Hands up everybody who can place the islands of Vanuatu on the map or who can tell us why one should go there. Don’t worry if you can’t. Until about a year ago, the only thing I knew about it was that it was not too far from Fiji and that they had some rather bizarre ‘religions/cults’ there. Vanuatu wasn’t on our itinerary until about a couple of months before we left. While finalizing the travel plan, I was going through a book that I had gotten from a friend (thanks Annelies!) some years ago. This interesting ‘where to travel and when’ book lists for every month of the year the best places to visit based on climate and special events. For April or May one of the highlights was Vanuatu. The major event taking place in Vanuatu at that time are the ‘Naghol’ aka ‘land divers’ aka ‘the authentic bungee jumping’. As we were more or less ‘in the neighbourhood’ around that time, we decided to make a side trip from Australia. It would turn out to be one crazy week with much more than only the ‘land divers’ Continue reading
“Jacques Brel s’en va aux Marquises” . It was one of the lines printed on a t shirt I received from my father for my 14th birthday. It was one of those shirts with a number of main events that happened in the year of one’s birth. Freely translated it means something like “Jacques Brel is leaving us for the Marquises”. In 1978 the famous Belgian singer died and was buried on the Marquesas islands. At the time I didn’t like that present at all mainly because it was in French and thanks to a not so great French teacher, I really hated that language. But a little older and a little wiser, a couple of years later I found back the shirt and got intrigued about this place where our national icon Brel spent his last years. I looked up what these Marquesas were like and it seemed like an interesting place. Something to visit some day…
As we arrived in Tahiti, I realized this the furthest I have ever been away from home. It is actually about as far away as one can get from Europe. If we fly any further westward we will be closing in on Belgium from the east. So why would anybody want to travel that far to visit some small islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? I suggest you google ‘Bora Bora’ and choose ‘images’. A number of gorgeous pictures of a lush green island surrounded by a lagoon in all diffent shades of blue; from turquoise, over indigo to navy blue. It does look like paradise doesn’t it? Most budget travellers that come here only spent a couple of days on the main Island of Tahiti and or the neighbouring Mo’orea, tick the box for ‘French Polynesia’ on their ‘travel CV’ and quickly hop back on a plane that will take them to either New Zealand, Australia or Chile/Easter Island. Why this rush? This has all to do with the reputation of French Polynesia of being a ‘high end’, ‘super expensive’ destination.
As a kid I once saw a picture of one of the huge Easter Island statues and I got really intrigued. The picture was part of a scientific article dealing with all the mysteries surrounding the island, its people and the statues. I remember my mom made a summary of the article but unfortunately, I had a lot more questions than there were answers in the article. When some time later I saw those intriguing statues appear again in my then favourite Belgian comic book (Suske & Wiske: De Windbrekers), I decided that someday I would travel to the island to find some answers. A look in my world atlas slightly tempered my enthusiasm as this little island seemed to be a bit further away than let’s say Switzerland where we spent our summer holidays and which already seemed to take ages to get to. But some day… Continue reading