Tanna is definitely one of the least developed islands we have visited on our vacation until now. A few villages scattered across the island are connected with gravel roads or small bush paths. There are no taxis or public transport here and if you’re not one of the privileged few people owning a four-wheel drive (normal cars would not get far on these roads) you have to walk on this island. Shopping is limited to three supermarkets and a fruit and veggie market and petrol is sold in plastic bottles along the road. Various tribes are still living according to their traditional kastom, some even still practising black magic, while followers of the John Frum Movement never tire of waiting for the return of their (American) saviour bearing an abundance of wealth for them. Above all Tanna is home to smoking Mount Yasur! So buckle up! These are going to be some action packed days.
Tom, our host at Rocky Ridge Bungalows, was waiting for us at Whitegrass International Airport to take us to the ‘resort’. After about two thirds of the drive along gravel roads the power lines suddenly disappeared and we learned that Tom’s village was not yet connected to the power grid. Oha, no electricity? But Tom assured us that he would be running a generator from around 5 to 10pm each night for lights and to charge our electronic equipment. Huh! He also told us that he built this beautiful rustic resort himself together with two of his sons and is still working on a new bungalow when he doesn’t have guests. Unfortunately he had decided to build the unfinished new unit directly in front of units 1 and 2 blocking their sea view … good thing we were staying in lucky unit 3 with perfect view of the ocean 🙂
The main attractions of the resort were cat Chips with her two kittens Gravy and Kathy who were constantly trolling around the communal area. That trio was either playing, sleeping or loudly begging for food during home cooked dinners from Tom’s wife Margaret. It was impossible not to share some of your food with these skinny little kitties and we certainly got plenty of cat-time during our stay at Rocky Ridge!
Since Bea had caught some mean fever/tummy bug in Efate and wasn’t up for adventure that day, I went on a boat trip to Lamnap cave alone with another couple from Rocky Ridge. Through an almost fully submerged gap in the cliff face we could dive into this rather large cave that was illuminated through a small opening in the ceiling and a deep blue glow from the entrance to the ocean! The cave itself had not much to offer, but the beams of sunlight under water were just magnificent!
The next day Bea was feeling better and it was time for some island sightseeing: First stop was the primary school where Margaret was teaching English and we just wished we had thought about bringing some toys or school equipment for the kids! They were certainly not camera shy and seemed to enjoy the short break from class 🙂 Apparently some of them WALK impressive two hours each morning and afternoon to get from their remote jungle village to school and back again. Even with the ocean as a playground right outside of school you have to admire that level of dedication!
When we asked for the side trip to see the “Tanna Coffee Factory” we were actually expecting something different … like a factory … or coffee? Well apparently “Tanna Coffee” is only grown in Tanna and some other Vanuatu islands but the actual processing and roasting is done in Port Vila on Efate. All we did find in Tanna was a warehouse with rows upon rows of bags with dried coffee beans waiting for transport to Port Vila.
Fortunately the next stop was more impressive: where else in the world can you take a 15 minute walk under and through A SINGLE tree? Introducing the world’s largest Banyan tree covering an area of 200 at 100 metres and still growing! This giant stands some 80 metres tall and is still producing extensive new root structures to support the weight of the growing foliage. And if you cut one root (to build your village hut for example), it’ll just grow five more at the same spot! Our guide from the local village (with a hilarious giggle with everything he said) easily climbed halfway across the tree and introduced us to the all natural Banyan rope swing.
At the local village market we got some yummy fresh Pomelo before heading back towards Rocky Ridge Bungalows. No need to stock up on coconuts this time, because they were growing just outside of our bungalow. On the way home Tom dropped us at the Evergreen Resort for a late lunch and some afternoon snorkelling. We were hoping to see some wild turtles that supposedly live around there but the afternoon sun was reflecting terribly in the water. We were already on the way back when we suddenly spotted a big turtle gliding across the ocean floor 20 or 30 metres below us. YAY mission accomplished!
It was already getting dark when we finally returned to our resort island style: on foot