Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vanuatu...The Fascination Started With a Coin

I collect coins, which was a hobby that came along because I travel.  However, sometimes these two hobbies get reversed.  So was the case with Vanuatu.  I was at a flea market and ran into a guy who was selling off his coin collection.  I saw the 50 Vatu coin from Vanuatu and asked him where on Earth that was.  I learned a lot that day.  He told me about this amazing collection of 83 islands in the South Pacific that aren't that far from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and others.  There are about 250,000 inhabitants there, and while thousands live in the capital of Port Vila, there are lots of native tribes living in their native villages as well.  The islands are volcanic, as goes with the rest of the area, and they are spectacularly beautiful as well.  So, why go to the Vanuatu Islands?

Well, Port Vila in particular is full of hotels, resorts, diving schools, golf courses and the like.  It's not a huge place like New York or anything, but it is very civilized.  There are great restaurants, infinity pools, and some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world.

The main market is a great place to meet the locals and buy all the gifts for taking home.  It's also a great place to talk to people and learn about what there is to do in the area.  There are more common style shopping areas where you can get supplies and such.  Now, don't worry.  This isn't a completely primitive area.  They have cell phone service and wi-fi.  This is just like visiting any other island nation that has been overrun by tourists and the money that they add to the local economy.

You can get to Vanuatu in all the usual ways.  They have an interisland boat system to get around.  They offer cruises on cruise lines.  They have their own airline.  There are interisland flights with charters as well.  Even Tanna has an airstrip for the tourists and supply people to land.

The scenery is spectacular in Vanuatu.  There are so many things to do.  I always love the waterfalls, and they are plenty on these islands.  Some of them are a hike, but they are gorgeous and photogenic.  The beaches are pristine and most are not that crowded.  Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo Island is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  Not kidding; people voted on it.  The scuba diving is amazing here as well.  There are reefs teeming with amazingly beautiful life.  There are also spots where you will see various sharks and some other great creatures.  You can also go wreck diving and see some great stuff.  The waters are warm and the area is volcanic.  It makes for a great place to play in the waterfalls and dive on the wrecks.

But, why go to Vanuatu?  You can play in the ocean and lay on the beach anywhere these days.  Well, the culture is one of the big things that I would call the Adventure for Anyone here.  There are several indigenous tribes living on some 65 of the 83 islands.  In all, 113 languages are actively spoken throughout the archipelago.  There are tours available to go and spend some time with some of the tribes and see their way of life.  I recommend taking a tour or hiring a guide to help with translation.  Now, remember that these tribes are all very different.  You will find that some of them have modernized and carry cell phones, own hotels, and so forth, but others have stuck to tradition and want nothing to do with the ways of the new world.  Most of them do like to meet new people though, and they love to show us their ways of life.

So, part one of the Adventure for Anyone is to go out and meet a tribe.  My favorite is to take the trip to Tanna.  Tanna is one of the smaller islands at the end of the line in Vanuatu, and they are a friendly, happy bunch of folks that strongly stick to their traditions.  However, they are not unwise to the ways of the world.  A few years ago a group of men from Tanna were invited to take part in a documentary series called "Meet The Natives."  The group first appeared on television in the United Kingdom and then on The Travel Channel in the United States.  The group got to do a lot of traveling and saw a lot of different ways of life on their journey.  It was a great show and the men of Tanna are some of the kindest men on Earth.  They wholeheartedly decided to go back to their island after the shows, and have been living a life of quiet happiness and teaching tourists about their lives ever since.  There are some distinctions on Tanna.  They have a unique type of religion, so to speak.  In the 1940's they ran across an American soldier during the war.  The people of Tanna called him Tom Navy, and he told them that they would receive many wonderful things in the near future.  At one point, a bunch of military supplies pretty much fell from the sky, and ever since, Tom Navy has been kind of a God to them.  It's an interesting culture that you won't see anywhere else on Earth.  It's the only place that you will see the American Flag as some kind of an icon in a place of worship.

So, an adventure to Tanna is an amazing way to have an adventure that you won't soon forget, but before you leave the island of Tanna, you should really see the volcano.  Yasur Volcano is one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world.  You can hire a guide to take you right up to the rim and look at the lava as it spurts from the caldera.  I'm not joking.  The locals will also teach you how to surf or snowboard down it.  It depends on how you look at that.  It's a very live volcano, and a very dangerous one.  People have been killed while visiting the volcano.  The natives will tell you that you will be fine if your heart is pure.  This also comes from a tribe that has a dancing man and a happy man.  Those are careers on Tanna.  So, the Adventures for Anyone here are visiting the tribes and getting a really close up look at a volcano.  There are many wonderful things to do in Vanuatu.  It's not cheap, but it's worth it.  So, take some time and get to know the people of Vanuatu.  If you don't leave Port Vila, you've missed it.  Take the time, take a guide, go to Tanna and have a really great Adventure for Anyone.


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