Today, we arrived at a nice mid morning time of 10AM. We stepped off of the boat and found ourselves in Vila…the capital of Vanuatu. There were many local vendors lined up selling all kinds of stuff…dresses, necklaces, carved wooden trinkets etc. There were cab drivers and private tour drivers bombarding us to offer us a tour/ride. After some negotiations, we found a driver who agreed to take us and 6 others in his mini hippie style van to the cascading waterfalls, then to an area for swimming and then a drive through town and a stop at the kava bar.
It was super hot and sticky outside and the bus did not have air-conditioning but we opened the windows and set out for the waterfalls which this island was known for. The drive was about 40 minutes before we pulled into a driveway. We all agreed to meet back at the car in about an hour. We paid our entrance fee, walked by a little lake and cafe and then were in the trails leading to the waterfall. The forest was beautiful with exotic birds singing loudly and lush green trees around us. We walked the well-defined path past the huge bright flowers until we saw a small body of water…we took a picture and kept walking uphill.
About 20 minutes later, we saw the huge waterfall which was flowing down into several pools of water. We put our bags to the side, stripped down to our bathing suits and ventured in. The water was a bit chilly but nice after hiking in the humidity. We had fun climbing the waterfall for pictures and sitting with the water splashing down on us. We were careful as the rocky floor was slippery. Once we cooled off, we dried back off, grabbed our things and walked back through the trails.
Back out in the parking lot, we found our driver and waited for the 2 others in our group whom were lagging behind. While we anxiously waited to get going to our next location…the whole ground started shaking. It only lasted about 10 seconds but the earthquake definitely surprised us. This particular island is the most active volcanic island in the region.
The other couple finally arrived and we all jumped in the bus. Along the way, we stopped on the side of the road where a couple local women were selling lap lap for $1 each. Curious to taste their local cuisine, we bought a couple. The food came warm from being cooked in the ground with hot stones and wrapped in taro leaves. Once the leaves were unwrapped, it revealed a yellow colored thick soft starch-like consistency. Inside the starch was shredded pork and veggies with some spices. It wasn’t bad…actually kinda good…very filling.
The rest of the group was tired from the waterfall hike so they just wanted to go shopping in town…Giff and I wanted to go kayaking. The driver pulled into a parking lot by the sea and told us he would pick us up in 2 hours. Giff and I walked to the end of the wooden dock and a little mini ferry-boat had us jump in. It took us 10 minutes over to an island called Hideaway which was full of palm trees and coconuts.
Once we arrived, we paid an island fee of $10 each and then saw there was one small area with a bar and lounge chairs. Instead of sand the beach was 100% coral…not so great for the feet. We rented kayaks for an hour which was nice and relaxing as we paddled around the super small island between snorkelers and around rocks in the water. Giff was having a few issues…instead of a small single kayak like I was in, he decided to use a glass bottom kayak. It was built a bit slimmer than a typical kayak and when you put a big guy in a skinny boat…well, he flipped over at least 5 times. He will of course blame the kayak…it was a good thing I was holding the camera!
After our kayaking excursion, we laid on one of the lounge chairs with a beer and enjoyed the scenery for a bit. Time flew by and we needed to catch a ferry back in order to meet our driver. Thankfully he was there to get us, so we jumped in and drove back through town to get the other people from our group. As we were getting closer to our port…the driver asked if we wanted to try kava. We of course said yes and he pulled onto a random back road and parked outside an open-air building. We all looked at each other, hesitating to walk into what was being called a kava bar but looked a bit “dicey”. There were random people sitting outside at picnic tables watching us as we walked in. The women at the counter had a big pot of what looked like mud water. She didn’t speak English but after the driver translated the price we all paid a few coins and were handed a bowl (made from a coconut shell) of brown water. Before she scooped the liquid into the bowl, she used a big spoon to stir it..
Kava is a plant used in the Pacific islands…it supposedly relaxes you and eases anxiety but also keeping you “clear-headed” there are not supposed to be any hangover side effects. They basically take the root and pound it into a powder…then add water, stir and drink. Many families drink it at the end of the day. We all looked at each other as we were holding bowls and then took our first sip. Two things were going on in our minds, 1) Most likely they are not using bottled water based on the looks of this place and 2) what the heck will this natural plant do to our senses? It tasted very earthy and had a numbing effect in our mouth. Two of the guys in the group took the drink as a shot but Giff and I kind of chickened out just tasting enough to know what the drink was all about.
After our random drink, we all piled back into the van and got ourselves back to the cruise ship to unwind and eat dinner.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
View all posts by Brandey Kabat