Saturday 28th September.
Finding a bus in Port Vila is simple. Stand still on the edge of the footpath, look vague for more than 10 seconds, and one of the local “buses” will pull up before you can say “Where is the bus stop?” The only places that buses do not appear to stop are the few dedicated bus stops! Never mind the traffic either, the drivers stop anywhere. Or even pull up onto the curb and footpath.
These “buses” are really small people-mover vans (seating 8-12) displaying the prefix “B” on their rego’ plates. They are to be found in various stages of cleanliness and structural integrity. Squeeze in, no maximum number. Safety belts not required. And delivery is straight to your front door or wherever you want to get out.
Pick-up Anywhere, Go Anywhere, Stop Anywhere seems to be their motto. And the cost is 150 vatu per person (~ $1.50AUD) for a trip anywhere around town.
Of course if you are dressed in your best or want a tour around the island it is helpful to know someone like Richard’s cousin, Tony (ph: 7746 067), who knows his way around and owns a new 15-seater bus that is clean and has air-conditioning.
So much happened during the last two days it all seems a blur. After a long day of travelling on Friday most of the group took the opportunity to sleep in Saturday morning.
Two of our group are named Sue – one was up at 6am for a 1hr morning walk before breakfast, whilst the other took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in and partake of a late breakfast. Some observant members of the group noted an inverse relationship between age and time of rising and arrival at the breakfast outdoor dining area – 7am for the octogenarians and 10am for the younger ones.
The dining area at The Melanesian is situated in an open-plan but under-cover area around two large pools. Great for relaxing and chatting over our breakfast consisting of fresh local fruits and juices, cereals, waffles, eggs, toast and pastries. Maybe I could sneak a croissant into the bag for morning tea?
Our schedule for the week was clearly laid out in the “Supporters Tour Program” [sic] provided upon our arrival. This informed us that there was morning tea provided down at the waterfront on board Chimere, within 6 minutes walk of our accommodation. Matt and Cathy had placed a bulk order of fresh pastries from the french patisserie in the main street, named Au Peche Mignon. (And just in case there was one squashed croissant in my bag for emergency rations.)
It was a lazy kind of day and by 10:30 we were all aboard under a fine bright sunny sky, looking across the blue and turquoise waters of Futumara Bay (where there was not much activity to be seen) and enjoying an assortment of local fruits and fresh pasteries. Yum.
The rest of the day was filled with a variety of leisurely activities of personal choice – strolling through the fresh food market, browsing the local souvenir and duty free shops, the occasional purchase, lunch at Nabawan Café or Jill’s Café, lazying by the resort pool, resting, and – for a few die-hard fans – watching the AFL GF at the Cruising Yacht Club on the big screen. Afterwards the rest of the group met at the Club bistro for dinne. A time to share our first day’s experience in Vanuatu.
“Oh, no it’s 7:40 and according to the ‘Program’ we are due back at the Melanesian by 8pm!” for an “MSM Presentation” from the world-famous low-smoke mud-brick stove expert, Mr Robert O Latimer. “Grab a bus!” Within 2-minutes we packed ourselves into two buses and were heading up the hill and back to The Melanesian.
Rob and Linda welcomed us all at the 8pm gathering, they explained the proposed program planned for the next few days, and Rob presented an informative overview of the Medical Sailing Ministries project and itinerary of the previous 4-months, including many wonderful photos of the places and people they had met during this time.
The MSM team seems to suit Vanuatu and Chimere it just like a Vanuatu Bus – it is a Pick-up Anywhere, Go Anywhere, Stop Anywhere type of service.
Cub Reporter secretly embedded in MSM Supporters Tour.