Efate Island in Vanuatu is home to Port Vila, the country’s capital city. At Efate, cruise ships can dock rather than anchor off-shore so we were able to walk off the ship, rather than arrive in tender boats. We knew we were in a tropical paradise before even walking off the ship as local musicians were serenading us in pitch-perfect harmonies while singing their beautiful music.
Despite desperately wanting to tour the island, we hadn’t booked a shore tour through the ship and unless you like being with hoards of people and paying a premium, it really isn’t worth it.
Just 100mtrs from where you leave the ship are hundreds of local taxi drivers eager to take you on a tour of their island. Firstly, we had our passports stamped at a local stall for a fee of AUS$2.00 and then we were approached by Willie, a local taxi driver. The locals are SO friendly.
He spoke to us in English. Vanuatu is a French-speaking island however all of the locals speak a kind of pigeon-English known as Bislama; then they speak French but English is so widely spoken it would appear to be the official language – I’m not sure what the French think about that.
Willie said he could show us around for the day for AUS$150.00. The official currency of Vanuatu is Vatu however, it seems Australian dollars are very much an unofficial currency and everywhere we went they were accepted.
We accepted Willie’s offer and then he showed us towards his taxi. Well…it was fairly dated, the tyres were missing a bit of tread and as the temperature was already well into the 30’s, we were hoping for something air-conditioned.
‘Fresh air’, said Willie, when we asked him about the air-conditioning. We looked around us and noted that all the taxis seemed to be the same so if you can find an air-conditioned one it would be like winning the lottery.
All aboard we discovered the road rules are certainly less structured than they are in Australia. There are no pedestrian crossings, no traffic lights, no speed limits and there’s no law insisting you wear seat belts. In fact, in Willie’s taxi, we couldn’t even find a seatbelt.
A lot of the locals drive flat-bed trucks and a very common mode of travel is to pile onto the flatbed and stand up for the duration of your journey, often leaning over the side onto the oncoming traffic.
Willie took us to Cascade Falls. I’d previously seen these Falls on travel programs and had been wanting to experience them for years. There is an entry fee that seems fairly nominal then once past security, (a man who smiles as you walk on by), you walk up to the Falls. The walk isn’t terribly taxing nor terribly long however I imagine it would be slippery in wet conditions and so reef shoes would be advisable.
The walk through the tropical rainforest is a refreshing change from the heat of the day as the temperature is a lot more mild and there’s little direct sunlight. On the way you see breathtaking scenery as well as pass pawpaw trees laden with ripening fruit.
It took us about 15-minutes to make our way to the top of the pools that are directly under the falls. There is a platform where you can leave your bags and excess clothing then it’s a fairly easy walk to the pools. The water is crystal clear and very refreshing and we were surprised at how warm this fresh water was. There is no need for a wetsuit.
Standing under the falls with the water pounding over me was like having a therapeutic massage. I loved it and could have stayed there for ages.
On the way back down we passed the Cascade Falls Singers, a group of A cappella singers who were busking, raising money for a Christian youth ministry. We stopped and they asked if we would like to hear a song and of course we did so they formed into a little circle and began to sing. These singers had outstanding voices. They sang in beautiful harmonies and we were in awe. We stood and enjoyed their music for about half an hour.
Then Carl happened to mention that he loves the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ and so they asked him to join them and they sang together. It is amazing how music can bring cultures and people together. An audience of tourists climbing to the Falls gathered and there was applause at the end.
Then I saw an iguana climbing up a palm tree and so a few children rushed towards it but one of the singers called out to them to stop where they are and then he approached the tree and quick as a flash, faster than grease-lightening, he caught the iguana. He told us it was a male and I asked how he knew and he said the males are more decorative with stripes but the females are plain. Don’t you just find that in the animal kingdom, the males are always more beautiful or spectacular in appearance than the females!
Once we descended the Falls we came into a clearing where there is a café/bar that overlooks a pool with fish in it. We threw ourselves into it and swam around with the fish. We absolutely didn’t want to leave. We could have stayed at Cascade Falls all day however, there is much to see on Efate so we boarded Willie’s taxi and headed back onto the road for more adventures.
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