So, I think we might have found our new favorite place. The bad news is it’s hard to get to. That’s probably the good news too, so it might have a chance to stay pristine. Ratua island, off of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, the southern most island in the South Pacific nation, is pure bliss. Mind you, about halfway through the journey there I began to think that I never wanted to leave home again. Ever. Here’s what it takes to get there from San Francisco. You have to fly to LA and get an overnight flight to Fiji. (We spent a week in Fiji, which was a most excellent idea.) From Nadi, Fiji, it only takes an hour to get to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, but then you have to take another flight to Santo, drive half-an-hour to a boat dock then take a 40-minute boat ride to Ratua, muttering bad words under your breath all the way. By the way, Air Vanuatu really, really sucks. Their planes are fine, but get this: I had booked and paid for the flights and then just before we left I get an email telling me that oops, there really wasn’t room for all of the family on that flight, but the good news was they had booked Greg and me on the last flight of the day and the two kids (10 and 12) on the early morning one the next day. Oh yes, they did. In the end it was fine as Greg ended up staying at a lovely resort called Eratap with the girls and I got a hall pass to go out to Ratua by myself for one evening, which was just fine by me. And when I finally got there, this is what I saw (but by night).
Ratua was built by a intimidatingly chic and well-heeled French couple who worked hard, made piles of dosh, bought a huge yacht with crew and sailed around the world for a year with their two kids looking for the best island to buy. They fell in love with Vanuatu and found Ratua, which is a 60-something acre island with nothing else on it but the resort and coconut trees. They have spared no expense, even though the resort is very affordable if you ask me. At least for what you are getting. Right now it is $220 per person per night, but that includes food and non-booze drink and transport from airport. I think they will put the price up later in the year, however.
They salvaged 200-year-old carved wooden houses from Sumatra and Bali and had them cleaned and refurbished. The result is rustic stunning. And you actually feel like you are living in a posh 200-year-old village. We rode and swam their fabulous horses over to a neighboring island and through the jungle. We went snorkeling on their gorgeous reefs. We kayaked. And Indigo and I went to Santo one day and did the Millennium Cave, which nearly killed me but that’s another story. Now I’ll shut up and let the pictures do the talking.
Stephanie Caillaud, Ratua’s horse trainer and an ex-Lippizaner rider swimming the horse home after dark (we were behind her, but her posture is better than ours)
The girls learning to drive on the runway (yes, soon there will be direct, private flights from Port Vila and no need for Air Vanuatu. Hooray!)
I threw this in because that is me under siege by the dancers from a neighboring island. I have a fixed rictus grin on my face because yes, that was a very real spear that I looked down to find at my chest and a very real axe at my head and those never-used-deodorant-ever bodies were very, very sweaty after their highly energetic (and FANTASTIC) dancing.
So this is my first go at blogging. I know, I know, I’ve always been slow on the uptake. In fact I am guilty of poo-pooing the very idea, “Like, who has time?” But then too many people starting asking me why I don’t have a blog and I had to admit to being too lame and lazy and possibly even too old. However, recently I was in Vanuatu and getting a real kick out of sending a photo of Indigo standing with a bunch of men in grass penis sheaths over and over again via email. Then it hit me that just posting the photo once might be a hell of a lot easier. Hence this blog, which my lovely friend Kristin from 428Designs whipped together in no time and talked me off the ledge when it all got to be too complicated. I imagine this is really just for my own benefit. And possibly that of the girls, who love seeing photos of themselves.
So, here is the photo of Indigo (my eldest daughter age 12.5) and the penis-sheath men on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu (a Melanesian nation in the South Pacific). I was sincerely hoping to find this tribe as some of them were whisked off to America by the Travel Channel to make a documentary called Meet the Natives. These men, who had theretofore lived without electricity, running water or TV and had never experienced cold before, were taken to places like New York and Montana in the middle of winter. A human rights violation, one might ask? I wanted to hear what they thought (even though they spoke no English and the only one who did spoke very poorly). Their impressions were interesting. To paraphrase, “In America you live like Gods, but there is not enough sun between your tall buildings and you are too running around mad.”
I love this photo as it is sort of like a mini-me moment. Indigo actually enjoys the long, uncomfortable drives out to find these people. (Or maybe find them, you never know.) She actually likes to take photos of semi-naked people who live in incredibly uncomfortable surroundings. She doesn’t mind the heat, the dust and the long moments of waiting. And she is a really good photographer. Might even be better than I am. See these photos she took.
Here’s a penis sheath close up. Indigo hoped no one had any skin allergies.
In addition, Indi is also really brave, which means when I took her to the Yasur Volcano, which is the world’s most accessible (because they have no rules in Vanuatu) and constantly active volcano, she didn’t flinch as lava rocks rocketed towards us. I thought nothing of it at the time, but later learned the four people have been killed up there.
It was incredible. Mind-blowing and we sat on the rim for four hours, taking photos long after they were still in focus.
Yasur from a distance
We took this one just to freak out my mother
And now (below) we are about 20 feet from the rim of the crater (on the leeward side). These are the ash plumes from the constant eruptions, which contained burning rocks that you were not able to see until night fell.
And as the sun was setting
And at dark
Here’s one more shot, just because she’s really cool looking and we bought her hand carved walking sticks.
Where, you might ask, were Greg (the husband) and Fia (other daughter, age 10) during all this? Well, they were back at the funky little hotel we stayed in (the best on Tanna), Whitegrass Resort playing golf barefooted. They missed an awesome day.