The search for upmarket R&R on the drive from Pele was an exercise in sightseeing. There was the odd rain shower, which isn’t really a great thing when you’re on some of the side roads.
We headed to a restaurant for lunch (I can’t remember the name), a trip that involved some horrendous roads but the owners were having their first day off after the Christmas/New Year rush. Bugger.
The gang decided to show me the Blue Waters resort, which apparently is now closed after the owner struck several avenues of trouble.
What a sad sight it is … it’s set on a huge tract of land with beautiful water either side. All the infrastructure is there (well most of it) … cabins with air-conditioning, solar panels, furniture, but it’s like a ghost town … the day trippers and squatters notwithstanding.
What were once beautifully landscaped roads are now overgrown, with accompanying piles of rubbish (think old TV sets, broken furniture, et al) and the general feeling of decay everywhere. I had a look at a couple of websites later to see it in its former glory … it was a cracker. Word on the street is that it can be bought for a couple of million, but it would take at least that again to get it anywhere near its former glory.
It’s a sad story.
As we left the grounds, hunger was kicking in big time and we stopped at a resort (again I can’t remember the name, which is a good thing) on the road to Port Vila.
We settled into comfy cane chairs and ordered soft drinks for the kids and three G&Ts for the former kids and a jug of water. We also ordered a couple of bowls of fries to get us started and a round of cheeseburgers and a couple of ham, cheese and tomato toasties.
The chips manifested quickly (the potato peeler in the kitchen must have been broken because they were a motley collection) and they were quickly dispatched.
The burgers took their time. It must have been tough in the kitchen. Yeah, right. We were the only customers. The wait was eased by a round of brandy and dry for all (OK not the kids) and after almost half an hour, the excuses for burgers arrived. The bread rolls, not toasted or buttered, were cardboard-like stale, the patties were a dark colour that was sometimes interrupted by a film of yellow mucous-like stuff that masqueraded as cheese, there was no sauce and no salad of any type (although there were a few shreds of raw cabbage on the side to dress it up). They were a disaster and totally inedible and were duly sent back to the kitchen. On the way they passed the toasties (35 minutes to make two), which were the same standard of the burgers.
“They just don’t get it,” said Liam. “It’s no wonder that this place is not travelling well.” He got that right.
There was to be no resort stay for us tonight … home was the call, for some decent food, some wine and a comfy bed. It was a good choice on all counts.
We unpacked, opened a coldie, chilled for a while in the familiar surroundings, re-acquainted ourselves with the dogs, who were pleased to see us and made a beeline to the closest nakamal for a couple of kava shells and some chit chat with the locals.
It was a good end to the day.
A CUT ABOVE
Breakfast loomed the next morning, with Dan in the kitchen doing her thing with one of the new kitchen knives that had been my Christmas present (they were suggested by Liam).
She was merrily slicing away. It was a first-hand lesson in just how sharp they were … a yell later we assembled in the kitchen to examine the tip of a finger sitting forlornly on the cutting board. A sympathetic Dr Liam set about the business of cleaning and bandaging the wound before taking over knife duties. In the tropics there’s no place for a she’ll be right approach to any sort of cut or scratch … infection is but a moment away. I know because a scratch on my arm from Bob the dog got nasty really quickly. Dr Liam soon was in need of Dr Dan … he had blood pissing down his hand after he, too, discovered how sharp the knives are.
Breakfast was good but.
Every afternoon at the house, an alarm sounded some time just before four o’clock.
It’s the “it’s kava time” alarm
A nice touch, that.
GARDEN TO END ALL GARDENS
To say that Dan’s garden is a cracker is, well, a gross understatement. Apart from being beautiful to look at … really beautiful … it’s productive in the extreme.
Here’s a list (there’s probably some that she forgot to mention) that will give you a good idea of what productive means.
Custard apples (pink and green)
Jackfruit (huge bubblegum-like fruit)
Soursop (lemonade sponge)
Purple star apple
Breadfruit (like a starch soccerball … good for chips or pudding)
Black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit)
Nange nu, Namambrae nut, Narelle nut, Natapoa nut
Paw-paws (a favourite of Jeffrey, the pig)
Pepper vine (really sweet and peppery)
Pineapples (every one picked gets eaten and the tops are replanted to do their thing again)
Naus tree (green apple)
Ylang ylang tree (for oil)
Tomatoes (they were the tiniest but sweetest I’ve tasted)
Who needs to go to the market?
COMING TO AN END
My last day in Vanuatu was a bit of relaxing and shopping … I hit the duty-free shops in search of Egoiste, my favourite Chanel product. It’s not available in Australia (Platinum Egoiste is but while it’s OK, it’s not my favourite). The job was done. I grabbed Egoiste and some Chanel Antaeus for a total of 160 bucks … in Oz it would have cost me somewhere nearer to 300. It was a good result.
We also stopped at the Kava Emporium to grab some takeaway (dried that is, to take home). I got enough to make 2 ½ litres, which equates to 50x100 ml shells, enough to give some mates and me a good workout. Given that the shop sells things other than kava, I also snaffled a couple of things that will be fun (and useful in the boudoir). Suffice to say, it’s called Mother Load.
A quick trawl of the craft market down by the beach (I got nothing although I did buy a shanghai there earlier in the stay) and there was nothing left to do, but buy some travellers and head home, via the bakery.
A relaxing afternoon involved a nap, some beers and plenty of general bonhomie. It was sad to be packing.
As a last treat, Liam took me to one of his favourite nakamals, which is near where he used to live across the road from La Lagon resort. It’s also not far from Elouk, where he lived when he first came here almost four years ago.
It rained on the way … the first serious rain for my entire stay. And I mean serious. We drove down a shitty dirt track and parked about 30 metres from the nakamal.
Soaked to the skin is the only way to describe the way I was. Even my undies were saturated, which made sitting a none-too-comfortable experience. But sit we did, shooting the breeze with Patto and Kelvin, among others, and solving some of the world’s problems.
A couple of shells and a few beers and it was time to defongerate. At least the rain had stopped.
We headed to Bon Marche to grab supplies for dinner (Liam was making spag bol). I grabbed a huge caterer’s size bottle of pickled onions for Dan … she has a real thing for them. We also had a hankering for a can each Jack Daniels and Coke travellers. It was a good decision, despite the $10 each price tag.
As we walked out of the supermarket, the light had changed dramatically to an almost golden sky. And there was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen. We could see the start and the finish. Where’s ya camera when you need it? There was also a second rainbow, not as bright but beautiful just the same. It was a good sign. Perhaps there is a pot of gold here. I’m pondering a chance I have to rent Angelica’s furnished house in Bellevue for six months … it’s a great deal. We’ll see, but I really want to do it.
With dinner in progress (but not before I gave Liam a lesson in mincing meat with a very sharp knife), I got the last of the packing done. It’s such a shitty time.
Dinner was done, some last-minute drinks and chats before setting the alarm (I was supposed to be at the airport at 5am for a seven o’clock flight) and sleep.
It didn’t come easy for anything like a reasonable stretch … I kept waking and checking the time.
At 4.10, the gods did their things and the house shook for a few seconds. It was another earthquake. That was me done for any more sleep.
Liam and I hit the airport at 5.30, with time enough for a few smokes and some final farewells.
There was a good sort in the queue ahead of me. Cate Blanchett is her name. She has a house in Vanuatu and a brother who lives there. She flew in economy too.
I did my usual tearing up as I hugged Liam … it had been great to see him again and to meet the beautiful (in every way) Dan and the kids.
Immigration wasn’t the quickest … there was just one woman checking passports … but after I got through security, I noticed that there’s a smokers’ lounge. First time I’ve seen it despite being here four times.
It helped kill the last hour (and me, no doubt) before we finally left the ground and settled in for an airborne breakfast, which was better-than-average airline food, on the way to Sydney.
About an hour out of the harbour city, I took my glasses out of their case so I could have a read.
To say I was pissed off was an understatement … the right arm of the glasses just broke off. They were almost 500 bucks a pair, made of titanium or something and supposedly could be tied in knots and were unbreakable. Yeah, right.
Some duty-free black label Jack, some tequila and a ¼ kilo of tobacco and the last hurdle was the sniffer dogs, who thought nothing of my luggage. Not that there was anything in there to worry about, it’s just something that gets the heart racing a little quicker.
A quick smoke with a Scot, Peter, who was on the same flight, and I was in a cab and homeward bound.
It had been a great holiday … in every way …
ON THE MEND
A trip to SpecSavers to get the glasses fixed was first on the agenda the next day (Friday) … and I was told that it would take the best part of a week to get new frames (which were under warranty). It would make life tough, given that I was starting work on Monday and I basically read for a living.
I had to make do with wearing prescription sunnies in the office.
I got a call from Tammy at SpecSavers on Tuesday to say that my glasses were ready. “Oh, wait,” she said, “you’re not Michael O’Brien. Your glasses are not ready.”
To her eternal credit, she hit the phones and finally found some frames at one of their other outlets and I picked them up on Wednesday morning before work.
Hallelujah … I can see. Thanks Tammy.
BACK TO THE BUMP AND GRIND
Work at both places was a culture shock for me, although The Weekly Review was just a couple of afternoons, which made the transition from holiday mode a tad easier.
It helped to be on familiar territory … Lina’s wine bar was on the list. It was good to catch up again with friends and do a belated happy new year thing. The wine was good too.
Thursday and Friday afternoons off also helped. I caught up with my opera singing mate Ben at the local pub. Drinking rose at 2.30 in really the path to danger. And so it came to pass.
I’d decided earlier in the week to have a bit of a (personal) tidy up and booked the hairdresser for 2pm on Friday.
He’s never going to make his fortune out of me. I’ve been going to him since 1975, but this would be the first time I’d seen him in more than a year.
The beard went on Thursday night (my first shave for about six months). I got a call from Chris, the hairdresser at work on Friday morning pleading for me to come earlier. “I don’t usually work afternoons,” he said.
“I’ll bring wine and you’ll work in the afternoon,” I told him.
It was a done deal.
He always enjoys the prospect … or is that a challenge? … of carving a good six or eight inches off the top of my noggin (I don’t know how much that is in the new money).
“Oh, and I want you to leave a full-length plait at the back,” I told him.
“I don’t do plaits,” he said.
“Mate, I brought wine, which means you do plaits,” I said,
I now have a plait … and short hair.
BACK TO A ROUTINE
Saturday morning was light-headed in more ways than one, but I was up at about 6.30 and by 9.30, I’d done three loads of washing, stripped the bed, done some tweeting, been to the shops to pick up a magazine or two, bought some wine to go with what I was cooking for dinner the next night, grabbed a coffee and bought a Tatts ticket.
I did the market thing to buy the ingredients for my take on san choy bow and to catch up with my favourite stallholders.
Job done and I did the honourable thing and stopped at Claypots for a beer and a smoke (it was after 12).
By 12.30 I was in the kitchen, slicing, dicing and getting the show on the road.
A phone call from someone near and dear came just as I’d finished the dish. She was popping in for a catch-up and a coffee.
I was sitting on the church pew on the front verandah when she arrived. It was great to see her. She headed straight to the kitchen, grabbed on spoon from the drawer, lifted the lid on the pot, and grabbed a scoop.
“Shit, that’s good,” she said, “you’re such a great cook. But it needs a squeeze of lime juice.”
Thanks, and she was right.
We sat in the backyard for a coffee and a chat … which led to a tip for all you single fellas out there. Do not get rid of the cobwebs on the outdoor furniture. After talking for about 45 minutes, it was time for her to go. As she walked into the kitchen, I noticed a heap of cobwebs on her backside.
“Hang on,” I said, “you’ve got cobwebs all over you.” I started brushing them away with my hand. “You just wanted to rub my arse,” she said. Right again.
I wandered to get a clothes brush given that my hand work was ineffective. “That feels good,” she said. Alas.
It was great to catch up … It has been far too long.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.