After we left the extremely stunning and picturesque Champagne Bay, we drove back towards the town of Luganville. Our driver, Johnnie, wasn’t doing too well. I was sitting behind him and noticed he kept punching himself in the head. Carl was sitting next to him and found this a bit disconcerting and asked him if he was okay. He said he was trying not to fall asleep.
After Arabella just about had two panic attacks from observing him having two micro-sleeps, I asked him if he would like to pull over and Carl could drive. He said he was fine and wound down the windows to get some air on his face like that was the solution. As he kept driving we asked him questions to help keep him awake. Apparently he’d had to get up at 3am to take a woman having a baby to the hospital and hadn’t been back to bed.
Fortunately, the journey from Champagne Bay to Matevulu Blue Hole was only around 40-minutes and we all managed to arrive in one piece. To get there, you turn right onto a dirt road that runs beside the WWII airstrip the US Airforce built all those years ago and you follow that road for about five minutes and then you’re at the Blue Hole.
I’d seen this Blue Hole on travel programs over the years and had always hoped I’d visit one day. These blue holes are all over the Island of Santo but we were going to Matevulu which is the largest one. There is an entrance fee which is fairly nominal and they take Aussie dollars.
We left Johnnie to sit with the other taxi drivers and hopefully have some sleep. Everywhere you go in Vanuatu these happy people are in groups singing and it was no exception at Matevulu where the entire time we were there, locals were singing in harmonies with their guitars.
These freshwater holes are sapphire-blue. The limestone at the bottom of the holes causes the water to have iridescent blueness. These are freshwater springs and the water is totally transparent and you can see a long, long way down but not all the way down because this hole was 100mtrs (330ft) deep.
Because of the depth of the water and because these are freshwater holes, I was expecting the water to be very cold but it’s not. It’s just refreshing and a surprisingly pleasant temperature especially when the air temperature is so hot – about 35C (95F).
It’s the prettiest freshwater pool I’ve ever seen with water so clear you can see your toes and there were scuba divers a long way below us and I could see them very clearly and we weren’t even wearing goggles – but bring goggles because you’ll see so much more.
Across the water is a very large old tree and attached to one of the branches is a rope swing. Up the trunk of the tree is a very basic and handmade-looking ladder that ascends to a tiny platform that’s on a lean and sways with the breeze. OH&S would have a field-day with this in Oz and would shut it down in an heartbeat but things are wonderfully more relaxed in Vanuatu – perhaps there’s a shortage of lawyers.
Anyway, hovering around the bottom of this tree is where you’ll find all the teenagers as it seems to be a rite of passage that when in Vanuatu, you absolutely must climb up to the platform and launch yourself across the water on the rope swing. Well, ‘when in Rome’ so across to the big tree we went because although it’s one of those things you don’t really want to do, you know you’ll regret it if you don’t.
The teenagers made room and Alfie went up to the top of the platform first but after standing there for five minutes psyching himself up with the queue of people below increasing by the minute, fear grabbed a hold of him and he climbed back down again.
Not wanting the family to die in disgrace I was up next and letting out a few swear words all the way to the top. It’s not as easy as it looks as the platform is very high up and it’s very small and the handrail is affixed to a thin branch that moves when you touch it so it’s quite unsettling. The rope pulls you towards the water and the platform’s a bit slippery so trying to hold on and get your balance while gathering up the rope is challenging.
You need to hold the rope as high up as possible with your hands above a large knot and while you’re balancing on a swaying platform, then pick up the dangling rope so it doesn’t drag through the water – but make sure it doesn’t get tangled or you’ll be in a right mess when you let go. And don’t get yourself tangled up in it either otherwise you’ll be dragged back to smash into the tree – just a thought! Then dangle your toes over the edge, say your prayers and launch yourself over the water scrunching your knees up to your chest so you wake up the next morning with sore abs, then when the rope starts to rise above the middle of the pool, this is the time to let go. And you won’t want to let go but you must or you will smash into the tree you just climbed. All going well you’ll free-fall quite a few metres into the water and descend into the water almost as many metres. And when you surface you will feel exhilaration. I certainly did for having survived.
There are no photos of me on the rope swing which is probably a good thing as I don’t think it was very graceful.
There is a smaller rope swing where you don’t have to climb a rickety platform and there’s also a horizontal thick tree branch you can walk out over the water on (a bit like ‘walking the plank’) and then dive or jump into the blue water.
But back to Alfie. He queued up for a second attempt, this time standing on the platform for nearly 10 minutes before climbing back down. We had a swim and then told him it was time to go but he said, ‘I really want to do it’.
A very kind local man helped him back up to the top of the platform, held the rope for him while he got his balance and stood on the ladder to be with him and talk him through it. With his heart feeling like it was going to pop out of his chest, he launched himself across the water, let go and came up saying he wanted to do it all again. He was thrilled with himself for battling his fears and and I was glad he didn’t have to return home thinking something had beaten him.
To swim in transparent blue water that’s beyond crystal clear in such a beautiful and pristine and unspoiled setting is truly an absolute luxury and definitely an experience of a lifetime.
On our cruise we visited three countries and had seven stops and Espiritu Santo was our very definite favourite. I would love to visit again, staying on the Island for at least a week. Australians can now fly direct to Santo from Brisbane.
Johnnie drove us back to the ship where more locals were there to farewell us with their singing. It was a shame to be leaving such a stunning island and such beautiful, friendly people.
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