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THE SENIOR TRAVELLER October, 2009 5
ABOVE -- A gathering of women at an AUSAID-
supported Vanuatuan Women Development Scheme
event. The scheme provides women with access to
finance and income earning opportunities.
LEFT -- Children cool off in the blue lagoon.
soon by sealed by the American
Government. US forces -- some 100,000 per-
sonnel -- were stationed in Vanuatu in 1942
to counter Japan's rapid advance through
Regrettably they introduced a noxious
weed to camouflage their bases. Dubbed
"mile a minute" by locals, the weed has
taken over large sections of the island.
Aside from the weed, the roadside is lit-
tered with abundant wild crops.
Obed tells us the children don't carry
school lunchboxes; they bring knives and
fend for themselves by foraging and eating
the abundant edible nuts and fruits.
He takes us to a part of the island made
famous in the Survivor television series.
Not being Survivor fans we see it simply
as a rocky headland with a small sandy
beach. The television show put the spot-
light on Vanuatu which relies heavily on
Obed takes us to his favourite spot on
the island, a magnificent lagoon of blind-
ing blueness. A rope tied to a tree pro-
vides a launch pad for visiting Australian
children to splash into its crystal clear
We decide to head to the racetrack. Port
Vila's newspaper had given the location of
the race day as "the abbatoirs", which we
found rather disconcerting.
Did this mean the losers would come to
a grisly end?
It turned out the abattoirs was next
door and the race day was a riotous festive
occasion for the whole island, with
expatriates drinking champagne in mar-
quees and horses called Pigdog, Nelson,
Daisy and Speedy thundering around the
We finish the day at an outdoor kava
bar drinking kava out of shells. Obed
impresses on us the need to drink the foul-
tasting liquid in one swallow.
Kava makes you wise very quickly, he
tells us, but we pass up on extra wisdom
and instead settle back in chairs and let
the one drink take its course. Dogs, dispir-
ited in the heat, flop nearby in the dust.
Discussion turns to dinner.
Obed urges us to try fruit bat, beef ribs
"like elephant ribs", coconut crab, octo-
pus, lobster or prawn and the local beer
When our time comes to leave Vanuatu
after an all-too-brief visit, we tune into the
conversations of others at the airport.
Apart from a grizzle from a Gen Y that
there was no decent shopping -- "Bali is
much better" -- everyone, young and old,
was brimming with stories of horseriding
or quad bike riding along the beaches, fab-
ulous swimming spots and great food.
* Sue Preston was a guest of Air
Vanuatu and Iririki Resort and travelled
with the assistance of Vanuatu Tourism.
VANUATU is just a short flight
from Australia's east coast (2½
hours from Brisbane, 3½ hours
from Sydney and four from
Melbourne) with 13 flights a
week with Air Vanuatu. The air-
line also flies from Port Vila to a
number of islands. See travel
agents or www.airvanuatu.com
A three-minute boat ride from Port
Vila brings you to Iririki Island
Resort and Spa. The beautifully
furnished fares (bungalows) with
a choice of waterfront, harbour or
garden view are popular with cou-
ples, while Snorkeler's Cove
offers spacious deluxe suites and
penthouses with spa tubs on
For a short time you can enjoy
seven nights in one of Iririki's
traditional fares or contempo-
rary deluxe rooms and pay for
four nights, including buffet
breakfast daily, transfers to and
from the airport and ferry trans-
port. You must book by October
31 with travel from November 1
to December 14, and February 1
to March 31, 2010. If you prefer
to join a hosted seniors group
phone (03) 9699-9955.
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