Vanuatu is one island nation worth a visit with its mix of Christian and pre-Christian ways of life. Each individual island has it’s own culture, multiple native languages and varying levels of prosperity.
Outside the larger city centers of Port Villa and Luganville the villagers live off the land, a free life with no property taxes or income taxes. Small huts are built from fibrous materials or the odds and ends of tin metal sheets, basically free building materials. However currency is needed for basic education, clothing and food staples.
Making money can be difficult in this country, listed as one of the poorest nations in my handy 2004 Time Almanac, some villages take advantage of eco tourism, providing tours to one of the many volcanoes, guiding walks to Kastum (custom) villages with traditional dancing, selling wood carvings or feeding traditional laplap meals to tourists.
In some anchorages, men paddle up in their dugout Kanu (canoe) looking to trade for vegetables and fruits and in other bays, the locals just paddle by, greeting us as they go. Most people are very friendly and with only one exception with a group of disadvantageous entrepreneurs or what I like to call hooligans, were very persistent in trying to collect money after sun down, for anchoring in a bay on Malakula Island. Informing them that we would only give money to the Chief himself, they finally went away. When speaking with the Chief the next day, he assured us we didn’t need to pay and mysteriously the con artists were not seen again.
Having Vanuatu be the poorest nation visited thus far in our travels, it is hard to view the meager homes with little material possessions. Reflecting on Alice from Tanna Island, allowing a glimpse into her life, while showing us her fruit trees and dirt floored hut, I was overwhelmed at viewing the stark differences in our lives, yet pride from my good natured guide spewed forth as she gave us a tour of her village.
The shore-side village is Christian based but the village on the ridge live with the old ways and preform traditional dances to visitors and sell their carvings.
Vanuatu, an exotic place worth a visit.
Sailing The Waterhouse