We went in our minibus on a tour right around the island. We know we went everywhere as there’s only one tarmac road and as you can see, no traffic for miles and miles. And looking up that road, it doesn’t look so very different as there are no palm trees. I think it’s the palm trees that define ‘tropical island’. There were lots of men out trimming the grass verges (eat your heart out Aberdeenshire), men a boys as young as 8/9, all carrying machetes. Even with the huge smiles and waves, there’s still something disconcerting about a wee boy with a machete in his hand.
Touring around the less inhabited areas of the island, we got a pretty good idea of the devastation they suffered with cyclone Pam. We passed 4 cafes near a touristy place, each closed and with roofs or walls or missing and gardens battered. On the whole people have been working really hard to clear up and the government is paying for trees to be cut and trimmed into very neat piles of logs, which are there free for anyone to take home. On our 5th attempt, we found a beautiful spot where they had re-built and had made it all so bonny, with great attention to detail. I had sweet potato wedges served with soured cream and sweet chilli sauce – very international.
We also passed several traditional villages, which are very neatly organised, with very well kept gardens. We were told that there’s a big effort to maintain traditional life there, and as an example of how they live, they have to be home and quiet by 9pm to let everyone sleep. But by then the men have probably been to the cava bar. They are everywhere and are simply a square with a roof and some benches. Cava is not alcoholic but apparently it makes your mouth numb then leaves you very relaxed. Didn’t try it (women don’t), but some of our lads did and they were pretty queasy looking next day. Pass!