I didn’t really know what to expect in Vanuatu before I left, and I arrived with no real plans except to explore the island of Efate and try to meet some of the local people. Upon arrival, I checked into a guesthouse in the Freshwota district of Port Vila, which at first seemed a bit dodgy (rooms available by the hour). However, once I met Marie, the kava-addicted Francophone Ni-Van manager of the establishment, I realised that I would be experiencing Port Vila from a local perspective. Thanks to Marie, and her friends Stephan and Mere I was fortunate enough to be taken to some kastom (custom) villages around the island, local markets, historical sites, areas of cultural significance, and some other places that tourists generally do not have the opportunity to visit.
Marie also showed me around to all of the best nakamal (kava houses), where locals sit in the dark to drink bowls of the strongest kava in the Pacific. The kava is so strong that a special place for spitting and rinsing is designated outdoors. It is best to avoid nakamal if the sound of spitting and hacking will potentially make you feel sick. Kava, however, is not like alcohol. Instead of the normal behaviours associated with alcohol consumption, kava seems to make participants want to bestow nothing but goodwill upon anyone they may come into contact with. One local told me that several years ago Vanuatu tightened up their liquor laws and relaxed their kava laws, causing a drastic drop in alcohol-fuelled crime and violence that were once commonplace in the islands. The widespread use of kava could play a major role in making Vanuatu one of the safest and friendliest places to visit in the region.
Below are some photos from my trip, in the order that I took them (click to view slideshow).