Honeymoon in Vanuatu
Day 1: Monday, 25 February 2013
It was a dark and wet morning as we drove to Canberra Airport. With less than three hours sleep, due to packing and getting ready we were off for our honeymoon…. I could hardly sleep the night before anyway due to all the excitement. It was our one year wedding anniversary and we are heading off to Vanuatu. Five days with Kimy in a place that we have never been too. What more could we ask for?
Taking off from Canberra was spectacular. Fog covered Canberra and all that I could see was Telstra Tower (Kimy’s tower) just above the clouds. The flight was good as the rain clouds were below us. We were placed in a holding pattern over Brisbane due to wet weather. It was a little rough landing in Brisbane, however the pilot did a great job. After a trip on the Air Train between Terminals, clearing emigration (though Kimy has to convincing them it was her passport after losing 10 kilos and colouring her hair) and having breakfast at the coffee club it was time to head to the gate.
At the gate the plane on the tarmac looked very small. Kimy had a very concerned look on her face. From the gate it looked like the plane was smaller than the Canberra to Brisbane flight… As it turned out the plane was bigger than it seemed… Kimy was relaxed again. On the plane there was next to no passengers. In fact we had to be moved to the exit aisle to ensure that it was manned in case of a crash. Getting some sleep on the flight was well needed by both of us. It had been a big week.
So we arrived in Vanuatu… I always find it exciting to land in a new country and cannot help to look out the window in awe. It was not long and we were through immigration and customs, ready to travel to the resort. Heading into town towards the resort we chatted with an Aussie that had been on the flight. He was in Vanuatu on business.
The resort that we stayed at was called Iririki Island Resort and Spa. It was a small island just off Port Vila. There was a ferry running 24 hours a day from the wharf next to the Grand Casino Hotel to the island which took about two minutes each way. The Vanuatu people are very friendly… Not just on the island, but everywhere. They are also very thankful for choosing their country for your holiday.
So we arrived on the island and there was staff there to greet us with a shell necklace each. As we entered reception we were offered tropical looking drinks… It is nice to be in paradise. From reception they drove us, yes drove us, in a tiny van to our Waterfront Fare. The Fare was a small hut with ensuite with views over the bay towards the sunset… Beautiful.
Spending the afternoon relaxing we walked around the island to a welcome reception and dinner. At the reception Kimy won an around the island day tour. So with the tour booked in for Wednesday, we were off to dinner. Seafood plater for two at the Michener’s Restaurant is certainly a recommendation. For desert I had a Famous Iririki Island Toffee Coffee. Famous??? I had never heard of it before… However it was worth it. They make the coffee in front of you and it was such a cool process…. Yummy.
Day 2: Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Prior to leaving Canberra Kimy checked the weather for Vanuatu and discovered that we were due to get rain every day except the day of arrive. So what are we to expect for our trip??? Bottom line it does not matter what the weather brings as we are away together without the children for our honeymoon… Either way the trip is going to be awesome.
In the morning we woke to rain… The rain was off and on, so after breakfast…. Oh what a great breakfast. Each morning there is a awesome buffet for breakfast. The man cooking the omelettes is a very happy man and cooks a great omelette with chilli (the way I like it). So after breakfast we headed into the town for a look around and to find a supermarket.
The city of Port Villa has a population of approximately 30,000 people and therefore has a relatively small foot print. There are fresh food markets, Art & Craft Markets, the town hall, National Museum and Parliament House. As it rained off and on we were not able to get around as much as we would have liked, however we have a good look around.
After crossing back onto Iririki Island on the ferry we spent the rest of the day on island. Kim had a bit of a relax in the room, while I did a workout in the Gym… Though it was warm in the afternoon it was great to have a go in the gym.
For dinner it was a traditional meal. The staff had cooked it in the ground as they do. It all started with a talk through of how the meal was cooked and how traditional cooking works. Then off to start with a drink of Kava… There were three rules for drinking Kava:
- Don’t smell it
- Don’t taste it
- Don’t think about it, just drink it
Day 3: Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Wednesday was the big day for our tour around the island. We were told to be ready at 8:45am at the ferry terminal on the mainland. So all in all it was an early start for our day…. Okay early for being on holiday. This morning a P&O Cruise Ship come into the harbour for a day visit. Talking with locals it is an exciting time… With the visits (about six cruise ships a month) come tourists that spend money. About 50-60% of the Vanuatu economy is based on tourism.
So after a delay, due to waiting on members from the cruise ship, we headed out with Atmosphere for a tour around the island. The first stop was the Iarofa Custom Village. The village lives in the traditional manner. It was a great insight into the tradition ways of the locals. They showed us how the plants in the forest can act as medicines and provide nutrition. There was a cool spider that weaves a web that can be used to catch fish and they showed us how to store bananas for up to five years. There was so much more… Then there was the hot stone walking… So, so, so amazing.
The next stop was a school in Eton village. The children in the Kindergarten were very cute and put on a show for us. Though the Kindergarten was in a tin shed and it was hot. It got me thinking how we complain about the heat back in Australia and how we really do not understand how hard it can be for most of the world’s people.
The heat was soon to leave my body as our next stop was the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon was as the name suggests a Blue Lagoon… It was a very clear swimming hole with a mixture of fresh water and salt water. There was also a rope to swing and jump into the lagoon. Soon the body has cooled down and we are enjoying refreshments thanks to the tour operator Atmosphere. Fresh Pawpaw, Pineapple, Coconut and Bananas. Yum, Yum, Yum… I do like fresh fruit and for some reason the fruit seems to taste better on the islands.
After the Blue Lagoon we headed off for the Beachcomber Lodge at Takara Beach. Takara Beach is a place with thermal pools that are fed by natural hot springs… I am not a fan of hot baths or showers, however I can advise that the thermal pools were very, very, very relaxing… I was falling asleep in the van on the way to the next location. So a buffet lunch and sometime in the thermal pools was a great way to spend the early afternoon. There was a Hot, Warm and a Cool Pool, so you could move between them and enjoy relaxing effects on the body while listening to a local band playing music throughout our time there.
A couple of years ago Survivor, the reality television show, was shot in Vanuatu. The part of Vanuatu used for the show was Havannah Beach and the islands off the coast there. You guessed it that was our next stop. At Havannah Beach we had a Cuppa and the opportunity to swim in the beach. We stopped at the Eco Lodge which was a lovely property with some great gardens.
So then it was time to finish the tour by heading back into Port Vila. On the way we stopped for some photos of Port Vila at a distance. The tour was great and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Port Vila. It was a mix of culture, great natural locations and relaxation. We also were fortunate to do the tour with some other really friendly people.
Before taking the ferry back to Iririki Island we decided to check out the Casino Grand Hotel and have a Cuppa. It was lovely having a cuppa by the pool overlooking the bay with views straight onto Iririki Island.
A side note… There is a large yacht in the bay called “Phocea”. As we travelled around today we heard many stories about the yacht. It has been in the bay since July last year and is owned by Vanuatu’s Honorary Ambassador to Vietnam. When it came to Port Villa in July 2012, it was searched by Custom officials and detained. There was an information blackout on the reasons why. The rumours among the population include drugs, guns and corruption. The stuff of good movies. Anyway, this week the boat has been released and waiting on a new crew, while the courts have offered an apology for the episode. I wonder what really happened?
Unfortunately on Wednesday night I was due to have an online group meeting for a university assignment that I am working on. Due to this we purchased some internet usage for the Fare and ordered room service for dinner. Overall the free wireless internet at the Restaurant and Bar was very slow, however the purchased Wireless@Vanuatu internet is a bit better.
At night we have the balcony sliding door open and the fan going… Oh what great weather…. It is so relaxing listening to the water lapping up on the shore at night.
Day 4: Thursday, 28 February 2013
Thursday was an exciting day for the two of us…. It looked like there was going to be a little break in the rain and we can go for a Helicopter ride…. Neither of us had been on a Helicopter ride before so we were excited to be able to see some of Vanuatu by Helicopter, not just for the beauty of Vanuatu, but also for the thrill of the ride.
After breakfast we booked our Helicopter ride through the Guest Relations desk with Vanuatu Helicopters and we also booked our Sunset Cruise for that evening. Then it was down to the wharf for a pick up by the Helicopter Company. They picked us up in a Glass Bottom boat, so it was cool to see the fish beneath us. After payment we were off to the pontoon where the helicopter operates from. The helicopter was just getting in from the previous ride as we arrived.
We had our life vest on and into the helicopter we went. Both of us were like little kids….. So so so excited. Within minutes we had our headsets on and we were airborne. Vanuatu is a very beautiful country, so green and from the air this is really highlighted. Everywhere we looked it was either green land or crystal clear blue ocean. This is truly paradise. We did the Best of Efate tour.
It was off and over Hideaway Island, a very popular resort for day trips or to stay. Then we headed through the rain over the range towards Havannah Beach. The weather on this side of the island is clear and hot. We took so many photos, as everywhere you looked it was beautiful. Over some of the islands where the television show Survivor was shot, pass the island where a great chief was buried (the only world heritage site in Vanuatu) and then back toward Port Vila again with a fly over the islands in the bay including Iririki Island.
The helicopter ride was definitely worth it and we highly recommend it. After the flight we asked to go to the mainland and wandered back to the ferry dock for the trip back to Iririki Island. Along the way we checked out the Art and Craft markets and even got some gifts for the children. Okay… That was Kim’s idea, she is good like that and thinks about the children. Then before boarding the ferry back to the island we popped into the Grand Casino for a Cuppa…. We are now part of the Loyalty Program at the café and the next time we get one cuppa free…
On the helicopter trip we flew over a farm that had Beef Cattle and Sandalwood Trees. Half of Vanuatu’s economy is tourism, and then it is also involved in agriculture. Organic Beef is one of the outputs of this agriculture. We were recommended to try from Beef as it is tasty and can be less expensive than the seafood.
The weather did move in the afternoon and the sunset cruise was cancelled. Though not bad for a rain filled week and only had to change plans once. The afternoon also brought a tremor… Yes a tremor as in earthquake. All the tourists were talking about it. It was a small one, but when you ask the locals, they just shrug their shoulders and say that it happens all the time. We also got a call to the room to say that we were losing electricity for one hour…. I am still waiting for that to happen.
Day 5: Friday, 01 March 2013
It was a wet and grey day…. However the mood on Iririki Island was one of living in paradise. It does not seem to matter the weather, on Iririki Island it is always a great day. This morning we had a sleep in however we knew that we had to get up as we had our appointment for a massage and scrub treatment at Spa Frangipani.
I was a little hungry at breakfast, so I pigged out a little… Muesli, hot food and fresh fruit with green tea, tomato juice and apple juice… So a relaxed breakfast with views over the bay and Port Vila, then back to the room for a shower before heading off to Spa Frangipani.
We had booked in for a Valentines Pack at Spa Frangipani. We customised the package a little to include a Yasur Coffee Scrub and then a Hot Stone Massage all toped of with a facial. What can I say the treatment certainly left us totally relaxed and with smooth feeling skin. Local Coffee combined with volcanic clay and pumice scrub it certainly cleaned up the body. After the scrub and shower the Hot Stone Massage totally relaxed the body while soothing muscles and relieving any tension and stress.
Just when you thought it cannot get any better the facial started. So smooth body, relax mind and silky smooth face. When the whole treatment was over which took about two hours then we headed down to the bar next to the spa for our complimentary Champagne and Fresh Fruit dipped in Chocolate. We got to enjoy the champagne and fruit with chocolate while enjoying the views over the pool into the bay. What an awesome day… But there is so much more to come…
Tonight we have booked in a Balcony Dinner… The Balcony Dinner is a romantic dinner on your room’s balcony or on the beach. They come in and decorate the Balcony with red ribbons and bring in a lovely table setting with decorated chairs. It looks great. I cannot wait to have a romantic dinner with Kimy on the balcony.
However there is a little bit of time before dinner. So Kimy is resting and I decide to go to the gym for a quick workout. It is still warmish weather with drizzly rain and when I get to the gym I find out that the air conditioning is off. No matter it is cool enough in the gym to work out. Afterwards I run back to the fare (room) and find that Kimy has started to get ready… Wow she is stunning. She has prepared her hair, done her makeup and put on a dress. She is very dear to me and certainly knows how to spoil me.
Finally there is a knock at the door and the Romantic Balcony dinner has started. It is the entrée and champagne. Wow, it is really good. The beef I had was rare (as it was meant to be) and tasted great. I used to not be a fan of rare meat, but my taste buds must be changing. Then there is another knock at the door and Mains arrive. I had the Wahoo (fish) and Prawns and once again the food and service is great. The dinner provided a great opportunity to not only spend time alone with Kimy, but also talk about the future, our life and our plans. It is great to talk and ensure that we are aligned in our vision and mission for our life together. Then there is the third knock at the door. It is dessert…. And you guessed it, it tasted great.
Day 6: Saturday, 02 March 2013
Saturday is the day of departure. It has been a great trip and it is sad to be leaving so soon. So after an early start at 6am…. Not sure why we got up so early, it may have been the little birds that were searching for food on the plates left outside from the balcony dinner. The birds singing were very beautiful. We made great use of the time by packing our bags and then went to an early breakfast… Not sure if we are going to get lunch so had a little bit of a big (is this an oxymoron?) breakfast.
After breakfast and a little hug, Kim had a facial booked in at Spa Frangipani and I went for a little swim in the pool. After the work out in the Gym yesterday afternoon, it was a little tiring in the pool, thought it was lovely to swim with views over the bay and Port Vila.
It came time to check out and we had a long day ahead…. All the way back to Canberra – home. It was not as long as we thought. We popped over to the mainland to cash in our free cuppa at the Grand Casino and then a plate of chips (actually a cross between chips and wedges) at the Brewery Bar across the road.
The bus to the airport was full… very different to our arrival when there was next to no one on the plane. After check in we settled down at the café in the airport… There was an announcement over the airport which was asking for me to return to the check in counter… What have I done? Mmmmmmm. Getting to the counter I was ushered through to security. Our bag was vibrating. It was my electric toothbrush. lol. I avoiding getting arrested and we continued on our journey.
I am an organised person… Well I thought I was. On arriving in Brisbane and clearing Customs we headed to check in for the flight home to Canberra. We had to transfer to the domestic terminal and thought we had plenty of time, like several hours. Well we didn’t check our tickets did we? and despite having our boarding passes since Port Vila, we had not noticed that we only had one and half hours until we boarded at the other terminal.
Thankfully Brisbane airport is very efficient and we were able to have dinner and make the gate with thirty minutes to spare. Boarding the Canberra flight was just like when we arrived in Brisbane five days earlier…. Raining. A short flight and we were home two hours earlier than expected.