Port Vila

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Port Vila the capital of Vanuatu, which used to be called New Hebrides.

The first Europeans to visit these islands were the Spanish, who arrived in 1606. They thought that they had found La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo or “The Southern Land of the Holy Spirit”.Β  The largest island was named Espiritu Santo, which has remained as the name of the largest island today.

Europeans didn’t return until 1768 when the Frenchman Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville arrived and named the islands as the Great Cyclades, but in 1774 Captain Cook arrived and he named the islands the New Hebrides, which name remained until independence in 1980.

Over the years the islands became important to both the French and the British for trade and ‘Blackbirding’ to Australia. British subjects from Australia became the dominant group of Europeans.
In 1882 a French company called Caledonian was created and over the next few years the number of French citizens soon grew to outnumber the British/Australians by two to one.

In 1906 the UK & France agreed to administer the country jointly, which created both British & French administrations, which only came together in a court of law.
In the 1920’s the French brought in workers from what we now now as Vietnam (at that time it was classed as French Annam or French Indochina). This created social and political unrest, and a movement for independence grew.

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If you are interested in the incidents at the time of Independence, may I suggest you look up the Coconut War.

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Vanuatu’s flag today

Ruby Princess went alongside in Port Vila at 8.00 am, and after clearance we were allowed ashore. We crossed the quay and exited to small dock area and then had to navigate through a zig- zag area of stalls selling various items of souvenirs.

We didn’t have a choice but to walk along the created ally-ways to gain access to taxis. It was not a hardship as many of the stalls had interesting items for sale.

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The second photograph is thanks to Ken.

Once outside we were bombarded with offers of traditional taxis and water taxis. We decided to take a water taxi, $5 AUD one way per person.

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The water taxis near the bow of the ship.

What we didn’t know was that the taxi wouldn’t be leaving until the boat owner had filled his boat – he had twelve seats for sale, and we wanted four, so we had to wait for eight other passengers. It was not a long wait because once Ruby Princess passengers could see others off the ship in the boats they followed.

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As you see the boats were not alongside a ‘normal’ pier of quay, but we climbed down the bank and into the open boat.

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These boats are waiting in town to take people back to their cruise ship, or perhaps a sightseeing tour of the harbour. The benches are clearerΒ  . . . .

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When disembarking in town we did so at a small pier.

The trip from the cruise ship to town was about ten minutes, and I found it quite interesting.

In 2015 they suffered a cyclone, during which 24 people died, winds reached 280 km / hour (174 mph) – as we rounded an island, we saw some of the damage.

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What looked like the remains of a ferry, and a tourist sightseeing craft?

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Cargo ship or specialised vessel of sorts – I don’t know.

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What looked like an inter-island passenger ship?

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Private boats

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As we passed these wrecks, we saw the hotel located on an island in the harbour – Iririki Island hotel.
The island and the hotel has an interesting history.

Originally the island was a British hospital in 1910, after which it was the British Residency (1913). The Residency was built on the top of the island and one had to climb 179 steps from the beach to the house.

A lower house was built for the Queen when she visited the island, after which the lower house became the accommodation for the British High Commissioner.

After independence (1980) the island was abandoned, and in 1983 it was leased so that a a resort could be created.
The 1987 cyclone causes so much damage, it took a year to refurbish.

In 1991 it became a child free sanctuary, and in 2004 it was sold to a consortium of Australian businessmen.

In 2009 it became family friendly, until the cyclone of 2015, which required a huge amount of refurbishing, and the island was reopened for business in 2016.

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As you see it has a casino.

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Port Vila seems to thrive on duty free shops – the prices for duty free spirits were the cheapest I’d see in a long time, which makes one think of certain airport duty free shops and their prices . . . picture thanks to Ken.

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Port Vila looked quiet, but you still had to watch the traffic.

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We came across the local market, which had a huge choice of fresh vegetables and fruit.

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and don’t forget the flowers.

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Anchored in the harbour was a touch of yesterday.
The flag on the mast is the flag of Vanuatu.

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Across the harbour we could see the Ruby Princess, note the shallow water – our water taxi went to the left of the picture before crossing the shallow area.
Thanks to Ken for the full picture, I cropped the original to focus in the ship.

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Goodbye Port Vila