Espiritu Santo – Part 11

Espiritu Santo – Part 11

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

Concrete Plans

Today I’m on a mission. I have to set and level our concrete moulds for the footings that will be under our container. So it’s ready, set, string lines and levels today. Our sand and cement will arrive tomorrow and we leave on Thursday so it’s now all systems go to get this done.

It looks like a laundry tub right, well wait till you see what we do with them.

Taking all the tools to the front of the property involves two trips up the path, as we have no wheelbarrow, everything we do is by brute strength and the blind determination to complete the task. It. Was the same when building the coral path in earlier weeks. We look at things now as they just have to be done. We don’t think how long, we don’t worry about who does what, we’ve got past the who’s in charge. We just get it done, we no longer can afford the luxury of time. Time is now our enemy, a consumer of thoughts and dreams. Time is something if not spent wisely then it becomes our debt.

We needed to get the exact dimensions of a 20 ft container and knowing that our nearest neighbours on our Northern boundary (Chris and Sue) have a container we make for their place with our tape measures. Chris and

Sue are away on holiday and have asked us to drop by anytime if we would like a hot shower. It’s awfully tempting, but those thoughts have to be stowed away. Their two huge dogs come bounding out to meet us, they’re not sure as we’ve only met them once before, I drop to the ground and try to get them closer, they run right past me and go straight to Elena. It takes then a while to settle as we measure the container and then measure the concrete footings Chris has built ready to have the container lifted in place in the next few weeks. We’re so fortunate to be able to measure both the container and footings separately.

All done and with the dogs now settling to our presence we take them down the steps to the beach and spend a little time with them playing in the sand as the tide slowly continues to recede. They’re big and the youngest is so boisterous and full of energy. But as we really need to get on,we walk up to the first gate with the dogs in tow.

Closing the gate and walking the long drive past the massive Banyan trees we look back at the two of them standing at the gate. They look so sad, now they have no one to play with, but we just have to go.

I cut down some wild kava stems and make short spears to hammer into the ground. We tie off our string lines and set our spirit levels. With a little swinging of Bruno’s borrowed pick axe I loosen the ground and level the plastic containers we’ll be using to form our concrete foundations. Levelling the containers is easy, the harder part is ensuring that our foundations are square and the each foundation stone will be level with each other. More string lines are set, more levelling is done, but in a matter of an hour we (the two novice builders)  have set our foundation heights, cross checked our measurements and prepared our site for the sand and cement that will be delivered tomorrow.


Returning to camp I find a board left over from our neighbours building and take to painting a sign for the front of the property. “No Trespassing Private Property”. It’s not a sign that I really want to put up at the front of our place but give that some locals wandered onto Yens place and lit a fire inside a huge old tree for a BBQ, I really don’t want the same fate to happen to any of our trees. These trees can take hundreds of years to grow and destroyed so someone can have a BBQ? No way!

Lets hope it deters people from just wandering onto the property.

We don’t have a fence on the front of the property and we have no time now to build one, hopefully our sign and having Moses continuer to work on our property after we’ve gone will act as a deterrent. We haven’t got the container yet so any vandalism would be limited to plant life. Here’s hoping for nothing to happen.

The afternoon sees us remove the hammock, the winds have finally frayed the ropes and it’s pointless resetting the thing if we’ll be pulling it down in a couple of days from now. Elena’s disappointed and wished it could have lasted another few days.

We take to lounging on our neighbours deck watching the waves. The sea is a little calmer than yesterday, but it’s still windy. A light shower sees us retreat back to camp for a little movie watching on the laptop while Elena reads books on her Kindle.

Lighting camp fires is now easy as I’ve become an expert in finding palm fronds as kindling and scavenging the forest for twigs. Yens has plenty of logs to keep the fire burning and smouldering through to the small hours. Although the wind does chew through the firewood quickly.

It’s another day done here in Santo….. Signing off….

This morning sees another first, my first headache while on holiday.

These headaches are killers and even though  I’ve seen doctors and had a brain scan nothing has eventuated that has resolved the problem. When they come they come with no warning and can stay for an hour, a day or even a couple of days. Hopefully the two tables on an empty stomach will take care of it. I don’t need a headache with so much to do in the next few days.

Simion is dropping by this morning with a couple of fresh coconuts, he was as camp last night as he’d been over to Chris and Sues to feed the dogs. Pets are great and it leads me to thinking about our cat back home.only one problem when traveling and that worrying about your pets back home. Elena and i love house minding and have our own website for those wishing to travel and needing someone to look after their home and pets.

Today the first one to work is the new guy, Damian. He’s very quiet as we explain what we want done. It’s not long before Simon passes through camp and this seems to ease Damian’s nerves. With bush knife in hand he makes quick work of slashing down the baby coconut palms and stacking piles for me to burn. Moses arrives and after a quick site meeting Simoin’s off to work at Chris and Sues, Moses heads off into our jungle to continue working on setting coral rocks on the edge whole I start burning all the grasses and dried undergrowth.

As the day progresses I’m wondering where’s the sand and cement I ordered, I wander up to the front of the property in the vain hope that is alder addy there. I’m kidding. Myself, how would the know the address as there only wrote down Natanara. I call, but the young girls says everyone is at lunch and to call back at 2pm. I go back to burning, frustrated because I really want to start on these footings for under the container today.

I call Santo Earth Works again at 3pm and the phone goes to voicemail. Leaving a message that I hope will be responded to I go for afternoon tea and then here a missed call on my phone. Funny, the reception here is so marginal that all the important calls get missed, yet all the advertising junk messages from Digicel get through. I call Santo Earthworks again and they advise me that the sand is being loaded right now. I remind them to pick up the 3 bags of cement from Santo Hardware and wait at the front to show the truck where to dump the sand.

The great thing about living 15 km from town here is no traffic lights which translates to no traffic congestion. 20 minutes later the truck arrives. He backs in and the younger passenger jumps up on back to unload the cement.  The tipper starts and a huge pile of sand pours out, I look at Elena in shock, “we only ordered 1 cubic metre right?”  She agreed, these guys have just dumped 6 cubic metres!

Way too much sand guys!

The driver realises his mistake and says it’s ok, I thank him they jump in the truck and drive away, I’m now really confused. What am I to do with the extra sand? Even 1 cubic metre is too much for the job I’m doing. Within minutes Kim from Santo Earthworks in calling me explaining the situation. It seems that Chris and Sue also ordered a monday delivery (6 cubic metres) although it got delivered in the morning. Someone in the yard stuffed up the orders. I toldKim come pick is up, I’m not going to use it… No harm done.

Tonight it’s a quick pasta dish before wandering over to Brownies house to swap contact details and as we don’t see much of him to say goodbyes and thank him for introducing Moses to us. Brownie may also have a brush cutter for the boys to use.

His kids are so cute and his son is names Wayne. I’ll call him lil Wayne as he’s only 2 years old.

Waking home in the dark with our head lights on, and hoping to see fireflies,   But sadly none to be seen tonight.

Time for  movie while tucked up in the tent..

This morning sees me up early it’s a full tide and the sun has not risen yet. I wake Elena to join me on our neighbours deck to watch the sunrise and continue writing these entries.

I have to remember to add some extra money to Daniels pay as he broke his bush knife while trying to cut down an orange tree yesterday. He broke it on a task I gave him so I feel it’s right to replace it. I asked Brownie what they’re worth to replace when we visited him last night.

Our goal today is to set the footings for the container, our sand was delivered yesterday along with the cement. We have no concrete mixer so everything that we mix today will be done with a bucket, shovel and our hands. It takes a couple of walks up the path to carry enough water and then two more journeys to gather all the tools that we’ll need.

The race to beat the rain is on as Wayne prepares the Polythene to mix concrete.
The race to beat the rain is on as Wayne prepares the Polythene to mix concrete.

With our large sheet of polythene spread on the ground the cement bag split open we’re into the job. We mix 2 parts sand, 1 part cement in a large plastic bowl that we bought from town. These bowls will be used as our forms for our concrete as we have no time to use the one Christof has. If we used is we would have to wait for each column to set before removing and repeating the process, it’s time we not longer have as we’re breaking camp on Thursday (2 days time).

Elena mixes concrete by hand.

It’s dark and gloomy weather today, and like most tasks on Santo nothing is going to run smoothly when is comes to building anything. The Polythene proves difficult to mix the first concrete mix, as we add the water the polythene settles with the weight and now all the rough surface underneath the polythene is making scooping up the minx the shovel hard. I don’t want to tear the polythene, but if we continue this method, it’s going to rip.


Sheer determination is whats needed to get this task done.
Sheer determination is whats needed to get this task done.

We bought 6 containers as we originally were going to place 6 footings. After looking as Chris and Sues footings for their 20 footer, they are only using 4. As we’re now using one of the containers for water storage we have one container spare. With the problem with the polythene, we decide that we’ll use our spare container for mixing concrete.

The rain pits the concrete, but our task is getting there… Slowly.
The rain pits the concrete, but our task is getting there… Slowly.

This system works fine and it’s not too long before we fill our first footing. Each mix that we make fills about one third of what we’ll need in each footing. It’s now as we fill the second footing that the sky gives in and the first shower starts. I frantically grab the two backs of cement that are still in the bush and place them with the open bag on the polythene and pull the polythene over them. We race to get the mix finished and into the second footing. Grabbing the one empty mixing bowl and one other container we turn them upside-down and cover the work we’ve just completed. Side it’s now raining and we’re going to need more water for the ned mix, we had back to camp to coffee.

With the showers now over for the moment I head to the tap for more water.


We are out of water!  As the power to the pump is not on we’ve reached the limit on the tank.

One day a container will sit here.

Water, water everywhere, in the ocean, can’t use it because it’s too salty,from the sky, but can’t catch it in anything, from the tap, but can’t turn the pump on. The job has gone from hard to harder.

There’s only one thing for it, we’re going to have to go to Bruno and Jocylenes place (1km north) and take our water containers there to fill and bring them back with the wheelbarrow. It’s going to be a long trip and it won’t be easy as Bruno’s wheelbarrow is not in good shape.

Bruno’s asleep and Jocylene is in town with Makita as the vet has come from Port Vila for 3 days to conduct vaccines and operations. Espiritu Santo has not permanent vet, so if your animals are sick you have to sometimes make hard decisions for your loved ones yourself.

Bruno offers us his motorbike ad has an extra water container which makes the job so much faster. I make two runs with water containers strapped to the back of the motorbike before returning and walking back with Elena.

The rain has stopped and we go at great speed to get the last two footings poured with concrete. With the left over mix we pour over a few coral rocks that will eventually be the beginning of the entry from the road. It’s done, finally,a task that should normally take a morning to do has taken us 6 hours of stressful and strenuous work. We’re exhausted as we head to the ocean to remover the concrete dust and to get clean.

Daniel and Moses have been working flat out along the boundary between us and Yens, we here the explosions of the coconuts as they burn in the fire. You do have to be careful, when they go off it’s like a small bomb. The pieces of hot shell fly for several metres and are hot! I tell the guys that we’re going to town tomorrow to buy Daniel a new knife and to get a brush cutter for the grass. I said to Daniel that if he broke his knife on a job I gave him I wailed replace it. Moses, who now is starting to show his sense of humour announced that tomorrow he’ll break his knife too as it’s getting old with a huge grin. I can see me and Moses are gonna work out fine. I bid them farewell for their days efforts.

While working on the concrete a taxi stops and asks us if we’d like to borrow a concrete mixer, we decline as it’s a small job, the guy introduces himself as Roy and knows Moses. He tell us the Moses is a really talented Jazz and Blues Guitarist. The things you learn about people while mixing concrete. I know one day what will make a great present for Moses when all the hard work is done.

Bruno and Jocylene’s pace 1.2km north of our place

As our media devices are with Bruno and Jocylene we drag ourselves up the road once more, exhausted from our days exercise. Jocylene is back and Makita is looking very sad and is in a little discomfort after being desexed today. We’re disappointed as we’d just been talking about one day having a puppy from her as she’s such a beautiful dog. Jocylene pours a lemon juice made from their very own lemons and we discuss the problems they’re facing trying to get an exotic fruit and vegetable orchid started here in Espiritu Santo. Some of the stories are just too full of politics to believe.

As the sun is very low we make preparations to head home. Bruno offers to take each of us on the motorbike which speeds up the process. I go on the second run and offer to load the last bag of cement onto Bruno’s motorbike, as we won’t be needing it anytime soon and he and Jocylene have helped us so much it’s the very least I can offer to them.

Dinner is in the dark an our son decided to call, it’s all bad timing as I’m trying to get a fire going with damp palm leaves and Elena is cooking pasta under the torchlight. Somehow all tasks are completed and we tuck into dinner in science and darkness.

No movies in bed tonight, way too tired. I’m in bed by 7pm. It’s pitch black outside, I can hear the ocean pounding on the beach….

It’s the last sound I hear each day.