2019 Vanuatu the Past Present and Future on Erakor Island
The Past, Present and Future on Erakor Island
In the very same year as the infamous Carl ‘Blackbirding’ incident I mentioned in a previous blog where 60 of the 90 or so prisoners aboard Dr Murray’s death ship were brutally shot for trying to escape home in 1872, a Scottish Presbyterian couple, Reverend James and Mrs Amanda Bruce McKenzie arrived at Erakor Island just south of Port Vila to establish their mission. They will soon have discovered that they were not alone and two Samoan Evangelical teachers were already in residence. I wonder how well they interacted.
The McKenzie’s taught on the island for 21 years until in 1893 Mrs McKenzie died and as only she and her three infant sons are buried on the island, presumably her husband then left for pastures new since he is not buried alongside her. The two Samoan missionaries are also buried in graves well-tended by the present residents on the island, the employees of the Erakor Resort.
Although a small sign warns visitors against proceeding further into the visitor accommodation area it is correctly ignored by day visitors who want to walk the island for a taste of the historical flora and fauna and to visit the graves and mission site. In fact the literature on the island encourages one to do just that. So that is a potted history of it’s Past.
Coconuts palms swayed in the gentle trade wind as we walked down the carefully swept fine coral path towards the seaward end of the island, which as you can see from the voucher picture is shaped a little like a hammerhead shark. A wide reef fringes the island making the water in the two lagoons either side of the island (first and second lagoon as they are called) calm and safe for the youngest child to enjoy their first supervised watersports. The island’s Present in both senses of the word.
Swimming and snorkelling reveals a delight of starfish, eels, sea cucumbers and fish but you can see all these from the terrace in the restaurant area where I enjoyed lunch washed down with a free cocktail first with Jill and then a few days later after his back recovered from its latest spasm, with Rob. The day pass to the island is 1500vu, 1000vu of which is redeemable for any food, drink or leisure activity means that a nice refreshing iced coffee on arrival, followed by a stroll around the island and lunch with a free cocktail costs less than a tenner each.
The surroundings are intensely pretty and who knows the presence of the welcoming resort may be the island’s saviour since the native owners can see the money to be made from its unchanging paradise island character.
The fringing reef links the island with the mainland just as the resort links the Past with the Present as I have described and with the Future in the form of the many open air and sunset weddings that take place here. They used to be held on the old mission site which, judging by the piles of rubble that lie on its concrete base now was more a romantic ruined chapel for the ceremonies than it is now, the victim of a cyclone no doubt.
Another ‘chapel’ has been created nearby with mini wooden apexes and wooden benches but the most delightful is the smoothed sand aisle bordered by low sand ridges topped with white and variegated flowers and foliage that leads to a heart shape on the beach created with greenery where the uniting couple stand as the ball of fire sets beyond the horizon leading them toward a life together. As you can see one had taken place the day before Jill and I were there and some of the delicate flowers were still white.
Again the lagoon links the past with the present and future with the fishermen from Erakor village (moved to its present site opposite the island after the original island village was swept away by a cyclone) still fish the lagoon by diving or using their dugouts and collect fish from the bamboo fish traps you see in the picture, which is a historical tradition reminding me of the Roman stone walled corrals off the south coast of Spain still in use today.