Oh Vanuatu, how I “Vanuatu-leave” this place.
I know it’s quite a stretch of a pun, but my blogpost title is meant to be read out loud!
Let’s begin. After 2 days in The Solomon Islands, we headed boarded a 3:05pm flight out for Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
From the airport we hailed buses to take us to Mele Road. If you’re curious on how public transportation works here, you’ll need to flag down a bus marked by a red letter “B” on its license plate (it works like glorified hitchhiking) and direct it to where you want to go for a base fare of 150vt.
From Mele Road we took the 5 minute ferry that runs 24/7 to Hideaway Island Resort on Imere Island, the ancestral home of the Mele people.
True paradise — we finally checked into our first beach bungalows of the trip!
Just in time for sunset:
And this is what it looks like when I step outside my bungalow:
After freshening up for an hour and meeting up with my college friend Ana who had arrived here a few hours earlier, my longtime monsooner Melissa Weinmann took over as our local guide in Port Vila. I had promised her 2 years ago I would visit in Vanuatu when she joined the Peace Corps here — Promise has been fulfilled!
At 7pm we headed back to the mainland for our first taste at kava: a local plant in the Pacific ground up into an herbal remedy/drink long used to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. Most would compare it to a depressant drug, so some may not like its effects.
You can find kava at nakamals (or “meeting place”) in Vanuatu, which have sprouted up everywhere in Port Vila and its outskirts. They’re indicated by a single lightbulb in the middle of a dirt road, and these lights turn off when they run out of kava. We accomplished such a feat at a nakamal called “Island Roots” when the 12 of us rocked up all at once for the drink.
FYI, is its recommended that you consume kava in a single shot as it’s not known for the taste and the intended effects are negligible if imbibed slowly. And unlike alcohol, kava causes intense nausea and vomiting if you drink it after eating. So go before dinner, and DON’T mix it with alcohol unless you really want to lose your shit.
You’ll know it works when your tongue goes numb and you feel a little sedated afterwards.
Afterwards Melissa led us to L’Houstalet for dinner, a popular French-Vanuatan restaurant.
The place is famous being one of the only places in the world for serving 2 local fares: the flying fox (aka a giant fruit bat):
…and the coconut crab:
As all the bars in Vanuatu close early on a Tuesday night, not to our surprise, we turned in early.
This is what I woke up to the next morning:
And this was my view for breakfast at the resort:
At around 9:30am we reconvened on the docks where we then returned to the mainland to meet up with Melissa:
We first bought some snacks at a local market before we hiking (1000vt entry fee) up the path for Mele Cascades:
It’s worth the 20 minute hike up for the dip in the waters underneath the cascades:
Afterwards we had hand-pulled, knife-cut noodles for lunch at Kung Fu Noodles in the center of Port-Vila.
Then it was free time as the group explored the center of Port-Vila (also referred to as “town”) and its newly developed boardwalk, home to numerous seaside cafés and handicraft markets:
If you’re in need of fresh produce, stop by arguably the local commercial center of Vanuatu: Mama’s Market at the end of the boardwalk:
Of note while most of us were exploring town, others in our group paid a $500 USD supplement to be picked up earlier in the morning for a day trip to Tanna Volcano. This included a Cessna flight over the volcano, as well as a 4×4 jeep ride through the jungle for a hike up to the mouth itself.
At around 6:30pm we all reconvened back at Hideaway, freshening up once more before heading back out into the suburbs of Port Vila. There were had the rare opportunity to dine with Melissa’s local friend/colleague Madame Caroline and her family at their home outside.
We said hello to their chickens and pigs, admired their gardens, and played with their adorable kids!
Of course before eating anything we first enjoyed some kava at a nakamal down the road:
And then we chowed down on fresh fried fish, curry fish, sausages, and boiled rice back at Madame Caroline’s home:
As their kids approached their bedtimes, we gave our thanks to Madame Caroline and called for a bus to pick us up. We then finished off our night with a few drinks at Club Lit where I finally got to meet (and dance with) some of Melissa’s Peace Corps co-volunteers.
The group was beginning to tire out at this point after a long day so we turned in for more drinks back at Hideaway at midnight.
The next morning we made an obligatory visit to the world’s only underwater post office, located right off the shore of Hideaway Resort.
You don’t need much more than a pair of goggles (or some snorkel gear) to deliver a special $3 AUD waterproof postcard to anyone in the world!
And now we head off for our afternoon flights to Fiji!
– At time of posting in Port Vila, Vanuatu, it was 71.6 °F – Humidity: 82% | Wind Speed: 21km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear