Day 271 of 400: Vila – Vanuatu, South Pacific

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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.

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