Thursday 28th October 2010
Bislama word/phrase of the day:
Mi sik blong foldaon – I’m epileptic (this is my current favourite saying)
I am writing this as I sit in our basic motel room on Espiritu Santo watching my poorly husband losing his battle with Doxycycline side effects. It’s 7pm and he’s been making sweet nasal passage music for nearly an hour now. He has been suffering from a persistent pain in his oesophagus resulting in constant discomfort and agitation when swallowing food, drink or even saliva. He has had this since we arrived and we started taking our malaria tablets and according to the little sheet that came with the medicine, it is a recognised side affect. At first we thought he could drink lots of water and get some rest when the discomfort was coupled with nausea or physical exhaustion took hold and it initially seemed to help. We’re on day 5 of our honeymoon and we have taken it very easy indeed, happily adopting the space bending ‘island time’.
Today, however, we arrived in Luganville, the main town of Espiritu Santo, found ourselves a motel, checked-in and then chilled out in a cafe. The excitement of arriving on a new island and the prospect of the great diving on offer (the reason we came here) was somewhat squashed by Chris’s predicament. We set out to find a hotel run by ex-pat Aussies where I asked the owners about medical facilities. With the knowledge that there is a hospital near by and with Chris uncharacteristically unable to finish his beer (that is a bad sign) we have retired to our motel so Chris can rest and I can stew. What does one do with an illness that is perhaps not an emergency but is unnerving enough to dampen and at times consume one’s enjoyment of the moment? All I know is that I no longer care about our booked flights, about our trip at all, I just want to see the boy back to normal. It’s all the more worrying because the irritating brute is rarely ever ill. At this point I’m feeling dramatic enough to phone our travel agent and sling the South Pacific and get to Oz asap. But that would be foolish and far too thespian. So the plan of action: Pop to an internet cafe first thing in the morning and then take a walk to the hospital.
Arriving in Espiritu Santo
We are in the main town of Luganville on the island Espiritu Santo, a 50min flight away from Efate.
It is described in the guidebook as having a ‘sleepy tropical feel as though something is about to happen’. I’m not quite sure if the writer is talking about the same town (in fact there are many moments where I’m not so sure any of the writers of this guide or the Vanuatu section of the most recent South Pacific guidebook have even visited the country). The wide dusty main road is flanked by spaced out dilapidated buildings predominately housing eclectically stocked, chinese owned ‘supermarkets’. It is strange not because it is sparse or run down but because it lacks atmosphere. To me, there is an almost melancholy air of having been forgotten about, abandoned. As though the world used this tiny corner, had it’s fill and then left. The main road is meters away from the waterfront which offers up a pick n’ mix assortment of rusty salt-eaten hunks of machinery. Apparently they are mostly remnants of WWII vehicles deposited when the Allies no longer needed the use of Espiritu Santo as a forward base in the battle against the Japanese. They act as a small enticement for the plethora of abandoned WWII equipment dumped into the ocean at the now dubbed ‘million dollar point’ and the famous sunken ex-cruise ship-turned-armoury, the USS President Coolidge. Those are the reason most people come here, to dive them.
I won’t bore you with the details of the Coolidge but it looks pretty awesome! We are hoping (depending on Chris’s plumbing) to do some dives on the famed wreck. I was a little wierded out by the dive-master at the ‘best dive operation in town’. Why are dive-masters/instructers the world over such a bizarre breed (with the exception of qualified friends and family of course). Is it all that time spent at depth that does it? Or the ego trip from having other people’s lives in their hands? Or being part of that elitist masonicistic diving cult? Or the ‘I’m one with the ocean’ or the ‘I am chilled out about risking my life for the ultimate dive’ crap? Who knows but, whether they are nice, friendly, intimidating or mysteriously illusive, they are almost as peculiar as the sea life they will lead you to see. Anywho, this one told me I would enjoy seeing the crockery on the Coolidge and Chris would enjoy seeing the trucks. Errr! ‘Scuse me?!! Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of chinaware and I drool uncontrollably over dainty cups and saucers and the odd victorian teapot but I’d waaay rather see a haul of sunken cannons, trucks and machine guns, a-thank-you! Sexist little weasel.
Disclaimer: I may in all probability arise from a Coolidge dive squealing only about the how gorgeous that teacup was with the little nudibranch curled up inside and how stunning the chandelier was. I cannot be held responsible for such hypocrisies.
I am aware that this has been a thoroughly unentertaining blog post and I whole heartedly apologise. I hope that the next one will be jollier and more anecdotal. Bear with us, it’s been a bumpy five days .
Tank yu tumas xx
Picture: WW2 Wreck, still sitting in the same places as it was left, with trees growing through it. Abandoned.