Espiritu Santo – Part 12

Espiritu Santo – Part 12

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 –Epilogue

Leaving Camp

Today’s our last full day on our land.

The time has finally caught up with us. Tomorrow we’ll be pack up, but today we need to get into town for a couple more things to keep the boys busy once we’ve left.

The ocean is real calm this morning, in fact it’s the calmest we’ve seen in weeks. It’s time to take a bath as I haven’t had one in a few days. The water is glassy and all the large wave from the previous weeks have gone. Even though the ocean is calm its still a little over cast and the weather looks like rain will come today.

Daniel arrives real early this morning, Elena got quite a shock when he walked into camp at 6.30am as we were having breakfast. He came from the village (1km south) to tell us that he won’t be able to work today as he has to go to court in town, i didn’t as why as its not our place to pry information from our workers. He’ll be back at work tomorrow he informs us.

Going to town wasn’t something we have planned for but with Daniel breaking his bush knife while working on the property it seems we have to make this trip. we’re getting used to grabbing “PT” trucks now and a few of the locals are starting to recognise these crazy white fellas who are camping in the bush.

Heading off to town this morning.

I prefer to take the “PT” trucks, you jump in the back, the winds in your face and i have a sense of freedom that I haven’t experienced since I was a kid. At home now, gone are the days when you can ride in the back of the pick up truck. Our rules and regulations are defined now by the dumbest in society. if someone is dumb enough to do something stupid and hurt themselves then we have to make to rule to protect the dumbest. In Vanuatu, you’re free from all this nonsense. I can cross the road where I like, not on some zebra crossing and be fined for jay walking. I have ears and eyes and know what a car traveling at speed looks like.

as we get closer to town our ride becomes a race against the huge band of rain to the north over Aore Island and heading across the channel to Luganville. We reach the hill above the port and it starts. We’re now getting wet and we’re only 2km from town. We’re stuck behind a small truck with huge sacks taking up all the road. Our driver takes him one the inside and races into town with the horn blazing. We thank him for the ride and pay the 200VT for the journey.

We’re still undecided on getting a brush cutter for Moses as its a lot of money for something that will only be used occasionally at the moment. We check the prices at Santo Hardware and a couple of agricultural places and come to the conclusion that we’ll wait until we’re here before we buy one. Elena suggested asking Bruno and paying him a good rate should we need as he has a brush cutter.

Daniel said to got to LYC store, as this was the best place to get his bush knife. Moses told me its right opposite Wilco Hardware. At first I didn’t see it but once Elena pointed our that LYC was an abbreviation for some long Chinese name i understood. Most of the Chinese stores here have very unimaginative names Chuan, Chang, Wong, Luan, Yuan etc, so the locals just abbreviate the names as it’s easier. for example Luan Chang Yang Store becomes LYC.

LYC has some great prices and i wonder why we didn’t discover this store before. I manage to find the French branded bush knife that it seems all the locals (including my friend Bruno) say is the best to buy. I ask a local Ni Vanuatu guy standing next to me which is the best length blade and he helps me out. The Chinese lady at the counter is speaking perfect Bislama to a colleague then turns her attention to me with perfect english, she wraps the blade and present the change with a butterscotch sweet. Now thats a nice touch!

Elena wants to see Elisabeth at the bank to see whats happening with our account application. I decide to hang around outside as walking into a bank with a 45cm bush knife could be cause for panic. I wait and wait, the rain comes and goes again, i strike up a short conversation with a couple of Ni Vanuatu guys about the weather and how hard it must be for the farmers during this dry season. then Elena finally emerges from the back. Her and Elisabeth have been chatting about the current political situation where 14 ministers in the government have been arrested in bribery and corruption charges. Port Vila is crazy Elizabeth informs Elena our cards for the account are still in Port Vila and we’ll need to go there on Friday to collect them.

The political situation has the locals uncertain and uneasy. the prime minister has been arrested, however the countries president was out of the country during the arrests and it is he who must sign off on the arrest warrants before they can be actioned. There is talk the president will pardon the ministers, leading to thoughts the the President may also be involved, its a very delicate situation, the country currently has no government.

it’s a dry trip home on the “PT” We hear Moses on the far boundary burning coconuts. The explosions from the shells echo through the trees. its lunchtime and with a fresh supply of French bread and tinned sardines we tuck in. it’s now sinking in that tomorrow we’ll be packing up. I don’t want to believe it, part of me says yup I’m ready to go, but a huge part of me wants to stay. Theres a huge amount of work to be done before we can finally make the transition to be based here. I’m giving it another 5 years.

Time has gone so quickly and we still haven’t gone over the the construction site of the new resort. We find Roman working and introduce ourselves, he’s a really decent guy and i can see we’re going to have a great set of neighbours along the Natanara coastline. Roman informs us that the resort will have 16 bungalows, a restaurant and the guys are working on a swimming pool. The goal is to be open late next year, Roman talks about sitting at the bar with a beer. I can’t wait to see Black Pearl Resort open for business.

We need to discuss with Moses what we need him to do after we go. It’s not always easy to explain thinks to Moses and it takes time, but Moses understands that he needs to complete the burning along the boundary fence and continue placing rocks along the path. We can only keep him working for the next two weeks and tomorrow will be Daniels last day. We would love to keep Daniel as well but as Moses has established himself with us I really want to put as much money in his pocket as possible.

Our work hand Moses finds a Red Tooth Crab in the bush

With the rains returning in the evening dinner was had by standing under the tarp in the outdoor kitchen. I did manage to get a fire going and it survived the rain, but as everything to sit on was wet we took the Tusker beer and chips to the tent and tuned into a movie. A work to the wise “The Notebook” is a tear jerker for the ladies.

Today is it, this the day we’ve be dreading for several reasons.

First it’s the packing up of everything that has been part of our lives here for the last three weeks. The tent is one thing but saying our goodbyes to all our friends here is going to be the hardest.

We’re up at sunrise as we are nearly every morning since getting here. Breakfast is now a case of what ever food is left in the plastic containers that’s served about pantry for the last three weeks. It’s the last of the coffee this morning as we bought just enough at LCM yesterday to get us through.

Now it’s Elena who’s grumpy as she works out what’s what and decides where we’ll be storing the gear that we’ll be leaving behind. Some will go to Bruno and Jocelyne and some we’ll take into town and store with Marie and Lois. Both of these great couples have been a godsend for us while we are here.

Camp is looking empty….

Elena’s asked me to take the the first of the loads to Bruno and Jocelyne , a couple of buckets and some of the fruit and vegetables we’ve not eaten. It’s a long walk (1.2km) to their place and with the weight of the buckets there are several stops and exchanging of hands to relieve my aching arms. I’m greeted by Bruno and before asking if i can borrow his motorbike he’s already offering and handing me the keys.

Packing a load of our gear to be stored with our good friends.
Packing a load of our gear to be stored with our good friends.

I’ve borrowed Bruno’s motorbike for the task

Jocelyne calls to us to come into the kitchen all excited as the eggs she found in the bush are finally hatching, two of the six eggs have allredy hatched! We watch and wait in the hope that we can see the third egg hatch. All the shells are broken and as time is short I place my bet on which one will hatch next and race back to get the next load of gear.

It’s a long process, but in our moving of our gear to our neighbours I cross off another first as I get to ride a motorbike down our unfinished track. Dodging small tree stumps, coconut shells and tree roots I can see there’s lots more work to be done on the driveway before we can drive our quad bike down the track.

After ten trips with small loads we are done and we head to Bruno and Jocelyne’s for lunch and final farewell. By the time we leave all the chickens are hatched and establishing their pecking order. Seems the last one born will be at the bottom of the order. Our great neighbours walk us to their front gate accompanies by their cat LouLou and their dog Makita. It a cheerful farewell as we know we’ll be back and that these are friends for many years to come. We walk back to camp and start to take down the tent that’s played as our home for the last three weeks.

Our great friends Bruno and Jocylene’s home (they built everything themselves)
Joycelene loves the new windows… the house is a work in progress, but looks fantastic.
Love the look of a thatched roof

t’s finally done, we’re packed and ready to head up to the gate. We ask Moses and Daniel to help with our bags and pay them for all their work. Moses will stay on for the next couple of weeks and continue with placing rocks on the edge of the path and burning the cut down trees and grasses.

The boys stop a truck for us. And help us load up, Moses and Daniel Shake hands and Moses say it’s now going to be “Sad time working” but we know we’ll be seeing him again. Moses has become a trusted companion and friend. I’m gonna miss him too.

Marie and Lois are home and we’re soon updating them on our adventure. All I want is a shower and bed but we have to go to LCM one more time for our dinner and breakfast supplies (and the last Tusker beer). It’s still early but as we’re now so conditioned to rising and setting with the sun I can hardly keep my eyes open.

With updates on our media sites done, it’s bed…

Tomorrow we’ll be winging our way to Port Vila early in the morning.

Farewell Santo, it’s like leaving home this morning. We’ve been made so welcome during this trip. We’ve met some amazing new friends and been reunited with old ones.

The Devastation of Cyclone Pam still lingers, tiles ripped from the roof of Port Vila’s International Airport
A sign buckles under the winds that passed with Cyclone Pam only 7 months ago.
A sign buckles under the winds that passed with Cyclone Pam only 7 months ago.

Our flight is early (8.50am) so it’s up and away. Elena gives our gear to Marie to store and Marie is happy to wash our clothes and place into our bag. She’s an angel. If you’re ever in Espiritu Santo and want to stay in a place where the hosts become your lifelong friends there’s no best place then theirs. The Hibiscus Attraction Centre is our home in Luganvile and we can’t wait to be back.

Weve just started to feel settled and we are on the move. It’s now we realise that from now until the end of the year we won’t be in one place for more than 5 days as we head off to South America on Monday (3 days from now).

Sitting in the departure lounge ( it’s more like a shed with seats) I’m wondering where the plane is, there’s an announcement but I’m not really listening. Elena mentions all the people who checked in at the same time as us are walking out onto the tarmac to this small twin engined plane. Surely there’s a larger plane going to Port Vila this morning? As Elena asks the two ladies organising the  boarding and indeed this is the plane to Port Vila, a twin engined Otter aircraft, with a mere 18 seats. We can see everything that both the pilot and copilot are doing during the entire flight.

The landing is smooth into a rainy Port Villa and we are left to our own departure of the aircraft , there’s no announcement, the Doris just flung open and you just pile out in some sort of orderly fashion.

Leaving our bags with our friend Sylvie at Ananbrou lodge we head for town for a little look around. It’s been18 months since we were last in Port Vila and we notice the devastation left by cyclone Pam some 7 months prior.

We have to stop in at the bank as we need to collect our ATM cards the Elizabeth has organised for us from Luganville. Yes they’re ready and after a quick test in the ATM we now have an account in Vanuatu.

If there’s one thing we wanted to buy at the markets in Port Vila is raspberries, they don’t grow in Espiritu Santo and they’re in season. We sit on the wharf and devour all of them. They’re a wild variety, nothing like what we get in Brisbane. Apparently they’re similar to a wild variety found in remote parts of Northern Queensland.

If you’re looking for a decent burger in Port Vila try Jill’s Cafe in the centre of town. The Tex Mex is sensational. Washed down with an iced coffee I’m so full I struggle to help Elena with her veil schnitzel burger,but I can’t let good food go to waste. Instead it’s going to my waist.

We walk off lunch as we slowly dawdle back along the waterfront and through a couple of shops before ascending the hill back to Anabru lodge to collect our bags and make for the airport.  Check in is faster here than Luganvile, and in a few moments we’ll be passing through immigration. It will be the end of this saga. The Start Of The Santo Project is now over, but in reality it’s just the beginning of what is yet to come for us on this tropical paradise in the Pacific.

Espiritu Santo is our dream, our home and a place where friendships grow faster than the trees (and they sprout up everywhere here). There’s only a couple of blocks left for sale along our stretch of the beach, a sign of good things to come to Santo. In two years the new cruise terminal will be completed, so we have just one good sound piece of advice…..

Come now, come often and get here before the crowds.

Farewell Vanuatu, until we meet again…..