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  • Writer's pictureswedishvikingprinc

Is a dream worth living?

My heart held an unexplained connection to Vanuatu from the first time I went there. It was Paradise to a young girl of 16. I always wanted to rest there when I was old and told my children that, if I were to die, to scatter my ashes there...


Fast forward some years and I find myself in Vanuatu on my honeymoon. We were on a cruise and were meant to have a full day there, but as a larger ship was right behind us, we were reduced, at the last minute to less than half a day. That was something unexpected and it was disappointing, to put it mildly. I'd hoped to meet a friend, and due to no internet once we got off, I missed him!


My husband and I set off to check the place out and he was also surprised at the immediate response of the local Ni-Vanuatu people. They are gorgeous, happy and welcoming people. After having a quick look around, we ended up at one of the restaurants I used to go to when I was there so many years ago.


Although I didn't meet my friends, we got talking to some people who were trying to moor a new boat (with hilarious inefficiency). They were lovely and inquisitive. When I mentioned wanting to come and stay a few months, I was asked "When?". I told them there were no plans yet, but we wanted to come to see what it was like living there... Before we knew it, I was offered a house sitting gig for two months! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for days!


My husband is somewhat pragmatic and suggested it may not be possible. We already had a very tight schedule to finish renovations etc and get the house on the market.


As mentioned previously, I'm not good at planning and pushed for it with gusto. Long story short, we arranged my eldest daughter to house/animal sit, and we were off! My husband, as it turned out, couldn't stay. We were disappointed when he was called back for work, He couldn't arrange to come back as hoped, so I was looking after a naughty (but adorable) rottweiler, a bunch of chickens and the cats that also lived in the coop!


It was a magnificent place, on it's own private beach , with a pool and a huge yard. The owners were also kind enough to allow us to use their cars. This was a must as we lived quite a way out of town. It was heaven on earth - at least it appeared that way.


Sure, it was fun getting the free coconuts from the trees nearby and drinking them by the pool, enjoying the snorkelling, right in the backyard and the fun drive to the town, but it was also hard work. The dog was pretty naughty and we were tasked with trying to teach him some manners.. That's a big ask in only 2 months, and once my husband left, it was difficult to do that without back up. The gardener and house girl weren't able to help.


Anyway, things were going well despite my husband not being there, but even though I loved being there, I knew already that it wasn't the Utopia I thought it was during all of those years of dreaming.


Even before Martin had to go back, we knew it wasn't for us. The local Ni-Vanuatu people were lovely, but the Ex-pat community didn't really mix with them. The Ex-pats were fun, lovely people, but the food wasn't great. In Vanuatu, there isn't a lot of spice and coming from Australia, we're used to that! Bland, but nice food isn't what we really wanted to retire to.


Anyway, we tried to get Martin back, but tickets were difficult to arrange, and then there was a small matter of a Cyclone heading straight towards Port Vila. A category 4 cyclone hit during the daylight hours and it wasn't as bad as I thought. There was only some minor damage to the property and the eye in the storm permitted the dog a pee break!


The clean up wasn't too bad. I got to hone my maschette skills as I needed to cut back the vegetation that blocked the road outside the property. That was fun, but created a few nasty blisters and aching muscles. I still had power due to a magnificent solar array, and neighbours came by to use the freezers as no one else had power.


Two days later, however, another Category 4 cyclone hit. It was considered a somewhat stronger cyclone, so the whole town battered the hatches (literally) in preparation. As the ground was still soaked after the first cyclone, there was significantly more damage this time. It also hit at night, and straight on, so it was loud and exhausting!


I had tied down as much as I could and moved furniture inside and closed shutters etc, so I thought I was ready for another one.... boy was I wrong! The noise was so intense, the sheer power of the storm and the unnerving bangs in the night kept me awake.


Rain was coming in through the shuttered windows and the floor had a full layer of inch deep water on it. The dog and I holed up in the bathroom at the back of the house as it seemed the driest and most secure. I sat on an outdoor chair with a pillow to rest on. Feet on the basin to keep dry, and the dog was on a layer of blankets with a towel barrier. He was super happy and snored all night! I, on the other hand, got almost no sleep...at some point I dozed off and woke to find my pillow had fallen of the back of the chair. The dog had claimed that and was as happy as a pig in S@*t!!


As it happened, the trees had crashed down on the front gates, knocking out all of the power. If I needed to get out of the property I would have to walk out on the beach side, through the neighbours places, or climb over the fence! Not only could I not open the shutters for light, but I also had no way of contacting my husband to say I was alright.


After hours of trying to get water out of the house, I needed a break. It was an uphill battle. Literally. The tiling was not the best as it fell towards the side of the house I couldn't open! I went out with the dog trailing behind me to cut my way to the front gate. I hadn't mentioned earlier, but the front yard had a dual driveway, surrounded by lovely gardens but it was a good 40 metres to the gate. With trees down, corrugated sheeting and guttering strewn everywhere it was a massive job for one person. As I had the maschette in tow, I was up for the challenge.


An hour later, I was wrecked. It felt like I wasn't getting anywhere. The dog was going nuts and I was worried he would get hurt with all the stuff everywhere. The chickens and the cats appeared to have survived, but there was a tree right over the coop. I recommenced my efforts to get to the gate and soon I heard a voice over the fence, asking if I needed a hand. I think they heard me telling the dog to go away and I was near tears. Kindly, they took him for a walk and while they were out, they found a neighbour with a chain saw. He came to cut the worst of the trees away and it allowed me to cut the rest to gain access.


I could go on, but I think I have painted the picture... I was tired, filthy, emotional and frustrated. I hadn't even, at that point, witnessed the beach side of the house. I had gone around to the neighbours (after viewing the beach side - chaos) and when I returned I found a friend of the owner on the front patio. She took me to her place so I could call my husband.


Once we managed to achieve a moment of internet connection (I had to stand in a specific spot, but it was all I needed), I was able to hear my husbands voice. Oh how lovely! I held it together, but after he knew I was alright, I headed back home to carry on with the clean-up.


After all of this, I can honestly say, that I do not think Vanuatu is my Utopia. Time to go home, sort out the house and contents, and go have a proper look!



After the second cyclone Vanuatu was devastated. A bit like my dream of living there!



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