CHICKEN-LESS CHICKEN…

Thinking back to the trip to Tanna island, we should have guessed what was waiting for us already since when the Travel Agency booked our flights with Air Vanuatu under bogus names (I was “Paul” and Baby was “Alan”….) and even before departure they told us that the return flight did not exist and they were going to send us a small replacement plane just for our group…

Wake-up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight at 6:30, reason being a dead-slow check-in procedure, not helped by the fact that our tickets did not appear on their computer! Oh, obviously in the meantime it was raining heavily!…

Once arrived at Tanna airport after an uneventful flight, second surprise: our cars have failed to show up! Clearly this must be far from unusual, as the Agency sent one of their people to assit us through the whole trip: he starts making phone calls, assisted by “Chalan”, a local guy who is more or less the owner of the resort where we will sleep tonight.

Finally, one car arrives: not a mini-bus, mind you, but a battered-down pick-up truck not even equipped with benches in the trunk: people sits on the trunk’s edge or on the (not very clean…) trunk floor or, like Baby, on the spare tyre! We leave, while the second half of the group stays there waiting for the second car, and we rattle along a non-paved road that quickly turns into a trail…

Our car makes funny noises, the brakes do not work properly (!!…) and when climbing it makes worrying noises like if it is going to break down any time, which it finally does: the driver decides to return several kilometers back, and drops us with our luggage under a tree near a sort of “shopping centre” where we will have to wait for a replacement car…
One hour passes by, the second group’s car passes by as well, and finally an even older pick-up shows up: we climb on-board, and off we go on an ever worsening road.

Along the road, we pass villages of wooden huts, and often meet groups of people working in the fields or walking long distances (sometimes talking with a cell-phone: paradox of modern technology!…): all smile and wave, and we do the same.

After one and an half hour, suddenly we find ourselves running down a black-sand slope: we are under the volcano! Finally, after a trip of more than two hours, with our bottoms aching due to the bumps, we reach our “resort”: 3, and I mean 3, straw and wood huts, each with 2 or 3 beds (where they were planning to accomodate our group of 20….), 1 toilet for the whole place, no electricity and NO WATER!!!

Chalan finds a way to accomodate half of our group in another, nearby “resort”, and we all go to have lunch: obviously, the dining hut has two small tables and 10 chairs in total, and the only food is a bowl of spaghetti with tuna…

With the promise of a “meat stew” for dinner, we leave for the “Kastom” village where the men, coming out of a tunnel through a huge Banyan tree and practically naked, perform a series of traditional, very primitive dances. The chief initially plays the tough-man, but when he sees that we are willing to buy their rudimentary craftware, he opens up and by the time we leave it’s all big cheers from both sides…

Up the volcano before dark: the climb is not long but is made difficult by the sand moving under our feet, and there is a cold breeze to boot, but as soon as dark comes the sight from the lip of the crater is worth all the pain! The descent in the dark will prove a challenge in itself, as nobody thought to bring a torchlight (we use the mobile phones to light the path…).

The long-awaited dinner: a bowl, not even a large one, with a lot of vegetables and few small pieces of meat, difficult to find in the candle-light…

The next day, we decide to have lunch at a “restaurant” in a nearby beach (nearby= 1 hour by car!!), but the story is the same: instead of the meat-less meat, this time it’s a chicken-less chicken (good, if you could find it!…) after which a long ride to the far away airport awaits us. We are very late, but that will turn out to be not a problem, as our “special” airplane is late as well, and in the meantime we have eaten (or drunk, depending on the inclinations) all the stores of the little airport shop.
Funny thing, that does nothing to make us more confident about our airplane, at the check-in they weight the passengers together with their luggage!! When we see the plane, we understand why…

CHICKEN-LESS CHICKEN…ultima modifica: 2008-08-02T02:26:20+02:00da shaula3_gian
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