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Price of voyaging in Vanuatu

Mar 16, 2007
 
While the island of Tanna is not yet overrun with tourists, the potential financial benefits of tourism have not been lost on the locals. In Vanuatu, everything has a price. When Captain Cook visited, a single nail could buy a pig. Ten pigs could purchase a wife. Ten wives could obtain a chieftainship. Two hundred nails could make a king. Sadly, inflation has done its dastardly work. Today, the hot springs cost 500 vatu.

It is usually 500 vatu to visit a village. The cross-island truck costs 1,000 vatu. The volcano costs 2,250 vatu. Even looking at a bay or walking on the beach is expected to yield a few hundred vatu. In lieu of spending money, we opted to trade with the villagers and they were happy to receive such hard-to-come-by items as t-shirts, DVD’s, and wine. Trading also allowed us to meet more of the locals and to interact frequently with villagers. By the end of our stay, we have developed a vast network of suppliers throughout Port Resolution and had become familiar with the various roles that different individuals hold. Werry is the yacht club manager, builder, soccer coach, and coconut cookie supplier. Russell is the school teacher and future village chief. Jackson is the headmaster. Johnson is the tour guide and medic. Mariam is the kindergarten teacher, as well as the connection for eggs, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Tom provides lemons and pamplemousse. Lea is the chef. Larry is the Peace Corps volunteer and yachtie cultural advisor. Chief Ronnie is the self-trained obstetrician. Nelson is the DVD guy. Stanley is the man for onions, papayas, and cabbage.

The village is composed of a motley cast of characters and offers an unusual sociological experiment. Rather than professions being based on ability, no special training is required and a person may just begin to practice whatever occupation interests them. Our thriving trading has been aided by the fact that everyone has English names, making it fairly easy to remember who met, and the lack of privacy in the small village means that it is never difficult to find anyone – at any time of day, just about everyone in the village knows exactly where and what every other person is doing.

It has been nice staying in Vanuatu for over two weeks and the second week being the only boat on the island has allowed us to better understand the unique people and culture here. However, if we stay much longer we will have to construct a bungalow and request a garden plot. Fortunately, the weather forecast looks promising for a Monday departure and we are eager to set off for New Zealand. The passage promises to be a difficult one but we are ready to accept whatever Neptune throws our way. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.