2-19 Family Visit, Part 3

As always, travel in Vanuatu is exciting.  It rained all day Friday and most of Friday night.  We were meant to fly out on Saturday morning.  There are 6 rivers and 4 run offs between my house and the airport.  We got in the truck at 6:45.  We got out of the truck and started walking at 7:30.

We made it most of the way in the truck, which was good.  Our check in was supposed to be 7:30.  We got to the last river and stalled out for a bit.  The truck ford was flooded to my floating ribs.  The other crossing is on a fallen tree that was rain slick.  Finally, we just walked under the tree where it was only about waist deep.  None of us fell over and all of the bags made it across dry.  I considered it a successful crossing.  Of course, we walk as fast as we can the rest of the way to the airport only to wait for two and a half hours for the plane.  It was late.  Typical.
Flooffy Flower Drink!

We stopped in Vila for a 4 hour layover on our way to Santo.  Since we were there, we dropped our extra bags off at the office and got a good lunch.  When we arrived in Santo, we called a taxi driver Jason and I befriended over New Years.  He took us to the dock where we could catch the ferry to Aore Island Resort. 
Let me get this out of my system.  Aore Island is flas we!  That is possibly the fanciest place I’ve stayed, ever.  Coming from Peace Corps standards, it felt like a day spa.  We had real beds, clean sheets, a ceiling fan, 24-hour electricity, good food and wine, a fridge in the room, hot water and a beach front view.  It was posh.
Now, a quick history lesson.  Espiritu Santo island was used as the forward base for the action is Guadacanal in the Solomon Islands.  Guadacanal was some of the bloodiest fighting in WWII, something like 150 US deaths for every 10 feet the US soldiers took from the Japanese.  The landing strips on Santo were built in 22 days with a minimum of equipment, something like less than 12 large pieces of equipment total.  It was either get the landing strips done or lose Guadacanal and probably Vanuatu as well, since the Japanese were building their own landing strips at the time.  Despite all that, there was exactly one fatality in Vanuatu due to fighting; a cow died when a Japanese plane was gunned down. 

Do you see the real white sheets?  And Mattress?  And Electricity?
We spent a day at Million Dollar Point, the place where the American Army threw a bunch of equipment in the ocean at the end of the war.  The story I’ve heard is that it was cheaper to manufacture new equipment than it would be to transport the old stuff back to the US, so they attempted to bargain with the local businesses and governments to sell the stuff they were leaving behind.  The locals (mostly French at that point) figured that they’d be leaving it all behind anyway and didn’t want to pay.  When it got to $.18 on the dollar, the Americans got annoyed and threw it all in the ocean rather than give it away.  Now, it is a really cool artificial reef.
I’m not a military history buff, in fact I care very little about military history.  Congratulations, you killed each other.  I am not proud of that, I have no interest in studying it.  However, seeing all the old bits and pieces was probably one of the cooler things I’ve done recently.  There was a tank and a jeep as well as a crane, a lot of treads and tons of roofing and building material. 

They put me in “jail.”

Part of the cool aspect was my own imagination.  I can imagine the people who took care of those machines, who used them, who cursed them when they broke and babied them back to life.  I sympathize with the men who threw them in the ocean after years of working on them.  I imagine that some of them did it with relief and some of them cried as the metal submerged.  I can see a man tossing the coke bottle in as an after thought, or two soldiers competing to see who can throw his the furthest and dreaming of throwing a baseball instead.  Its almost like the machines are inhabited by the ghosts of the soldiers who worked on them.  Or maybe I just have an overactive imagination. 

We left Million Dollar Point with a different perspective on World War II.  We decided to try to find a few more relics the next day.

We had another fabulous meal at the resort and I got a drink with a flower in it.  I hadn’t had a drink with a great big flower it in it Vanuatu yet, so it was a necessary accomplishment. 

This is a WWII era Camion that still works.  Awesome!

Before we flew back to Vila, we did a little snorkeling around the dock at the resort where they have three firefish and went to check out other WWII relics.  There is a working camion on a cattle plantation and the wreck of a plane further down the road.  We also went to what looks like a communications tower, though our local driver said it was a jail.  It would have been a pretty brutal jail with three small, square rooms and no windows.  It also overlooks the entrance to the channel which puts it in a perfect place for a look out or a relay station.

We made it to our flight and to Vila before the winds got to strong and were safely landed when the first “cyclone warning” was uttered.

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