As someone who is seriously overtravelled, it is a novelty to visit a new country for the first time. So it was that I found myself arriving late one evening on the flight from Sydney for my first visit to Vanuatu. I had two days of meetings here to discuss aviation issues/investments so it was a very short visit. I was joining my colleagues Darin and Agnieszka who had arrived earlier in the day from New Zealand so it was nice not to be on my own.
Our first meeting was mid-morning so I decided to don my running shoes and go exploring Port Villa. I had two options: go south or north so I decided on south. The only map I could find in the hotel room was sparse in detail, but I figured it would be hard to get lost: when on an island all one has to do is to keep the ocean in view! The next day I would explore the other direction.
Even though I was out the door at 05:30, it was already excruciatingly hot and humid. This was not going to be fun. To add to the mix, Port Villa is a very hilly town so the run was very hard. Unfortunately, I had a 1:30 with some 1 km intervals in my training plan and doing those on hills always hurts … but if it’s in the plan one does it.
There was little traffic out at that time of the morning. Most were taxis and they drove as taxi drivers to everywhere: with wanton abandon and only the most abstract idea of what safe driving is. While there were some footpaths, many were obstructed by parked cars, broken, or with gaps. So I ended up running on the road which was fine.
I took one wrong turn which ended up at the water, but retracing my steps I continued along until the sealed road became an unsealed track, with heavy jungle canopy around. Very nice for running – even if it was a bleeding sauna.
By that time there were many children walking to school, alone or accompanied by their parents, and all were unfailingly friendly. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy coming back to Vanuatu in the coming years. I was toasted by the time I got back to the hotel so I hopped in the pool fully clothed and tried to cool myself down. Unfortunately, the pool temperature was in the high 20’s, but still better than me!
The next day I repeated the effort, heading left rather than right. This took me through much more developed areas with much heavier traffic. Even once I had headed to the north-west, there was still a lot of cars, which was scary as many of the road curves were high with elephant grass (or whatever they call it in Vanuatu where there are no elephants!). I had visions of ending up as a hood ornament on a Vanuatu taxi so I continually crossed the road to the side with the best sight distance.
If were even possible, it was hotter than the previous day. I ended up stopping at a petrol station and buying a bottle of water for some respite, but it didn’t help much. The pool at the hotel again provided relief from the tired and wet runner.
It’s going to be hard work running in Vanuatu, but hopefully I’ll find some excellent quiet running routes with fewer hills. I don’t have many expectations for improving the temperature!