Aneityum - Vanuatu
Aneityum – Vanuatu
Aneityum is the southern most island in the 80 or so islands that make up Vanuatu. It is favoured by yachts travelling north as being 933nm from Opua - it knocks a day ½ off the trip and gives the added benefit of island hopping north to Port Vila. The island was a major centre for sandlewood and kauri logging in the 1840’s but now its main business is cruise ships that call in on a very regular schedule. Aneityum is rugged and mountainous with about 3 medium sized villages, and a beautiful small palm tree clad island fringed with white sandy beaches and coral reefs. “Mystery Island” is where the cruise ships guests are “entertained” for the day with stalls, a couple of beach bars and water sports tours. It’s the perfect set up really. Although happy to visit during the day, the locals would never live on this island as they believe it is haunted with bad spirits. More about this later, but the Ni-Vans never really took the Christianity deal on-board like many of their pacific island neighbours. There are a small number of Presbyterian, but many still practice “kastom” which is their indigenous religion with traces of “magic”, festivals to encourage good fortune from various gods, witch doctors and rituals for all the important life events.
Mystery Island is a very scenic spot though and everyone looks pretty happy with the arrangement. We put on our best clothes and snuck on to the island posing as cruise ship punters – which caused a bit of laughter with the villagers we had met on Aneityum as they did concede …….. that yes …….. you white folks DO all look pretty much the same – so who would really know? It was a real disappointment however to see that most of the stalls they had set up were selling cheap nasty “souvenirs” made in China rather than the handicrafts which in the past were a great source of pride.
The villages however are still very traditional and immaculately kept. The rich volcanic soil allows them to grow great fruit and veg and houses are often surrounded by colourful and beautifully tended flower gardens. We are particularly fascinated that their houses are still built largely out of natural materials – raised off the ground with thatched roofs and woven walls.
The main languages are Bislama (pigeon English), French and English. The Ni Vans are softly spoken, mega polite and definitely Melanesian – they look really really different to our Fijian friends – much smaller, wirey and not meaning to make an un PC comment here – but my goodness – they are black….. very handsome and smiley J They speak Bislama so fast we cant really understand it but if you see it written down you can kind of work it out. See the sign below ….
It says “please (plis) don’t write (raetem) your name (nem) on the house (haos) or the post (post). Don’t carve (kaetem) on the post either. Thanks (Ta)”. We can almost decipher the text messages we get each day with special offers – but sometimes it takes a while. I think were going to have internet access most of the time, but so far its only 2G. Its enough to get emails and check the weather, but we cant do much with photos until it gets a bit better which it should in Vila and least and well see after that. So do drop us a line now and then and tell us what you’re up toJ
Next stop is the island of Tanna – home to the famous Mt Yasur – the world’s most accessable active volcano – so stand by ……..
Lookem you behind
(Bye for now)