2009 – Vanuatu

DigiDrift - Liza with our hire carWhilst lazing on the couch one Sunday morning, Liza came accross a very small add in the paper that seemed very reasonable. It was for a 7 night stay at the Iririki resort situated on a tiny private island in the main harbour at Port Vila , the capital of Vanuatu. Iririki is quite a large resort with many different options for accommodation, with the older part of the island off limits to children, and that suited us fine. The deal was for a 7night stay in a garden fare, and although the fare’s were situated in the older part of the island, they had allot more charm than the newer apartment style accommodation that was recently built on the back side of the island. Our garden fare as the name implies was surrounded by tree’s and tropical plants in a lush area, very close to the pool and restaurant with great views of the harbour. Iririki is a fantastic place, as you feel secluded from the rest of the island, but a short 2 minute ferry across the harbour and your back in downtown Port Vila, with the shops and the market place only a two minute walk from where the ferry docks.

If there is one thing that sticks in my mind from our time in Vanuatu , it was the food. You are absolutely spoilt for choice and although the town of Port Vila is quite small, with a population of just under 40,000, there were numerous options to eat and we did our best to try as many places as we could. We ate at a different restaurant every night, and also had lunch at a few restaurants as well. We ate everything from local seafood to a Sri Lankin curry, but there is one meal that stood out for me and that was an eye fillet steak. Now believe me when I say I was dubious when I overheard two people talking by the pool in the resort, conversing to each other about this restaurant and how good the steak was. I mentioned it to Liza and she seemed keen, so that night we took the ferry across the bay and made our way to the what I have now leart is the infamous ‘Flaming Bull Steakhouse’. Flaming Bulls, was a short walk from the ferry dock on the northern end of town. We had a little trouble trying to locate it, as it was dark and we were looking for a more upmarket establishment due to the rave reviews, but there it was sitting in a dimly lit corner opposite an empty car park. Liza tried the fillet minion and I went for the more stock standard eye fillet on mash.

Believe me when I tell you that this was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten (and I love my steak), top five or quite possibly the best. It was cooked to perfection and just melted in your mouth.

It’s hard to believe that you could find beef so good on such a small island in the south pacific. The cowes are grazed in open coconut plantations and are farmed with Australian and New Zealand methods to create the quality meat that is served night after night at the restaurant. The government also run’s a small export company for their product but I am yet to see it on a menu in Australia.

After 4 days of lazing around the pool and eating some great food it was time to do a bit of exploring, so we hired a car a couple of days and took off around the island for the day to see what we could find. Whilst walking to the hire car depot I spotted a blue land cruiser that I recognised, it was from a swiss couple who are the king and queen of overland travel. Their names are Emil and Liliana Schmid, and they are in the Guinness Book of records for the longest driven journey. They have been traveling the world in their 1984 Land Cruiser since 1984 and have clocked up more than 600,000km driving through over 150 countries. I have been reading about this couple for years, and for the rest of my time in Vanuatu I was on the look out for them, but no luck. I would have loved to have caught up with this couple as there would be no end to the information they could provide on travel destinations around the world and the stories they would have would just be mind boggling.

We hired a small Suzuki 4WD from an informative lady at the hire car depot. She gave us a small map of the island and penciled in all the places to visit whilst touring Efate for the day. Efate is Vanuatu’s third largest island, with most of the country’s population living in the capital. Once you get out of Port Vila, life begins to slow down dramatically. There are very few store’s as the locals are mainly substance farmers living off the land. The coast line of the north side of the island is either dotted with rough coral outcrops or mangroves and there were a few small sandy beaches, although some of the best spots have been bought and they were now on private property, although you can swim at some places if you pay a small fee. We did manage to get the car down to one of the beaches a go for a bit of a drive close to the waters edge, dodging and weaving our way through the scrub. We stopped for lunch at the Beachcomber Resort (don’t let the name fool you, it was nothing more than a couple of fares and restaurant), and I took a swim in the  hot mineral pool right on the waters edge, whilst Liza laid out in the sun to work on her tan.

After leaving Beachcomber, we started to make our way back to Port Vila and came across a very odd site indeed. It was like something from a cartoon, there was a massive rock that must have been over 30 feet high sitting directly in the middle of the road. We both looked in amazement trying to work out how it made it’s way to be there. A quick glance to the right made this apparent. You could see a trail of destruction from where this massive boulder had dislodged itself from the mountain side. As it made its way down it had crushed everything in its path, coming to a complete halt directly in the middle of the main road that circles the island. There were local workman with an old excavator and jack hammers, slowly breaking the rock it to smaller pieces so it could be taken away. It was quite a funny and bizarre moment, and I am now kicking myself that I didn’t get a photo of it.

When we booked the hire car, the lady that completed our paperwork was an expat Australian, who had been living in Vanuatu for a number of years. She told us that on our return we must visit ‘Tamanu on the Beach’, and try and make it for lunch. As we had already had lunch a an hour or so earlier, we decided to stop in for a drink. I am not quite sure how to describe Tamanu. I suppose its like a small beach resort, with 5 very well presented colonial style cottages on a secluded beach area, only 30 minutes drive from Port Vila. We parked the car and made our way to the bar, and ordered our drinks. The day’s driving had been long, even though the island was small, and relaxing in the afternoon sun, sipping on a Vodaka was a perfect way to finish it. After downing our drinks, we checked the menu and thought that it would be a perfect spot to come back to in the evening for dinner, as we still had the car until morning. We booked our table and did return later that night for a delightful seafood dinner, with great service as well. If you find yourself in Vanuatu for any length of time, I would highly recommend dinning here, and although we never stayed overnight, I am sure it would be a great place to stay as well.

Our last couple of days in Vanuatu were fairly uneventful. Liza, wandered around town for a spot of shopping while i made my way down to the local port to try and get some interesting photo’s. I always find that in the port area’s they are always full of hustle and bustle and you can get some great photo’s anytime of the day as people go about loading ships and cargo vessels.

There was also a bit of drama in town whilst we were there. The local prison was burnt to the ground during a riot and all 63 maximum security inmates were on the loose.

I think most of them were caught by that afternoon, but a few were still on the run a couple of days later. Liza and I discussed the possibilities of a conspiracy theory, as there was what we believe to be an unmarked Australian Military ship in the harbour. The ship had been anchored in the harbour all week, with plain clothed people going to and from all day in small run about boats. Maybe they had something to do with it?

Although this trip was more of a holiday than an epic travel adventure, it is great to get away even if its just for a week like this trip. Vanuatu has so much more to offer than Efate and we only scratched the service but our time here was very enjoyable and the local people were very friendly. If and when we ever return I think we would like to make our way to some of the outer island provinces of the country. Whilst we were there we tried to book a flight to the island of Tanna, to visit it’s famous volcano on Mt Yasur. The flights were booked solid due to the holiday season, so we had to save this one for another day. Oh yeah, did I mention how great the food was……….

Places Visited Map



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