the windows and doors to arrive. This is Santo, you have to wait and wait and wait…. Bruno e plains. The style of windows he’s installing were not their first choice but given the length of time he cancelled the original order and went with an aluminium option, simply to get them fitted before the wet season starts.

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It’s close, but the price is still a little high compared to what we can get via Australia. The deal with Wayne from C.O.P.S is the best shot I’ve got of getting a container.

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Looking over Andrew and Theresa’s container have us hope in finding a container that may suit. I’m still concerned about the rust around the door. It’s in better condition than Wally’s that we saw in Luganville. However it is more expensive that the option we got from Wayne the importer we saw a couple of days ago. The upside is we can see what we’re buying, the downside is it’s more expensive and when the budget is everything what have to weigh up all the factors. The fact is that Wayne’s container is a last voyage container and I’m factoring that the to be seaworthy it’s still got to have less rust around the door. I’m gonna stick with my gut instinct and go through Wayne.

Bruno’s little motorbike is great, although way underpowered to what I’m used to its still a great opportunity to get on a bike. I can’t wait to get a quad bike or beach buggy for the island, oh well all good things and that…

Stocking up and refilling the water bottles we ask again about the technical side of the water pump system. We want to make sure that the pump is not working overtime and will only pump water once the pressurised cylinder is below 100Ltrs. Bruno assures me that the system works the way I had interpreted his explanation, this system will save me havering to build a water tower and rely on a gravity fed system. My only worry is if we’re totally reliant on solar what happens in long periods of inclement weather? I guess that what the generator is for. I’m still in shock at the cost for good quality deep cycle batteries. But sooner or later we have to bite the bullet and break out the wallet.

I’m borrowing Bruno’s pick axe to create a level ground for the form work and footings for our container. After a long discussion about mixing ratios of sand, cement and rocks I think I’ve come up with a better solution that using the form that Christof has built. Torquil mentioned using buckets and looking at the large one we bought for carrying water and coral for our path I recon if come up with an ingenious plan.

Using sticks, string, 6 buckets, sand, cement, rock and a spirit level I believe that I can use the buckets as my forms and just pour the cement mix into them. If I mix the sand, cement and rocks on a tarp and then shovel the mix into the buckets that have been set to a level height using the sticks, string and spirit level I’d should work….. Well, that the plan. I’m gonna head to town tomorrow morning to gather supplies. I’ve got 5 days to get this right.

Dinners a mixture of baby tomatoes, cucumber and onion with dressing. Add in a can of good ol John West Tuna and a packed of instant mashed potato and we’re full…. Still, always room for a local Tusker Beer before one last stroll down to the beach in search of any new fools gold.

It’s twilight as we walk back to camp, a quick hunt for bears before turning in at 6pm… Yup it’s sundown, sun up is 5am…


It’s true, too much coffee and beer before bedtime means a few walks in the woods at night. It’s been almost a month since sitting on a toilet. Squatting is supposed to be better for your body they tell me, yeah right tell that to the guy with knee surgery.

It’s not the squatting that really bothers me, nor the digging a hole and lining yourself up to score the perfect touchdown. What bothers me is the way our so called creator designed males parts to be facing forwards when in this ridiculous position. How on earth do you aim down and avoid creating a wet patch to the back of your shorts? Please tell me…

The fireflies are all out laughing at me. Trying to aim the old fella in a downward direction with one hand and the other trying to keep me from falling over, and more importantly avoiding putting my hand in the hole or on a freshly chopped log.

Ahh the joys of camping. And you wondered what made the forest smell so fresh.

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Only thing to do in Santo – “Chill”

I wake this morning and it looks like one foot has visited an Indian tattoo parlour. I must have spilt coffee on it last night and now my right foot is peppered with little brown spots. I guess my bath in the ocean before getting ready for town will fit the problem. Elena’s threatening to hang my sleeping bag outside, something about smelling like a homeless guy. Maybe it’s got something to do with my adventure into the woods, if man evolved from apes well I’m a totally different species, according to the smell from my armpits I evolved from a bat colony.

Our trip to town was not for any vegetarian. In Espiritu Santo any vehicle with a “T” on the number plate is a taxi, than includes small Toyota pick up trucks. So heading down the road towards us is a black Toyota double cab.

All the seats are taken and there are already two people in the back.

We climb on board to be greeted by a freshly butchered cow heading to town to be processed by a local butcher.

It makes for an interesting ride to town this morning and local stare when we disembark outside LCM Supermarket in the middle of town.

Our quick tour of the supermarket finds us 6 large plastic washing containers that we’ll use to pour concrete in for our footings for the container. Marie and Lois are also in the supermarket and we mention we’re heading to their place to offload and quickly check the internet. We beat them back to their place and the internet isn’t working.

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Our little home away form home in Luganville. Elena catches up on the internet.
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If you’re coming to Espiritu Santo and went to meet a local family run motel with beautiful hosts, you need to book with Marie and Lois.

We return to Hibiscus to collect our stowed items from shopping and Elena decides to head to the markets for some fresh fruit and vegetables for the next few nights. I carry on uploading our stories and catching up with friends online.

There’s a couple sitting on another table wondering what to do this afternoon in Santo. They just arrived last night from Port Vila. I explain a few places and then Marie arrives to fill in the blanks. It’s difficult to find them something for just a few hours as most of the trips are day trips or the boats for other island have already left. Elena’s back with our supplies and joins the group. Elena just blurts out, why not come over to our place for a swim and see what we’re building, then on the way back stop in at Lope Lope Lodge for dinner. Their plans are now set and Marie organises a taxi for Margaret, Dave and ourselves.

Margaret is genuinely surprised at the beauty of our jungle as meander down the path toward our campsite. We explain our plans the the girls decide we should be on a TV program they both watch called Grand Designs. My thoughts are Grand Design with a tight and limited budget. Everything we do here is paid for in cash, nothing on this project will be done with borrowed money. I don’t see the point in borrowing money anymore. You only have to pay it back with interest, that means working longer and our goal is to free ourselves from doing that.

Getting changed we head to the deck, the tide is fully in and the waves are crashing in. Diving in it’s like a washing machine. Dave’s the next one in followed by Margaret. Elena’s opting out of taking a dip as she managed to have a good long hot shower at Marie’s and is just enjoying being clean. As for me the beard is growing, I haven’t shaved since I don’t know when, I’m taking a bath with two people I’ve just met, I’m in my element.

We return to camp for tea, coffee and biscuits and chat until the sun is lowering into the tree line signalling the end to another day. Dave and Margaret head for Hibiscus and decide not to stop at Lope Lope. We wave down a truck loaded with workers and bananas and help them aboard. With emails swapped and promises that if we’re in Newcastle to look them up we bid them a fond farewell.

Now because we went to town today, is STEAK NIGHT AGAIN. Going to town means no more tinned tuna and vegetarian dishes. Santo Steak is awesome and the only drink to add is a Tusker Beer.

The wind is fanning the embers on the fire as we stare into it for a while before turning in for the night

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Got to learn to wash my feet before bed time!

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