The following are some observations on my one and only excursion around Vanuatu. For those participating in the trip, it was an eye opener. The “Bus” was typical of its breed, with dodgy seats and dubious vintage. Our driver described himself as the Chief of Police for Vanuatu, which we later discovered was a common occupation for most drivers.
First stop was to inflate the back left tyre, which was flat and when travelling at some speed, he continually opened his door and leaned out to check on said tyre. When asked what the speed limit was, his reply was typical Vanuatu “The speed limit is the road”. Before heading out on the trip he asked us for money to fill the petrol tank, which was registering “empty”.
We had only travelled about 20kms when we spotted a bus similar to ours with the driver throwing water onto the steaming brake drums. This is not designed to fill one with confidence because after another 20kms I remarked that someone was burning off the scrub, he replied “No! That’s our brakes”.
We visited a Pre School where the kids sang “Itsy bitsy spider” to us and we all pledged to send books and pencils because they receive little or no funding to keep the place running.
We also stopped at a WW2 “museum” where we learned of the wonders of Coca Cola bottles. I had no idea that the year of manufacture and the State of the USA where they were made was on he bottom of each bottle. They also had the case for an F24 Aircraft camera, which I had been involved in repairing back in he early 1950s. I must admit I got a bit choked up.
He said that the “better off” of the locals had a rifle so that they could shoot the feral chickens for meat.
We also visited a typical village where the poverty was very evident and pigs and piglets roamed freely like real pets, but when asked what happened to the really big ones they said, “We eat them”.
I know it sounds like a disaster but in reality it was fascinating and I’m astounded that people who have so little can be so overwhelmingly happy and generous.