Home' The Australian Senior Traveller : October 2009 Contents 4 THE SENIOR TRAVELLER October, 2009
by SUE PRESTON
OLDER people are respected in
Vanuatan culture. "Soon as you grow
one grey hair no one talks back to you, that
is our culture."
Tour guide Robert Obed is telling us
about life in this string of idyllic islands in
the South Pacific and how retired
Australians -- seduced by friendliness, blue
skies, white sands and a laid-back lifestyle
-- are snapping up cheap land on which to
build holiday homes.
We spend a day in the capital, Port Vila,
on the largest island of Efate; and its
attraction is immediately obvious.
It's the busiest town in Vanuatu, but
even here there are no traffic lights, no
speed limits and no pedestrian crossings.
There is also no tipping, no bargaining
and, importantly, no fast food chains.
According to Obed who runs The
Professionals Tour Company, things run on
common sense in Vanuatu, and that
includes no McDonalds.
However you would be hard-pressed to
describe the downtown area of Port Vila as
beautiful. Its charm -- at least to this writer
-- is that it's wonderfully scruffy and
Streets bear grand names like Rue de
General De Gaulle and Avenue Edmond
Colardeau, a legacy of its French past, but
most are unmade and full of potholes.
In the patchwork of roads which pass as
the city centre we pass Uncle Bill's Variety
Store and the red-roofed Parliament House
financed by the Chinese Government.
The central congregating point is Port
Vila market which runs Monday to nooon
Scores of women in the traditional
colourful 'Mother Hubbard' dresses sit on
the ground, surrounded by bananas,
coconuts and taro, and ruthlessly hack at
coconuts with large lethal-looking knives.
We see a sight that would make an
Australian mother blanch -- a toddler
crouches behind his mother mimicking her
blows with his own large knife.
We negotiate the narrow walkways side-
stepping crabs tied up and destined for the
pot.At the back of the market, cooks are
whipping up local dishes including lap lap
or tuluk, which looks like a meat pie but is
made from tapioca paste and filled with
stewed pork and green onions.
The country's organic crops are said to
be responsible for the islanders' longevity
as well as their wisdom.
The people of Vanuatu are called ni-
Vanuatu (meaning 'of Vanuatu') and most
speak four languages. Their friendliness is
legendary and Obed can't resists quipping,
"That's where they teach us how to smile"
as we pass the University of the South
Pacific's Hospitality School.
Eighty per cent of ni-Vanuatu still live
in rural areas, mostly in small clan-based
villages of less than 50 people, and headed
by a chief who speaks on behalf of his vil-
It is possible to visit some villages with
local guides and witness some traditions of
village life today, but on this day everything
is quiet for everyone is at the racetrack at
the annual KiwanIs Race Day.
As we drive around the island, Obed
mentions that the bone-shaking road will
THE people of Vanuatu have lived
here for centuries and it is recog-
nised as one of the most culturally
diverse countries in the world.
In 1906 the Anglo-French
Condominium of the New Hebrides
was created giving France and
Britain dual administrative powers.
Vanuatu achieved independence
under its present name in 1980 and
has a democratic government.
Vanuatu offers everything one
expects from the South Pacific -- a
stunning natural setting, coral reefs,
waterfalls, watersports and abun-
dant fresh seafood.
Getting out to one of the outer
islands is a must. There are 83
islands in the archipelago. The most
popular outer islands are Espiritu
Santo and Tanna which has one of
the world's most accessible volca-
noes, fiery Mount Yasur.
There is also fascinating culture,
and you can visit a village where
locals still live a traditional life.
Best time to visit is from May to
October when it is warm and dry.
Try to time your visit to co-incide
with a festive occasion such as
Independence Day or the Kiwanis
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