I left Luganville today and headed to Malekula. Malekula is one of the largest islands in Vanuatu, but the least populated. The plane getting here held around 20 people, and the pilot asked people to move around to keep the plane's weight even. At check-in you had to be weighed so there would be enough fuel for the flight. It was a quick 15-minute flight, but I could the wind pushing the back of the plane sideways and the landing was very scary.
While I’m in Malekula, I am staying in 3 different bungalows. The first one is in the most urban setting. I have a bungalow to myself, with an en-suite outside bathroom! Breakfast is included, and dinner is an addition for VUV$600-800 or £4-5.30.
On arrival, I met Joel, one of the guys I meet whilst doing some research. He says the food's good – so I’m looking forward to that. In the afternoon we head to a Kava bar – 2 “shots” of Kava later and I still don’t understand why people do it.
I had a terrible night sleep but woke up early for a 7 am breakfast. I had a meeting with the Norsup Campus University of South Pacific Co-ordinator. Norsup is a short 10-minute ride on public transport. The campus itself is a small brick building, which must only be about 20 m by 10 m. Inside holds 2 lecture rooms, a computer room and a library.
The meeting is productive and he says that it can find students to get together and talk to me he will email me. I head back to Lakatora to see if I can meet the Disaster Risk Officer I had been in communication with prior to my visit. He was out, and apparently was helping relief aid somewhere else.
I managed to stop in at the Ministry of Agriculture, but unfortunately, due to a meeting in Norsup, many of the other ministries were unavailable.
I managed to get a more relaxed start to the day, I emailed the Disaster Risk Officer the previous day, but I still have not got a reply – I hope by the end of the day I will have a meeting set up with him. As I wait for people to arrive in their offices, I watch a helicopter load up equipment and take it to the nearby ridge – where I assume a telecoms station is. They are also relaying the road today – a huge amount of rock is put on the surface of the road, and then a roller runs over the top, men follow behind filling in the potholes more. Now the potholes are only a few cm deep instead of a couple of inches the driver race down the road.
I wonder to the Disaster Management office, but he is not in. The tourism company is next door though and I head in. I want to book a few cultural tours whilst I am here. I am told that as I am a single traveler, I would have to pay for 2 people – double the price. This I cannot afford and it had taken about 10 minutes of going around the circles for them to finally understand I wanted to look at prices and what tours I could do.
After this disappointment, I head to the Ministry offices again – still, no one is in – apparently more meetings.
I have been feeling unwell all day, so I head back to my bungalow for a rest and a nap. I’m just hoping it is not dengue fever!
Day 48 to Day 51
The next 3 days I spent in a bungalow called Dram-Dram. It was a 45-minute drive west from Lakatora and was situated on a volcanic black sand beach. The hosts were really friendly and the food was delicious. Each day Chinese workers who were building the road came for lunch. On the second day, some of the workers and I ventured an hour into the jungle to a waterfall – the hike was eventful and we spent much of the time wading through water or climbing over boulders. After, the Chinese workers invited me to join them for lunch. It was a feast! Pork, Chicken, Beef, Crab, Prawns, 2 types of fish, rice, cucumber and beer. It was delicious. I also went to see a cannibal site – the skull and bones of a New Zealand man who had been eaten not long after the first explorers had arrived.
Day 51 to Day 55
After a few days on the mainland, it was time to travel to an island. The bungalow was located just off the coast from Lakatora and was located in a conservation area. When I arrived I learned that the conservation area was set up and maintained by the bungalow owners. It was not enforced by law, but the village community knew that fishing was prohibited in a certain coastal region. The conservation area was set up as fish used the region to breed and raise their young. Without the conservation zone, the fish stocks would be depleted and not replenished. It was also an area where leatherback turtles came each year to nest. An important site for the local wildlife. There was also a VUV$10,000 fine for trespassing!
The bungalow was a little too isolated for me – the village was a 30-minute walk away and I could not walk around it easily.