First Impressions – Port Vila, Vanuatu

After four days in Port Vila, we fly out to Espiritu Santo tomorrow. Here’s what we got up to in Vanuatu’s capital.

Port Vila is a lot smaller, and less developed, than we both expected. The Vanuatu capital is really only 3 blocks of shops, a big open market where you buy your fresh produce in bundles, and a handful of restaurants. Hundreds of mini-van buses ferry people whereever they want to go for a dollar or two, and signs for the new mobile network provider, Digicel, are just everywhere. It seems they are the only company that actually advertises, just saturating the capital.
People crossing the street in downtown Port Vila…

downtown Port Vila

inner city living

Wycliffe owns a block of flats here which serves as accommodation for people coming and going from civilisation to the village, and for visitors like us. It’s simple, it’s in a rough neighbourhood, and it’s perfect. We’re glad we brought ear-plugs to keep out the hundreds of dogs barking, traffic and random music. And, best luxury of all, a washing machine!
Our unit is the one with all the washing. Wycliffe Vanuatu directors Ross and Lyndal, live upstairs.home.. for now

Here’s us having a pineapple breakfast in the kitchen this morning.mmm... pineapple

On our second day here, after sleeping till noon in an attempt to make up for sleep lost in transit, we took a wander into town, and as soon as we saw the tables covered in plastic in the back of the market we knew what that meant – good cheap food. market dining
So we wandered through, attempting to judge which one to eat at, when a few Vanuatu ladies in hair nets greeted us, and so we sat down and ordered ‘two fish’. Delighted, for 350 Vatu (approx $4) we got a big plate with a whole grilled fish, rice, curry sauce, carrot, spinach and a mostly cooked piece of cassava/tapioca – gluggy potato like thing. A nice man from Tanna island was eating opposite us, and introduced us to his brother before he left, saying ‘its all ok’. We didn’t quite understand until the cook lady – Annette, told us that he had paid for our meals. ‘Nooooo!’ we said. But it was too late, he was gone. His brother, a nice mormon guy from Tanna, told us how he usually lives in France, but he’s here for a week recruiting for the French Foreign Legion. So we chatted with him for the rest of our meal. He’s a security guard at night, and in the day he does other things, like helping youth play music, and trying to raise money for instruments.


brad and root vegesLike any developing country, the disproportion of wealth is… unsettling. Most tourists would spend in a day – on bus fares, coffees, food and souvenirs – what the average Ni-Vanuatu (Vanuatu native) would earn in a month or two.

We got a better picture of this yesterday, when we went another 5 minutes out of town to the suburb where our study-neighbours Brad and Amber used to live, to take their friends some gifts. The bus driver was very curious why we wanted to go to this neighbourhood, but eventually accepted it when we said we were going to visit our Ni-Vanuatu friends. Instead of following the main road around to the airport, we branched onto a muddy-dirt road, and a bushy area with lots of gardens – paw paw trees, banana trees and mud. We found the place, a block of single level flats with a dirt-floored tin shack at the back. I was surprised. I guess I didn’t expect people to live in tin huts in town. But I guess it makes sense, building supplies are very expensive. Most people work hard their whole life, just to build themselves a concrete house.

Since we had a big chat with SIL Vanuatu directors Ross and Lyndal on Tuesday, we had the rest of the day free, so we headed over to the beach. We’d be fools if we didn’t go to the beach at least once while we’re here.
We went over to this island, and went snorkeling. There were so many fish, it was great.hideaway island, mele beach

hermit crab

Today, our last day, we went into town again to buy a ‘island dress’ (biggest, brightest, ugliest moo-moo you’ve ever seen – hold out for photos), and stock up on sweet chilli sauce and toilet paper before leaving civilisation for the wilds of Santo in the morning.
We fed the fish our crumbs. Aren’t they massive!big fish

Brad being a super-tourist…touristy brad

Walking home we stopped to play with the coconuts and we met a nice man from Whitesands on Tanna island, the place we are going after Santo. We chatted with him a while, and offered to take a present to his family there. Its so easy to meet people in Vanuatu.walking home from town