Friday 26th September

I was awake at 4am, read for a while and then got up around 5:30am and had a shower and got myself ready before waking the kids.
We were at breakfast soon after 6.
I settled up our account and the driver loaded our gear on board.
We were gone from Tanna Lodge before 7am.
It was strange having the kids traveling in an enclosed vehicle.
The did not interact with the locals like they had been over the past week sitting on the back of the truck.
We checked in.
There was a large family group in front of us who had spent a couple of weeks here helping to build a school building.
Then us, and then……
Rachel & Esso appeared.
It was so funny.
Esso walked right passed Mahalia and didn’t notice her.
She saw him and Rachel saw Mahalia and then there was a joyous reunion 🙂
Rachel was flying with us to attend a funeral, Esso couldn’t go because of guests and work.
So we had the pleasure of Rachel’s company all the way to Port Vila.
I sat with her in the tiny 17 seater plane.
We were tucked right in the very back seats.
No room to swing a cat in there!
Once we landed she walked with us over to International and then we had our last hugs goodbye as she had to take a bus into town.
We had arrived early due to the plane taking off half an hour early.
So we had 4 and 1/4 hours to wait for our next flight 😦
And this is what the airport shopping consists of!
The kids made themselves as comfortable as they could for a couple of hours.
We all enjoyed an ice cream first though – it is made in Port Vila and is delicious.
Switi is the brand so look out for it if you go there.
I browsed the few small shops and brought a couple of pretty scarves.
There was a rack of classic traditional Mother Hubbard dresses for sale.
I thought the label was pretty cool!
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Finally at 11am we were able to check our luggage in and transfer through security and into the boarding lounge area.
I got the kids some food, Mahalia bought some shorts from a stall there and I found the Yakel dvd I had been wanting.

We were boarded around 1pm and the flight left on time at 1:15pm.
The plane was only half full.
I watched ‘Blended’ – it was a really good story, Adam Sandler movies are usually good for a laugh and this one proved very funny, but also very poignant too.
The food they served us was very tasty.
All in all the flight went well.
We landed in Auckland to a cool afternoon.
Whizzed through security, showed the guy Azzan’s coral and shells.
He picked up his piece of volcanic rock and semi crumbled it remarking that it looked like a piece of road.
I was pretty annoyed that he would diminish a young boys treasure like that :-/

Our bags were to be checked straight through to Nelson from there but in the kerfuffle with the shells etc the luggage tag had been torn off so when I went to put the third bag on the conveyor they had to call it back.
And of course the other two had gone so we didn’t know which label was needing to be replaced.
Computer was definitely saying No! this time.
I was so incredibly tired and had been nursing a really bad headache for several hours so I was not in a good shape to be sealing with this unnecessary hassle.
We were told to take the bag over to domestic and get them to sort it.
I was pretty desperate by now so I left Mahalia with our gear and Azzan & I sipped upstairs to departure and got a Tank smoothie to keep us going until we got it all sorted.
So instead of a walk over I fell into the free transfer bus to Domestic.
We queued up and finally got someone to sort the bag.
Then we still had 4 hours to wait for our plane.
So we took up residence near the food court where I found an electric plug to charge my phone.
Azzan was still not feeling great, and neither was Mahalia so we didn’t eat much.
I got a very small salad.
Finally we boarded out plane to Nelson and left at 9pm.
Landed at 10pm, John met us and as soon as our bags were through we chucked them into the boot and he took us back to the motel.
We literally fell in the door of our unit and crashed onto our beds.
Soooooooooo tired.
I had been awake for 19 hours.

Thursday 25th September

I woke up around 3:30am.
I was really cold and slept fitfully until 6ish.
Lay in bed and read my iPhone kindle until the kids woke up.
We cruised on down for a late breakfast.
A Chinese guest ordered an omelette so Azzan and I decided to have one too.
Needed a change from toast.
We had a very restful morning doing not a lot.
We lay about on the foyer couches using the internet for a while.
Then I went and lay on my bed and read my kindle and dozed until lunch time.
After lunch I rested for some more, Azzan swam.
Then mid arvo the owners son Ned took us for a walk along to some caves in the cliffs.
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I let them go in and explore – am not into small spaces.
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We wandered about on the rocks and the. I went to see where the bungalows were that I had stayed in when we came here in 1978.
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They were right here, the first and only tourist accommodation on Tanna.
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Chatted with some young travellers from Sydney, then had dinner.
The owner of the establishment, this time sporting a shirt covering his expansive frontage, was quite chatty.
It actually took him 4 days to speak to me!
But tonight he was very friendly and offered to make me a ‘Baileys’.
He cannot stock the real thing because once the bottles are opened the contents curdle in the heat and he ‘cannot rely on his staff to keep them in the fridge’.
His words!
He may spout on about using local labour and products to do all the building and staffing, but he is very negative about them and their way of life.
He made me a delicious drink using coffee liquor and fresh cream, then proceeded to make an Amaretto for Mahalia.
I think he misjudged her age, or maybe he doesn’t care about giving alcohol to minors – who knows.
Whatever, she didn’t like it anyway 😉
He then made Azzan a cocktail of fruit juice, which Azzan didn’t like either!
But the intention was nice and we thanked him 🙂
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Time to go pack up as we have to leave here at 7am to begin our journey home.

Wednesday 24th September

I had asked Esso to come a bit later as the kids were getting quite weary.
So they were able to chill out until he arrived around 10am.
I chatted over breakfast with Tania, a very interesting and friendly lady from NZ, Nelson and now Christchurch.
Rachel had brought Abraham into the Dr to have his ears checked as he had been crying during the night.
But there was an emergency at the hospital so she wasn’t able to have him seen to.
We picked them up and then Morah, their daughter who is home from her law studies at university for a while.
Rachel stopped to pick up some mangoes from their favourite roadside stall.
We drove up into the highlands, passed by a team of Public Works Department guys who are working on widening and improving the road heading north.
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We opted not to walk for n hour through the jungle as we were all tired, so Esso drove us.
It was a very interesting drive, past coffee and other crops put in by Kiwi investors to supply work for the local guys.
Through jungle, squeezing between coconut palms, Daniel ran ahead to clear away fallen fronds and benches.
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Came to a stop in a clearing.
Sat and enjoyed some fresh mangoes, then we walked down to the Central Highland Cascades with Daniel.
Unfortunately there has not been any rain and the water had dried up.
Not having been here before we didn’t realise how low it was, we were just deliberating as to what to do.
Azzan went with Daniel down to the bottom and was about to jump in when Esso arrived and stopped him.
Love the way Esso carries Abraham.
It looks so comfy.
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When they were here a few weeks ago there was plenty of water running, now the water is low and still and Esso was worried that we would get sick from the dead leaves.
So we walked back up to the truck and drove back through the jungle and on to their farm.
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Melia had cooked us kumara chips and chicken for lunch.
We were hungry and the kids were very happy to be back at Rachel’s restaurant a they really enjoy her food.
After we ate and I paid Esso the final amount for our tours we said goodbye to Morah and Abraham.
I took a last wander around Rachel’s garden.
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The solar panels to heat the shower water.
And I had a wee look in Rachel’s restaurant kitchen.
I am so impressed at what she manages to prepare and present with such basicness.
I know that’s not a word but it is for now!
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Sylvana, their eleven year old came with us.
We stopped off at the Lume Memorial Adventist Vocational and Technical Training college that Rachel’s brother Jimmy Lume started to teach the young folk in practical skills like carpentry, mechanics, hospitality, small business and traditional crafts etc.
I had met Rose, Jimmy’s wife as we passed by last night.
I talked with the manager because Jimmy was away in Port Vila.
He showed me around.
They do so much with so little resources.
The main block was funded by Chinese interest, and built by the carpentry students.
This is the main carpentry area outside at the end of the building.
Rachel has used some of the students to build her Nima’s, they all benefit, she gets a new building at a lesser cost and the students get practical education.
Win win!
The hospitality classroom.
Once again, Rachel uses students in her business and helps to train them on site.
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The small business classroom.
Note the one computer!!
This is the new block – funded by and referred to as the Climate Change building.
Classes here revolve around the environment, and learning traditional ways which are being lost.
We then drove on down back to Tanna Lodge where we had to say goodbye to them both.
It was a sad goodbye as we had really built up a good friendship and none of us wanted to leave.
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We just chilled out until dinner time.
So weary, it’s been a full on week.
So so good though.

Tuesday 23rd September

It is getting harder to wake the kids. Mahalia especially.
Azzan and I headed to breakfast at 8am leaving her to wake gently in her own time.
It is better for all concerned if she has her own space for a while 😉
The breakfasts here are nothing spectacular, the slices of fruit are very minimal which is a shame considering the amount of fresh fruit available.
We fill up on toast instead.
Esso arrived after 9am with his older brother John to take us on our adventure which today was the Lenuingao Waterfall Walk.
He had been delayed as he had a meeting with the Tourism Manager about yesterday’s debacle with the Evergreen manager.
We hopped on board and headed to his farm.
It takes around 50-60 minutes depending on how many times we stop etc.
There are always fruit stalls to buy mangoes at, shops to pick up fresh bread, people to talk too or pick up.
Today it was fresh bread!
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When we got to the top of the hill there was a large group of men, lots of trucks and police, all blocking the road.
Esso stopped and called back to Azzan, telling him that this time he should be quiet as we drove through the crowd.
It was a big meeting of chiefs and land office as they are discussing tribal land boundaries.
The current tribal chiefs are getting old and dying so the younger men want the boundaries legally clarified for future generations.DSC05147 DSC05148

Further along we passed a wee girl waking and crying.
My heart strings were really pulled.
Esso stopped and talked with her and got her to climb in with us.
Apparently a boy had hit her at school and she was walking home.
He stopped at the school, called all the kids over to his truck and found the culprit.
He spoke severely to him and made him say he would, never hit a girl again and to say sorry.
Nothing like public humiliation to chastise a bulky!
We left the wee girl there and carried on.
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Esso was chuckling as he told me that he often will go there to the school and sort out problems like this.
The school was begun by his grandfather.
Back in the day when the John Frum cult took hold here, one of the things they believed was they should not send their kids to school.
However his grandfather thought this was not at all progressive and worked alongside another man to begin this school just for his three sons.
It was grown now to around 200 children and 6 teachers.

We passed Daniel with his cute wee 2yr old son Samuel on his shoulders.
I loved the picture of his boy on his shoulders, his cell phone in one hand and his machete in the other.
Just made such an incongruous picture 🙂
Daniel was our guide today so once we had greeted Rachel, changed into our swimming/walking gear and applied yet another lot of sunscreen we were ready to go.
Esso drove us to the beginning of the walk.
We walked for such a long time.
Through bush, jungle, past a new village on top of the hill with views towards Aniwa where they import their mandarins from, past large banyan trees, the kids and Daniel always way in front of me.
I had trouble keeping up for several reasons.
I wanted to take photos plus I just couldn’t walk as fast as them without falling flat on my face.
There were tree roots, vines, cut off tree sticks, bright blue lizards darting across my track – so much to watch and look out for!
Every time they would stop and wait for me, I would catch up and they would begin walking again so I never got to rest.
It was a very beautiful walk but so much longer than I had anticipated.
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Walked by a new village.
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Showing us the stinging plant to watch out for.
I asked what this red was called – yellow tree was the reply.
Very large inedible bean pod from the largest vine in the jungle.
One of the beans inside of it, often used to make music instruments.DSC05184  
And what is this tree called? Bush tree was the reply.
Well, they aren’t half obvious names around here are they??DSC05189
A rather large banyan tree.
We stopped to get coconut for morning tea.
Azzan tried to climb the tree, Daniel said he could climb it when he was much younger and smaller, but now he cuts heavy sticks and throws them to hit the coconut and bring it down.
It took several throws but finally he had two for us to enjoy.
He cut open a hole in the top – couldn’t get a drink much fresher than this!!
He also cut us some of the flesh to eat, but reckoned it was too old and we should try some from a tree nearer the coast.
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I was like, careful when Daniel was about to cut open the coconut.
With a big grin he informed me he has been using the machete since he was three 🙂DSC05208 DSC05210
We continued walking towards the waterfall.
As we got closer the track descended almost vertically.
I was terrified I was going to fall.
He cut me a walking stick which helped a lot, but it was still pretty scary and I came down very very slowly.
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At times I was almost in tears, but I dug deep and grabbed my stoic bone and finally made it down.
It was a lovely place.
The rock formation at the top of the waterfall was beautiful.
We climbed down to the bottom of the falls, it is very dry here so the falls are not big right now, but it was still a pretty sight.
Not enough water to make the kids want to swim though so we continued walking to the coast.
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Grave of an early missionary – 1926.DSC05246 DSC05247DSC05250
The east coast is very remote and not on the usual tourism trail so we feel incredibly privileged to be able to visit here.
The beach we arrived down at was soft black sand bordered by flat rough rocks with waves crashing unwelcomingly against and over, with occasional small coves were you can swim safely.
Daniel let the kids go into the surf with the boundary of two sticks in the sand to remain between.
They had a wonderful time playing in the surf.
I waded in up to my thighs and allowed the waves to splash the weariness out of my legs.
Cell phone cover even over here!
Esso walked to us from further south.
He went out to ‘rescue’ Azzan 🙂
He and Azzan have a great connection, he really enjoyed Azzan’s humour and singing.

We walked along the beach to where our picnic lunch was and we gratefully sat and munched on Rachel’s excellent fresh bread with lettuce, tomato & egg sandwiches.
Rachel & Abraham were down by the lagoon.
After lunch we all played in the lagoon, Esso began making a dam with Abraham and the others all joined in.
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My two went off swimming.
Daniel set up boundary sticks again to keep the, in the safe areas.
There are no rocks right along this stretch.
This is the longest black beach on the island.
Such a wonderful place and an honour to be allowed to share it with the local people.
A ground of four guys wandered along passed us with two guitars over their shoulders.
I joked with Esso that it couldn’t get much better than this, having our own traveling minstrels 🙂
I went along and sat in the sand for a while and watched my two swimming with the volcano billowing clouds behind them.
Such a glorious scene.

Abraham came along and entertained me.
He planted himself down right between my legs and proceeded to draw in the sand.
Such a cute wee man.
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We eventually walked back, how could I resist this we face and hand reaching out for an ‘up’?
I was amused to watch the men continue in with the sand building even after the kids all lost interest.
They finished building the dam and then dug a canal out to the sea.
They were like big kids in their enjoyment of the simple things in life.
We could learn much here.
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It was getting colder and the afternoon was disappearing but we still couldn’t get the kids out of the water.
They came back to the lagoon and Esso thought they were ready to leave, but Azzan said ‘No, I’m just having a rest’!
And back into the sea they went.
We packed up and got ready to begin walking.
Abraham didn’t want to leave yet either in spite of his shivering from the cold.
Esso dressed him and cuddled him up while we waited for my two.
We finally had to call them out!!
They had such a fantastic time.
We trudged back up to the truck.
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Not too far to go, just 300-400m up hill, an easier track thankfully.
We sat around and rested for a while, nothing happens here in much of a hurry.
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Esso showed me some Soursop growing on the trees.
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We dropped Rachel at the Nimas, then left Abraham up at the village with his relations.
I met and chatted with Camille and baby Tania
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All along the way we dropped off and picked up people and bags etc.
The sun was setting as we came down the hill from the central highlands, so beautiful even whe it is cloudy.
At the bottom of the hill Esso turned right and said he had a surprise for the kids.
He took us to a water hole where all the wild horses come to drink at dusk.
It was a beautiful sight.
Over 30 horses.
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The water hole is drying up which is making it hard for them.
The missionaries brought horses here for their transportation.
Most of the young men of the central highlands ride now, they catch a horse they like and tether it.
If they don’t use strong enough rope then the horse escapes and they have to recapture!

Stopped at a shop for a mo.
These two young fellas were mixing concrete!
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We fell out of the truck at Tanna Lodge after arranging a later pick up for tomorrow’s adventures.
I need to allow the kids a bit of a sleep in as they are getting really tired.
We found our room had not been serviced so I went to get so e clean towels and discovered that due to a tribal ceremony none of their staff had turned up for work so they were very short staffed today.
Only the arrival rooms had been cleaned.
Apparently it is a great frustration to the owner!

We met a Kiwi couple from Nelson at dinner!!
Such a small world 🙂
We talked a while, shared experiences and they and Mahalia went off to their cabins.
Azzan and I chilled out on our iPads for a while.
At night in the foyer when everyone has gone off to bed it is so peaceful.
Only the sound of the waves and the call of the geckos up in the rafters.

Monday 22nd September – part 3

The afternoon was moving along so we got dressed and drove back.
It was good to see a different road with new but familiar village views as we were driving through private tribal land.
Loved the cattle stops!
Esso’s family comes from the largest tribe on the island.
We talk a lot as we drive and he shares so much information about the life on Tanna.
I asked how marriage happens here.
Wow! It’s a pretty brutal ceremony.
The marriages were always arranged, today not so many are.
But in an arranged marriage the girl’s family take the boy down to the river and whip him then cover him in coconut oil.
It is not an angry brutal whipping, but it still hurts and stings and shows that he is taking their daughter way from them.
The boys family does the same thing to the girl.
Then they come together and have a ceremonial feast.
Then the old men take the couple and sit and talk with them ( he didn’t say what they talk about but I imagine it would be the birds and bees stuff!) and then they go to a hut and consummate the marriage.
But I can sure see the benefit of eloping to avoid getting a whipping 😉

We stopped off at White Grass Resort and had a lovely lunch.
I asked Esso to join us.
It was so lovely relaxing there.
It is a delightful resort with a really nice feel to it.
Probably my choice if we come back another time.
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Esso showed us the soursop or as they call it here, sap sap fruit which we had been getting served for breakfast.
It has a really unusual flavour, the kids don’t mind a small chunk of it but I’m not keen.
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We drove back to towards town with the kids entertaining the locals along the way.
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A local fuel station!
Yam gardens

We drove up a steep winding very deep rutted road to get to the world’ largest banyan tree.

Yes, you have to pay to see the tree, but as tourism is one of the few ways for the locals to make any money I did not resent this.
In fact most things you go and visit you have to pay the local tribe for the privilege of experiencing it.
And a privilege it is indeed!
Our guide was a Tony, 15 years old, who on discovering we were from NZ told me his father worked for the past 4 or 5 years in the vineyards to earn money for his children’s school fees.
I asked him what he was going to do with his education and suggested to him that he should work hard and appreciate what his father is doing as it is very hard work for the men when they come as seasonal workers.
He led us down to the tree.
It is humungous.
Hard for us to comprehend this being one tree, as we are only used to one trunk trees.
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It is 200m around the outside of it, 100m across and 80m high.
It is a female banyan and probably over 200 years old.
The walk back up was steep steps so I took my time and puffed up slowly.
At the top is a male banyan tree.

Esso diverted to the old airstrip so I could see where I would’ve landed last time I was here.
They had to build a longer airstrip to accommodate the bigger airplanes.
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Then he delivered us back to Tanna Lodge.
We collapsed until dinner time.
I wandered the beach for a while soaking up the beauty of the setting sun.
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We had a light meal and then I chatted with Penny from Sacramento for ages.
Most folk went off to bed before 10pm, but I sat in the quiet and loaded a few photos onto Facebook while the internet was working.
Finally headed off to bed around 11pm.

Monday 22nd September -part 2

We carried on up the road and pulled in at a small cove.
We got changed into our swimwear and then walked across the very sharp rocks out to where the boat was waiting.
We had forgotten to bring our reef shoes so it was pretty hard going as our jandals were slippery and made it more dangerous to walk.
I grazed the side of my leg as I clambered down.
It was far to rough to get on the boat so we walked back, passing a delightful old lady sitting quietly tucked away in amongst the rocks, washing clothes.
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We drove down the road and parked up near the Evergreen tours/resort.
As we were walking down a track to the rocks where our boat was waiting for us the manager of the place started shouting quite abusively at Esso for walking us through there.
Esso was a very upset but continued on taking us to the boat.
We had to wade carefully over the rocks, waiting for the waves to ebb so we could see where to walk and then just at the right time we would clamber onto the boat.

Esso wanted to come with us, but he had to go back and sort out the man.
So we motored up the coast with Nital.
We had no idea where we were going, how far it was, it seemed to take forever.
It was a lovely day and the coastline was very pretty.
Mainly rugged rocks, not at all conducive to landing safely, but every now and then we would see a white beach tucked in behind the rocks with outrigger canoes and boats on the beach which said there must be a passage through there somewhere!
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We passed some other folk from our Lodge heading back.
Finally we arrived at the Blue Cave entrance.
But the sea was big and rough and the waves were pounding.
We tied up to the mooring and debated what to do.
Azzan’s so wanted to do here dive, but Mahalia was hesitant and I wasn’t keen.
The sea flattened off a bit and we were about to go in when Nital said ‘wait, there’s a big one coming!
We rode a huge wave and watched it smash against the rocks!!!
I am so glad we didn’t go in.
We discovered when we got back to the Lodge that one of the older men nearly drowned and needed a lot of help getting back out again.
It was disappointing but I wasn’t prepared to risk our lives so we turned back and headed back along the coast.

Nital offered to let the kids off to snorkel in a more sheltered area but they didn’t want to.
He cruised along the coast and we got gorgeous views of the rocks, the sea was so incredibly clear we could see the bottom.
A ship wreck was the only blight on the landscape.
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It was a cargo boat from Port Vila that got caught in a storm and holed the hull about two years ago.
They have tried to tow it away with tug boats but unfortunately can’t move it.
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We arrived at a delightful cove where Esso was waiting for us.
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The kids snorkelled for a while and said it was great.
Lots of quite different fish to what they had seen at Hideaway Island.
I just waded for a while and then talked to the guys.
Esso told me what happened.
He is a very active member of the tourism department here and also the son of one of the most important chiefs.
He said he has never ever been spoken to like that before, he was very upset and angry.
All land here is owned by tribal families and there are many custom areas where anyone can walk to allow access to the coast and rivers etc.
You cannot stop anyone from waking there.
Also no land can be sold freehold, you only ever buy a lease which is usually around 75 years, but is discussed and agreed on by the tribal owner and the leasee.
The Evergreen Resort is however not on a lease.
It is owned by a native and currently managed by a NZ man and his Italian wife.
I was so embarrassed to discover that this man was a Kiwi 😦
As Esso said, if you have a problem with someone you discuss it privately, you do not yell abusively in front of others.
So it looks like this man might be on borrowed time here if he doesn’t come to understand and respect the tribal ways.
I absolutely abhor the condescending ‘Big White Chief’ attitude that is too often displayed towards the local people.
I have seen so many tourists coming here just to see the sights and go to the volcano, but not many take the time to get to know the grass roots of the culture.
The ones that do get so much more from their time here.
I have learnt so much, have appreciated all I have seen and how they have treated us with nothing but friendliness and respect.
It is the reason I bought the kids here, to show them another culture, and allow them to learn so much more that they would by lazing it up at a resort.
It has been exhausting but so so good.
The kids have loved it, they don’t want to sit inside the air conditioned cab with me, but want to always sit on the back of the truck, getting the best views and calling out greetings to the local kids along the way.
Some of there roads we have traveled many times and the kids come running, waving, laughing, calling out greetings to Azzan because they recognise him.
Childhood has a universal language which easily crosses the barriers.
Today as we headed home he would greet everyone with ‘Hola!’
To which they would reply back ‘Hola,’ – not understanding him but agreeing with him 🙂
He was getting tired of the normal waving and saying ‘Bye!’ so he changes the language for fun.
Crazy boy 🙂
But his interaction makes everyone laugh and happy.
I have seen old men, ladies, reacting to him.
Young men calling out to Mahalia ‘Bella!’ – she doesn’t know French so didn’t understand the compliment until I told her later 🙂

Monday 22nd September – part 1

I slept much better last night, but still woke several hours earlier than the kids.
I had to wake them just before 8am so they would have time for breakfast before Esso came for us at 8:30-9am.
They were not happy about being woken, holidaying adventures are tiring!
I tried to upload my blog post whilst eating breakfast but the internet had gone down.
Esso arrived a bit late because his house guests had taken longer to get ready for departure.
We were prepared for visiting the market and banyan tree, but he said we might go to Blue Cave today as the weather was looking okay.
So we ran back to our room and gathered up our swimming gear.
Then we were off down to the market.
He fueled up the truck with Mazut (diesel) and then we went for a wander through the Blackmantown market.
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Lenakel is called this because no white man can ever own this town.
We met up with the Australian woman we’d been speaking with last night, she asked if she could tag along with us.
I think she was feeling a little uncomfortable, but as we have been mixing mainly with the native folk here we are not feeling like that any more.
She bought a basket, I saw one I liked but restrained myself by asking the questions; What will I do with it when I get home? Will it sit in a pile and eventually get thrown out?
Azzan wanted to go get a small trinket from the shop that he had seen on Friday.
When I discovered it was for a gift for some of his friends I let him go get it.
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Then we went and found Esso who was parked in there shade across the road, and we headed off to find the boat.
On the way we stopped so he could show us through the Tanna Coffee Co-op building where they process the beans from their coffee gardens.
It was very interesting to see how they do it here.
It is incredibly primitive and labour reliant.
It made me think back to the early days of our mussel industry and how Tim and I would seed our mussel lines manually in the wool shed, and now it is all done by machines in a vastly greater scale.
What is impressive is that these folk have taken a plant which grows wild here, they are transplanting the seedlings into manegeable plantation areas, clearing away jungle to do this.
They have formed a cooperative and are concentrating on producing a quality export product, and doing it the best way they know how and can afford at this time.
The bags of beans are tipped through this machine and husked.
Husks go in the right bin and the beans in the left.
There were husks flying all about due to the wind of the machine.
Then they get rubbed over a metal sieve which drops any remaining small husks or broken beans through below.
The girls sitting outside are the final link in the chain and are painstakingly sorting the good beans from the rubbish ones.
There is only one machine and it is powered by a generator, which was also being used to charge a cell phone!
Electricity is a scarce commodity here so they take advantage of any chance to do this.
There are basic cell phones everywhere and very good coverage over the island, I have no idea how the village folk manage to keep them charged up.
There is a shipping container out back, this 15 tonne order in here is for South Korea.
They also export to Australia (Coffee Brothers) and New Zealand – fellow Kiwi coffee drinkers, look out for the Havannah brands.
They are currently processing around 300 tonne a year and this is only their 7th year.
I read that 90% of all coffee drunk here in Vanuatu is supplied from Tanna coffee plantations and processed in Port Vila.
The Co-op have 100 hectares of farms supplying them at this point and more being grown.
Esso and Rachel have 3 hectares and are planning to develop and plant more hectares.
By doing this they are not only supporting themselves and providing for their family, but they are providing work for others.
Because the plants grow wild the only cost in setting up is the land clearance and transplanting of seedlings.
One hectare produces approximately 1.5tonne of green beans.
The Co-op encourages outside investment.
Esso explained to me that ownership in the company gives pride.
So when a co-op member enjoys a cup of Tanna coffee they will enjoy it more knowing they are playing a part in the production of it.
The truck arrived just before we left bringing more girls to work on the sorting table.
They had some sandlewood branches on there back, it has a very definitive smell.
Apparently they extract the oil and sell it for around 6000Vatu per kilo.
This was also on the back – it’s makeshift lid cracked me up!!

Sunday 21st September

I didn’t sleep at all well.
I was very glad the lady from the pharmacy back home had sent me off with a packet of Imodium tablets to counteract upset stomachs.
I took two before bed.
They had a fairly instant effect and I was able to get off to sleep.
Woke at 1-ish I was still feeling pretty yuck, then again just after 4am.
The waves in the cove are so incredibly noisy.
Relentlessly battering the shore just below us.
They are not sleep inducing waves at all!
During the daylight hours you don’t really notice the noise as it is absorbed into the day time noises.
I’m sure they would be magnificent in a storm, but right now, tonight, I would’ve loved for the, to be a bit quieter!
Gave up sleeping around 6.
Got dressed and went out the the foyer area and used the internet for a while.
Got chatting with an Australian guy who was also an early bird and had just done several laps of the pool.
He’s here with his wife and 15 year old daughter.
They eventually came in for breakfast and then my two arrived too.
The owner of the resort appeared.
He’s a rather portly man of similar years to my own!
Married to a Solomon Islander I believe, with several very attractive kids.
Obviously Island life has been good to him.
He has been here since around 1998.
He swaggers about in just a pair of shorts with a very, very large belly.
Later in the day Azzan commented that it was good to see it covered by a shirt as it was damaging his eyesight!
Breakfast was a plate each of fresh slices of local fruits.
My stomach heaved at the sight of them, I managed to eat the banana and the kids ate the rest.
I had toast with coffee, and they found me a jar of Vegemite which went down better than the pineapple jam that Mahalia was devouring with great enjoyment.

After breakfast it became apparent that harmonious relationships between my crew members were not doing well.
So I took them both to the beach and had a bit of a pep talk along the lines of – “Sort it, or else!”
Azzan went for a swim but both the sun screen and the pool chemicals stung his peeling sunburn so he was out of the water very quickly.
I was going to use the wifi in the foyer but the power went off for several hours.

I lay on my bed and watched some documentaries that Azzan had downloaded onto my iPad.
Mahalia came and lay beside me, and then Azzan.
It was good to have some quiet bonding time.
The kids were hungry before midday so we wandered along to have lunch.
My stomach was still feeling a bit yuck, I knew I needed to eat but just couldn’t face much.
Mahalia and I ordered the cheese & tomato toasted sandwich with chips, and Azzan had the largest meal on today’s menu as he was starving!
His meal came out last so he devoured half of my sandwich & my salad while he waited and would’ve had the rest if I’d let him.
The chips were made from the sweet potato, just like our kumara chips back home.
They were good on my stomach, the bland carbohydrate with salt and a small portion of sandwich was good.
We received a messages from reception to say Esso was coming to take us to the Yasur volcano so we got ourselves ready and waited.
We had no idea of exactly when he would be arriving as the message was delivered with an island time approximation of ‘maybe soon’!
The power was back on so we used the internet while waiting.
The owner was chatting to some other guests and I was rather disturbed to hear what he was saying.
They were discussing the local people and the modern advances and how things like cell phones and water reticulation have affected them.
He said that since the introduction of cell phones teenage pregnancies have sky rocketed.
Esso confirmed that when we talked later, it makes it easier for the young folk to arrange meeting between villages etc.
I guess that is a world wide problem, but here Esso said, the people do not like to talk about sex, so the children do not get taught about prevention.
He said for the men to get condoms they have to go to the hospital and ask for them from a female nurse and that is too embarrassing for them so they don’t get them.
His older two daughters in their early twenties are very unusual here because they have got to that age and have never been pregnant.

The Lodge owner was speaking quite negatively about the water reticulation scheme.
He said that the local people could get good water from the many waterfalls etc on the island and that reticulation was doing away with the communal aspect of water gathering.
That attitude disturbed me so I discussed it with Esso later, asking him if it was a good thing or a bad thing for this project to be happening.
He was very positive about it.
He said that often the villagers have to walk up to 1-2kms to get water.
Then they have to carry it back.
This job is done by all the people but falls predominantly on the children and women.
The children would get too tired and fall asleep on the way and then return with no water!
Also, they don’t drink enough, and the hygiene standards are low.
So making water accessible is only going to increase health and hygiene, and allow them more time to do other things.
As another guest said later, maybe if this man had to carry his water every day then he might think differently!!
He also might lose a lot of weight – he is the only obese person I have seen here.
Obesity is definitely not a problem on this island.
Whereas health issues from lack of water, hygiene, money, etc are.
Esso also told me about an initiative he has begun with solar lighting.
He has installed it on his own property, and in his home village, and now that initiative is being extended throughout all the villages on the island.

Esso finally came around 2pm-ish and the kids climbed on the back where they love to sit and his ‘cousin’ Kepita sat in the back, and away we went.
We have traveled the roads enough now to be recognising places as we pass.
As it was Sunday we’d been told that all the shops were closed, but driving through the town I saw some open and commented to Esso about them.
He said ‘probably SDA’
Tanna is a very religious community, and Seventh Day Adventists are about 70% of the population, so Saturday they don’t work, the remainder are Mormon, Presbyterian, Catholic plus smaller groups of Uniting Church so the observe Sunday.
And then if there is also the various village traditional religions as well, so if there is a death or celebration then work stops for that, plus they observe the siesta time too.
Island life is very laid back, cruisey, no one ever appears to be in a hurry.
The only time I’ve seen anyone walking faster than snail pace was the men playing soccer, and they were fair hoofing it on the field!

It seems that the couple who arrived at Esso & Rachel’s they day we left are likely from nearby us in NZ.
Esso was excitedly telling me that their description of home sounded like mine so he is keen for us to meet in the morning.
Small world!
They had transferred up from a coastal resort due to the mosquitoes, they were covered in bites and glad to get up into the highlands away from them.
Esso had told us in arrival that there were none up this high and that if we ever saw a mosquito to tell him and he would write a newspaper article about it!! 🙂
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We stopped off at a village to drop off a spare tyre to his brother.
He was telling me a we drove that he had passed his brother last night going away from the village.
All he would say was he was ‘going there and back’.
Several hours later he called Esso saying he had a flat tyre and his spare was also flat and wanted him to come rescue him, he was at a village down towards the volcano.
Esso said to him, ‘it is 7:30pm, I’m tired and in bed because I’m taking my guests at 4am to a kustom dance, so find somewhere to sleep brother, see you tomorrow, maybe.’ 🙂
Then at 4am he woke his guests, but soon after Melia came running to him because her baby was very sick and needed to get to the hospital and he was the only one with a vehicle who could help, so he told his guests to go back to sleep and he took her to the Dr.
Going to the hospital is not a quick trip around here due to the road conditions and distances.
Several hours later he returned.
The baby is alright now, the guests itinerary changed to a waterfall walk etc, Esso still had little sleep but carried on with his day looking after his guests, maintenance and then coming to take us on our volcano tour.
He was laughing when he told me about his brother because he apparently is not a good planner, and is often calling Esso to rescue him after running out of fuel or breaking down, etc.
He is a mechanic at a local resort but obviously has not much forethought!
He told me he is his twin brother.
I laughed at the thought of there being two of Esso and asked, ‘what’s his name? Jacob?’
He laughed hard and said ‘Yes’!
Esso is the local version on Esau 🙂
As we got closer he was getting calls on his phone from Jacob and he was stirring him up by saying that he had not yet left Tanna Lodge, we were actually only a couple of minutes away.

We stayed and they all talked while the wheel was changed.
I was amused to see that the replacement tyre had no tread either, so hope it got him home safely.
I love how they use the long knives, everywhere you see people with the knives, swinging about like extensions to their hands.
Even small children use them.
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Finally we were in our way again, off to the Yasur volcano, it was a good clear afternoon, the prospects of seeing it tonight were good.
We played about in the black dunes, zooming around checking out the scenery, then Esso sent the kids up the steep track to play, they ran down, sand chasing them getting into their hair and eyes, so they were soon back on the truck.
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Drove around and through this stunning natural architectural display, I was fascinated by it.
Esso told us that it used to be the very large Lake Siwi, and then in 2009 it built up and burst through the side and all the water disappeared.
Its hard to find photos or information about it, but here is one and another before the cyclone and earthquake broke the banks and it emptied.
We carried on around the side of the volcano, stopping at the ticket office so I could buy some biscuits and use the toilet.
I knew what to expect this time after using it on Friday, so I wasn’t phased.
When I was chatting with the Australian guy this morning he had said that none of women in his party yesterday would use it!
That made me laugh, I’d rather brave the primitive elements of a basic squat toilet than the discomfort of a full bladder whilst navigating the bumpy potholed rugged roads!
We wended our way up a very narrow steep road to the parking area at the back of the volcano.
There were many other trucks there already.
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Most people like to come here at dusk to capture the full beauty of the volcano.
Changed into walking shoes and put on jacket and headed up the steep path to the volcano rim.
It was indeed a very moving and frightening thing to finally be up here.
Azzan’s initial impressions were ones of disappointment, he thought we would be right on the edge of the fire!!!
I was nervous, ensuring the kids were not too close to the edge.
There was steam and cloud, and the every few minutes a mighty grumbling enlarging into a massive explosion of burning chunks of molten lava flying upwards.
Here are some views from the top.
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We watched for a while and then Esso led us up and around to the top (the peaks in this photo above) so we could see right down inside.
But as we walked some rain clouds appears from no where and enveloped us.
Combined with the sulphur clouds we could barely see anything.
We stayed waiting for each to dissipate, getting soaked to the skin.
It was both horridly uncomfortable and exhilaratingly frightening.
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We decided to go back, we scrambled carefully down across the black, soft, loose, volcanic ash, in the low light, following Esso with Kepita behind ensuring we were alright.
Decided to go back to the first observation place and waited while it got darker, and we got more and more soaked.
But it was worth every moment of discomfort.
As darkness enveloped us the light from the explosions became a brilliant technicolor.
It was magnificent – and this is only rumbling away at a No1 level!!
Finally I made the call to leave.
We ran back to the truck.
I had bought a spare merino top so was glad to strip off my sodden downie and shirt and put on a dry top.
My shorts were sodden and the kids were too, but it was warm in the cab and we soon forgot about our discomfort.
Azzan entertained us all on the way back, singing random songs and parodies, as only he can.
Esso & Kepita loved it.
They would join in loudly, laughing along with him, commenting that Azzan’s cd was a bit scratched at times 🙂
It took over an hour to get back.
We arranged tomorrow’s activities and the ran to our cabin.
The kids showered while I gathered up all of our washing.
Then Azzan took it to reception to be done while I enjoyed a long hot very refreshing shower.
So good to be dry and warm after that adventure!
We had preordered dinner so were soon devouring that.
Then the children wandered off to bed,  I sat chatting to a couple from Melbourne and a woman from California over coffee.
The kids appeared again, as it was around 10pm by this time we said goodnight and headed off to our respective cabins to get some much deserved sleep.

Saturday 20th September – part 2

We drove to a nearby village where we were going to see the Black Magic show.
We were greeted by Rex.
He introduced us to the show and began to tell us some of the history of the islanders and how they dealt with invaders until the missionaries arrived and taught them not to eat each other!

He led us in and I was so busy looking up in to the banyan tree to try and see the guy blowing the conch shell that I never saw the warriors coming.
I got one heck of a fright and fell over in terror!
They were truly very very scary.
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We were then led into the banyan tree.
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Where we were set upon by more scary blood cuddling yelling, which turned out to be the children having a ball trying to terrify us 🙂
Rex showed us the Love tree and the ceremony to ensure two people will always stay in love and never divorce.DSC04721 DSC04722 DSC04725 DSC04727 DSC04728

Then the magic leaves – the large wild kava leaves layered and spat on to hold them in place to make stretchers to carry wounded people.
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We continued around the enormous banyan tree and once gain I was looking up and didn’t see the warrior hiding in a hole beside us and when he grabbed mine and Mahalia’s ankle I yelled!
This is how they caught their enemy.
Thankfully that was the last scary part.

We then sat and watched the custom dance.
Azzan was drawn in to dance with them.

Then Mahalia and I went cheek to cheek with the women to have our cheeks painted.DSC04746 DSC04748 DSC04752 DSC04755 DSC04756 DSC04757DSC04758DSC04767
Azzan was then asked if he would be chief for the afternoon and they led him away and initiated him.DSC04759 DSC04762 DSC04763
We were offered a bowl of fresh kava.
The kids accepted as they had been wanting to taste it.
Not something they want to repeat!!
Love the look on the wee girls face watching Mahalia trying it 🙂
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It was a wonderful time, very realistic and so worth participating in.

We left them and Esso drove us to Tanna Lodge.
It was quite a long drive and I was really tired.
The kids sat in the back and called out to all the local we passed.
Everyone waves and call goodbye a we drive by.

Esso took us along the beach for some of the way.
So pretty.
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We were sad to see them go, but will be seeing them over the next few days as Esso is taking us on all our tours while here.
The kids were very happy to get in the pool which is directly in front of the restaurant lobby area.

Our bungalow was set back from the beach directly behind this coconut palm!
There was a large bed directly inside the doors which I nabbed, and the kids had the one behind the partition.
The bathroom was behind them.
Shower water was heated automatically by a gas califont.
I walked down to the beach and then had a most enjoyable long hot shower. DSC04806 DSC04807DSC04805
Dinner was delicious.
I had bream, and as I am always very cautious about eating fish when away from home, I was pleasantly surprised.
Mahalia had a curry chicken an Azzan had a plate of sausage, steak and fish!
They shared a dessert and I had coffee.
I got a very upset stomach about this time.
Spent the evening to and fro the bathroom.
Not a great way to finish the day :-/
Was glad the chemist had sold me some tablets which I took before bed.

Saturday 20th September – part 1

I woke at 4:20 am with a large moth going crazy above my head.
My two late evening cups of coffee meant I needed to talk a walk through the garden.
When I got back I turned the outside light on to attract the moth out there.
Then slept for another hour or so.
It was too cloudy for a sunrise today so I sat on the verandah chair, enjoying the quiet of the early morning and watched a documentary on cults that Azzan had loaded into my iPad.
We had breakfast at 8am.
Rachel showed me through her other two Nimas.
We are staying in Jack’s Nima.
This is the fanciest one – Mumma’s Nima

Then Amy’s Nima, which is the smallest and most basic, but very cute 🙂
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Looking over toward the restaurant.
And where Rachel plans to build her next Nima.
The garden area and their two other nimas that they sleep in.
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We deliberated as to what we would do today.
Finally the decision was made for us to go with Daniel, our guide, to Lenuanatuaiu, the first waterfall.
It was warm but not sunny when we left.

It was a delightful walk for the first part, Daniel telling me about some of the trees etc we passed.
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The kids raced on ahead.
Then we got to the top of the steps down.
The were interesting and steep.
I was thinking to myself, if I go down I’m going to have to come all the way back up!
Finally made it cautiously down and found this beautiful waterfall.
I’m very impressed with Esso and Rachel’s forward thinking.
In a society that is very laid back most people here do not have the initiative to be as pro-active thinking as these two.
Esso saw he needed to provide a living to support and educate his children so he began developing his land into a tourist attraction.
Some of their families thought they were crazy.
But he used interesting methods to achieve what he saw would attract people here.
He knew some of the villagers would be wanting meat for their Christmas dinners so he offered them a cattle-beast fix they would come and work for him ands clear the road down to the waterfall.
It got done very quickly then 😉
Daniel & Samson came with us all the way down and made sure we were looked after and informed.
It was truly a magical spot.
This waterfall never dries up, they have had no rain for a while – I would love to come back and see this when there has been rain.
It must be pretty impressive!
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The children opted not to swim, but Mahalia did her mountain goat act and filled our drink bottle.
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Cellphone cover even down here!!

The return trip for me was very hard going.
The kids raced on ahead, I was really hoping they would be waiting not too far ahead as they had all the water and I was dying!
There were bamboo railings for us to pull ourselves up on.
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The zig-zaggy piece of track, looking almost straight up!!
Stopping to take photos as I climbed gave me time to breath 😉
So pleased to see the kids sitting up there!

When we got up further to the flatter part Antony had come to meet us with some horses.
The kids rode the rest of the way back.
Passed by this huge mandarin tree.
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I was a drenched ball of sweat by the time I got back to the Nima!
We freshened up and then enjoyed an early lunch of scrambled egg on toast with salad.
Joseph and George arrived, they are working with UNICEF and are currently helping to reticulate water supplies on the island.
It was really interesting chatting with them.

We packed up all our gear, left it for Esso to load in his truck, said goodbye to the girls and walked with Rachel to see their coffee plantation.
The local village women were busy weaving as we walked passed.
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We waked along a track into more jungle.
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These small electric blue lizards are everywhere, and so incredibly fast, impossible to photograph so a miracle I got this one!
It was really great to see how they farm.
They just clear a small area and plant in amongst the bush.
You’re walking along and then all of a sudden you realise you are no longer in the wild stuff, you are in the midst of another garden.
I had never seen a coffee plant before.
We picked some coffee berries and ate them, inside are the beans.
The plants are mainly in flower now but there are some berries forming for the next seasons crop.
Taro is planted in amongst the young coffee plants.
But only while the coffee is small, once it gets bigger it takes up the whole space.

Rachel is very proud of their coffee plantation.
They have put in 3 hectares so far and plan to plant more.
Kava plant.
Esso came and collected us.
Just love how they have cell reception almost anywhere here!!