It's thought that the first people to reach Vanuatu were the Lapita from Papua New Guinea who arrived around 2000BC. Clan-based villages separated by mountainous and jungle-clad terrain resulted in the development of numerous languages and localised customs.Trade as well as battles occurred between villages and a victorious village often claimed a hostage who was later presented as dinner to the other chief as a show of the victorious chief's status and power.
Spanish explorer, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros was the first European to arrive in 1606. Cook arrived in 1774, who drew the first charts of the region and named "Efate Island", "Sandwich Island", after his benefactor, the Earl of Sandwich.
"Vanuatu" means "Land External" and the population are called "Ni-Vanuatu" meaning "of Vanuatu". In "kasdom" (aka custom) orientated areas, traditional ceremonies still form an integral part of village life. Status and power are still earned by taking "grades" through the "Namangki" system. For example, wealth is shown in elaborate ceremonies with feasting, dancing and ritual pig killings or by men and boys diving from wooden towers with vines tied around their ankles, known as "land-diving". "Nekowiar" is a spectacular 3-day gift exchanging ceremony where attempts to outdo each other are made with lavish gifts, dancing and ornate make-up and, the "Rom Dance", featuring dancers wearing tall, conical masks and a cloak of banana leaves is another grade-taking ceremony.
For us, however, we decided on our own grading scheme that definitely did not include cannibalism - a gastronomic tour around Port Vila, starting with breakfast at "Au Peche Mignon", where we savoured "straight out of the oven" chaison pomme and Danish swirls. This was followed by a long walk along the newly opened promenade to "Chantilly's on the Bay", where we had planned to sample a few treats at "Organic Paradise", but, given that we were still full from our breakfast, we opted instead, to lounge around in the comfy chairs of the hotel reception area while enjoying the views. This part of Port Vila was surprisingly sophisticated, with a very French ambience. For dinner we had decided on a seafood platter at the "Waterside Bar and Grill". After making inquiries as to what time food was served and whether we needed to make reservations or not, we were definitely looking forward to this particular treat.
Well, it was another one of those evenings that definitely did not go according to plan. When we arrived at the restaurant we were informed that they were in the middle of a shift change and to please come back in an hour. With that, we took a short walk to "La Café du Village", where we enjoyed sundowners accompanied by a snack of salt and pepper calamari, before returning to the "Waterside Bar and Grill". After our drinks were delivered and we placed our order, we were informed that there was no seafood platter on the menu tonight due to an absence of lobster. Our disappointment was evident and, although we perused the rest of their menu, there was nothing else we both felt like eating. So, after finishing our drinks, it was back to "La Café du Village", where we managed to salvage the evening. Tuna sashimi (Roy) and mussels (Elaine) for starters, tuna steaks with mint sauce for our main course and a chocolate fondue for dessert certainly hit the spot.
Our walk along the promenade earlier today revealed more examples of "bislama".
"Goodbye" - "Ale Tata" "Goodnight" - "Gudnaet" "Maybe" - "Ating / Maet / Mebi" "Excuse me" - "Skiusmi"
"No wokbaot long gras!"
Log Day 599 Answer: "Prescription medication for children and everyone".
Prior to arriving in Vanuatu we had read a few accounts from cruisers on the very high quality of the local beef. Then, when we received a recommendation from Blue Summit (Kate and Steve), to try the beef fillet at the waterfront restaurant called "Chill", our curiosity got the better of us and we were not disappointed. Two beef fillets with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes for Elaine, fries for Roy, a side of broccoli and cauliflower gratin to share, a glass of wine for Elaine and a few beers for Roy, was not only a delicious dinner with steaks that tasted better than a number of top restaurants we'd frequented in the US, it was all for the bargain price of roughly $42USD. Unbelievable!
This morning we were up early to enjoy a breakfast of freshly baked croissants with homemade paw paw jam and coffee at "Le Café du Village". Then, it was time to explore Port Vila, starting with the Catholic Cathedral.
Estimated to have 280 000 inhabitants, of whom 45% are under the age of fifteen, the population of Vanuatu is comprised mainly of melanesians, but, in our opinion, with a much greater resemblance and mannerism associated with the African than what we witnessed with the indigenous Fijians. Two thirds of the population is distributed amongst the four major islands of Efate, Santo, Maleluka and Tanna. Given that, 85% is Catholic, as well as the beautiful Catholic churches we had seen all around French Polynesia and Samoa, we had a preconceived idea of what we might encounter here, and decided that the hike up the hill would be well worth our troubles. Finding the Cathedral locked was the first clue of things to come. Perseverance paid off, though, when we found an unlocked side entrance. It is fair to say that, unfortunately, neither of us has been in such a "soulless" holy building. The feeling was overpowering to be honest. Regardless, we took a moment for our prayers before making a hasty retreat. Very strange indeed!
Next stop was the war memorial overlooking Port Vila Harbour and Mele Bay, where we meet a delightful lady in her brightly coloured traditional dress, who was obviously trying to educate us on something, but we hadn't a clue what she was saying. In these circumstances we've found it best to simply nod, smile and say thank you. After visiting the very fancy Reserve Bank building, we met another lady and a gentleman when asking for directions to the Erakor Lagoon. Turns out they both worked for the Foreign Investment Services and, were not only happy to give us a lift to the nearest bus stop, where we arranged a ride to the Holiday Inn Resort and Spa, but provided us with a very interesting background to Port Vila and plans for the future.
Our arrival at the resort revealed a surprisingly upmarket establishment, including a well maintained golf course. After a mid-morning coffee, we decided to walk the 1.2 miles back to town, where we enjoyed a lunch at the "Thai Restaurant and Massage Parlour". There was absolutely no way Elaine could convince Roy to follow lunch with a Thai massage after he had eyed out the masseuse and was unable to establish "her" gender for certain. With that we returned to Paw Paw for an afternoon nap and to start getting her organised again after our passage.
Of course, while out and about, we encountered more examples of "bislama". The answer to yesterday's phrase is below. Try and interrupt today's one.
"How much?" - "Hamas?" "Money" - "Mane" "I don't know" - "Mi no save" One to Ten - "Wan", "Tu", "Tri", "Fo", "Faef", "Sikis", "Seven", "Eit", "Naen", "Ten" "Number one" - "Nambawan".
"I gat specel medesen blong pikinini mo evriwan".
Log Day 598 Answer: "Do you talk bislama?".