We have been on 2 of the 83 islands in this peaceful nation, and going to our third tomorrow. Even though it's "dry" season, that's relative when there are rainforests. We first stayed on Efate, in the capital city of Port Vila, and enjoyed it enough. We were in a beach front resort, but the snorkeling was just ok, and the water was definitely colder than where we had been diving. The all day tour to various key sites was underwhelming, but we got some interesting photos.
At a kastum village visit, we renewed our vows, complete with warrior threat at the end. The weavings around our waists are both decorative and show value. The basket Steve's holding and the wild boar tusks in our hands are the bride price on the island.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to swim at this tranquil waterfall and river, due to not being told to bring swim gear before we left, as well as running out of time on the tour and needing to move on fairly quickly.
We're now on the island of Espiritu Santo, and I LOVE it! Much more peaceful and full of natural beauty spots like the beach above. We had Champagne Beach to ourselves when we first got there, and can't even imagine what it's like when a cruise ship docks and there are hundreds of people here. The snorkeling was pretty good, with us seeing some fish we hadn't seen yet, but there was some pretty strong wave action to contend with. We had fresh coconut water, from the coconuts bought at a roadside stand, and then hacked open on top by the machete wielding van driver.
Then on to Nanda Blue Hole. Rain water percolates through the volcanic soil and joins into underground rivers that surface into these crystal clear (and chilly) swimming holes. This one is up to 50 feet deep.
This picture is not enhanced at all. The water really is that blue! It was so refreshing to swim and rinse off the salt water from our beach visit.
Yesterday, we did an all day tour to Millenium Cave. The name is derived from when it was opened to tourists in 2000. We were driven 45 minutes on a very bumpy and pot-holed road (that also included a portion of a WWII runway) and arrived at a village. We met our guide, who walked us through the jungle to a second village 20 minutes away, on a slippery mud track, and even crossed a ravine on a bamboo bridge. The bamboo logs were fresh green, and slippery with mud coated shoes.
At the second village, we met the rest of our guides (a total of 8, for 10 guests!), and were given life jackets to wear for the rest of the trip. We hiked another hour and a half (!) on sometimes precarious paths, and up and down steep slopes that required wooden ladders that you needed to back down. Quite the excursion!
This was actually an easy ladder, with a handrail. Later, there were multiple nearly vertical ladders that would turn at a 45 degree angle to continue descending the hill. I was too busy watching my foot placement and trying to not put my hands in too much mud, to take any pictures of the most challenging ones.
We then hiked 30 minutes through a pitch black cave (that was up to 60 ft high in places), using flashlights to try and illuminate the slippery footing through the stream bed we waded. At one point, my left foot got caught sideways between two rocks, as I was stepping forward with my right. Ouch! The guide had to extricate it, but luckily it was just badly scraped and bruised, but not twisted. This part of our trek seemed interminable due to my painful ankle, but I tried to keep looking up and around to appreciate the majesty of the place we were in and watch the little bats flitting about. The light at the end was very welcome, along with a lunch stop.
Next came 30 minutes of "canyoning", and thank goodness for strategically placed rebar handles and ropes. I lost my footing again, and ended up sliding under a big boulder, but luckily didn't hit my head or get hurt more badly than a few scrapes and bruises. Steve and the guide had to pull me back out the way I slid, as I couldn't raise myself.
The people give scale to the rocks we had to clamber over and around. Note the top of the ladder affixed to a boulder at the bottom of the picture.
We were finally rewarded at the end by a 45 minute swim through a river that cut through gorgeously carved stone walls, often dripping with ferns.
This waterfall was quite refreshing to wash off the mud face paint that we were given before entering the cave.
All in all, we were very glad to have done the trek but I wouldn't do it again! Now off to the volcano island of Tanna.