In this time of self-isolation, I’m happy that Eva Michelle Wheeler wants to share her recent trip to Vanuatu, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean.
Eva made it there and back to Durham, North Carolina by mid-March. Just before borders around the world started shutting down. Her posts today and next Tuesday will likely be the last travel blogs on my site for a while. Maybe even quite a while.
Take us away, Eva!
I knew from the moment I stepped foot on Efate Island that I was destined to love Vanuatu.
You know the feeling, the one where your heartbeat quickens. And you can’t wipe the smile off your face.
Just one step. That’s all it took, and I fell head over heels in love with this beautiful Pacific Island nation.
After a seamless airport pickup was seamless, thanks to Airport Arrival Transfer Port Vila
My first stop was the Vaemoli Dreams guest house.
My hosts were Esther and Calvin. Esther was born and raised in Vanuatu. Calvin is an Australian expat who fell in love with the island. And with Esther.
Vaemoli Dreams is their home, but they created a private guest suite to host hopeful travelers like me.
Vanuatu: First Impressions
Vaemoli Dreams is the perfect name for the property because it is like something out of a tropical dream.
The back patio has a swimming pool that looks out over the horizon. The lush green hill rolls down to the edge of the Erakor Lagoon below.
When I first arrived, I sat out back and just took in all the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. The sun was shining down through the coconut palms, and the wind gently whispered through the fruit trees. The deep blues and the vivid greens painted an unbelievable backdrop. And just past the trees I could hear some local kids swimming and having fun.
Vanuatu: Beautiful Island, Beautiful People
Bright, beautiful flowers caught my eye, and a gentle breeze kissed my face. I wondered, for a moment, if there was a lifetime limit on falling in love at first sight. I decided that if there was such a limit, and that if I had reached it here in Vanuatu, it would be okay with me. I’ve been to a lot of amazing places. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful destinations. But those first moments in Vanuatu felt different. They felt special, and I deeply suspected that Vanuatu would be one of the most amazing places I had ever visited.
After the breathtaking natural beauty, my favorite thing about Vanuatu was meeting the people. Everyone was warm and friendly, and not just in tourist centers. Little kids riding by on bicycles called out, “Good Afternoon!” Women working in shops smiled warmly when I walked by.
Local bus drivers always slowed down to see if I needed a ride. Some construction workers helped me find the bookstore I was looking for. And the waitress at a local restaurant sat down to chat with me as I waited for my food.
When I talked to people, I felt like they saw me as a person and not just as a potential sale. While I have no way of knowing what they actually thought of me, I do know that they made me feel welcome and relaxed and comfortable.
As I experienced more of Vanuatu, I became even more convinced that I was, in fact, in paradise. The coconut palms in the backyard at Vaemoli Dreams generously gave their fruit.
Everywhere I turned, fruit trees were abundant, and the fruit was juicy and sweet. As I walked down the road to town each day, I saw trees full of paw paw – what Americans would call ‘papaya’. Also, mango, avocado, and big bunches of bananas.
I also had the chance to sit down at the central market and try the national dish: Laplap.
Laplap is made by scraping green bananas, taro, yam, or breadfruit into a paste. You mix the paste with coconut milk and cook the mixture inside a banana leaf. A generous portion costs about $1 USD and is served with island cabbage. The texture reminded me of Dominican arepa. But laplap isn’t sweet like arepa.
Adding to the list of delicious experiences, I drank fresh coconut water from a tiny coconut and ate fire roasted corn from a roadside stand.
Everything was so fresh and flavorful.
Vanuatu: The Blue Lagoon
One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
The clear blue water is so clean that you can see right down to the bottom. If you’re daring, you can climb onto a rope swing and swing out over the water.
The Blue Lagoon is also an interesting place, because it has a mixture of salt water and fresh water.
When I say that Vanuatu is paradise, I mean lush green hills and placid lagoons. Vivid colors and gentle breezes. Warm sunshine and breathtaking natural beauty. Friendly people and diverse local languages. Sweet, juicy fruit and tasty local dishes. Clear blue water, and the perfect view of a full moon through the coconut palms.
Stay tuned for a YouTube video of my Blue Lagoon experience!
Also by Eva Michelle Wheeler: Colombia: A Rich Linguistic Experience
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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen