It was the start of a new adventure today – I flew to Vanuatu! Paul – who I met at Dolphin View was flying on the same flight as me, so we shared a taxi to the airport. We checked in and waiting until 30 minutes before our flight to go through to the departure lounge – there is nothing at Honiara International Airport once through security except 2 very expensive gift shops. As we went through security and immigration, we official “left” the Solomon Islands, we wondered why we were the only 2 people in the departure lounge and why there was no plane. Paul asked a flysolomon working – apparently our flight wasn’t arriving until 4:30 pm! We had to ask immigration if we could re-enter the country and decided to by some more food and drink for the 2 hours wait. No less than 20 minutes are we sat down – I still had half a coffee to go – they called our flight through security. Maybe she meant 3:30 pm, not 4:30 pm? We got through the security, got waved through immigration, got to the departure lounge and there was still no plane! We ended up sitting in the departure lounge for another hour before the plane arrived.
Now I booked through flysolomon and it was a flight delivered by Nauru Air – a company I had never heard off, let alone knew it was a Pacific country. Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting that… At 4km wide and 6km in length, Nauru seemed like a very small country to have an international airline! The flight was 1hr and 50 minutes long and Port Vila was a shortstop before it flew onto Nadi, Fiji. On this short flight, we got given 2 drinks and a hot meal. Paul and I didn’t know whether it was actually good food, or we had both gotten used to noodles and tuna in the Solomon Islands. But the food tasted amazing – beef quesadilla, a bread roll and chocolate cake! It was more than what I had received from Virgin Australia when I flew to the Solomon Islands.
I arrived and was very easily and quickly transported to my motel. A motel full of expats and tourists. A world away from the Solomon Islands.
Today I explored Port Vila and what a change from Honiara! The seafront is very touristy – there are cafes, parks and tourist attractions advertised everywhere. I grabbed some cash, got a coffee and hooked onto the Wi-Fi and tried to organise collecting my research permit. While I waited for a reply about my permit, I decided to explore this new city. There are hundreds of activities being advertised, huge resort hotels and many shops and cafes.
Not knowing the good, cheap eats yet, I sat having a KFC chicken style lunch. Here I met 2 missionaries who are here from America. We had a long conversation and they said they wanted to take me to Hideaway Resort tomorrow! We agreed a meeting time and place and went our separate ways.
Later in the afternoon, I walked through the rain to get to the cultural centre – sign my research permit and figure out payment.
I set off at 8:30 am to meet the Missionaries for our morning on Hideaway Island. Normally, the fee is VUV$1250 for the day, approximately £8.30, but residents don’t have to pay. As the missionaries had residency, they got in for free and got me in as their guest. Due to it not being their day off, they did not snorkel, instead, the Sister collected shells and the Elda worked on his laptop. I went for a snorkel, saw the underwater post office and many fish. After the snorkel, we got the boat back to the mainland, visited a few families the missionaries needed to visit and then off to the French bakery. I mentioned that I wanted to try it and as it was on our way home they stopped off and after a lot of arguing they brought me some pastries – they were delicious! I wanted to buy them something for giving me such a lovely day, but they kept saying that “sometimes its nice to do things for free”.
In the afternoon, I headed into town and explore some more, trying to get some answers about my research permit. I wandered into a locally produced chocolate shop – the worker talked me through the process and gave me little bar for free – normally VUV$500, around £3.50!
When I was walking around town I noticed a poster advertising a climate change finance tradeshow happening on tomorrow. I booked myself in, not being too sure whether I was allowed to attend.
I was unsure whether I would be allowed into the trade show – it was meant to be for the private sector, but they were more than happy for me to turn up. I spent a few hours making notes about the private and public sectors and entities. It was interesting, and I stuffed my face with their free lunch, including a lot of banana bread! I got a lot of documents and interesting companies to look up from the event.
This morning I noticed a lot of police at the seafront, all preparing for Prince Charles visit on Saturday. It was interesting to watch them practice the manoeuvres and do the walkthrough of where people would walk and greet him.
For lunch I decided to try the market food – it’s a busy, hot environment, where the locals sit, eat and talk on lunch. For VUV$400, around £2.6, I got marinated steak, rice and salad. It was delicious, I can’t wait to eat more in Luganville.
Today I left for Luganville, a short 45-minute flight from Port Vila. Unfortunately, Prince Charles arrives at the handicraft market at 3 pm, and my flight is 4 pm! I miss him, but I get to see the Australia RAF plane he flew on at the airport.
A quick flight and transfer later and I am at my hotel.