Posted by: da76 | May 5, 2011

Mystery Island half way there

We are now half way through our project on Mystery Island and this post is being written from Port Vila where ABV has sent us for some R & R. Mystery Island and Vanuatu more broadly is an incredibly beautiful place with wonderfully welcoming people but with all the usual challenges faced by a third world country and a small dispersed population. Vanuatu is a weird amalgamation of traditional culture overlaid with post colonial affectations like English and French speaking communities, expatriates and a regular inundation of tourists brought to the country by the cruise ships. All this makes for a fairly confused place but the locals seem to smile through the problems and accept it as just another day in paradise. Our project is pretty much what we expected, mostly about product development, business training and skills development. What we did not expect however was the lack of consolidated framework for the MITA business (Mystery Island Tourism Association) and the corporate governance issues so Fiona and I have had to develop a significant business development plan to help them with long term planning.

Our work environment is, to say the least idyllic. We are the only ones living on Mystery Island with the locals all living on the main land 600 meters away across the bay. We are visited regularly and provided supplies (rice, canned tuna and local greens mostly) which has been testing my culinary credentials to the limit! Aneityum (the mainland) is where the main villages are with a  population of roughly1600 people. This used to be about 20,000 till the missionaries turned up and brought along for the ride all those wonderful diseases that the island had previously been protected from.

NOTE: The Photos below were taken by James Lauritz a professional photographer who visited the island to do an article on the project.

We have fallen into a bit of a routine (meetings, workshops, swimming, fishing, snorkeling) that is only interrupted when a cruise ship calls and disgorges about 1,500 tourists (read Bogans) which tops up the local economy quite nicely. When the cruise ships are in we have been given security access to go aboard so we can access the internet and of course the restaurant! P&O have been great in this regard and we really appreciate the slice of civilisation every 10 days or so. Not bad living on a deserted island then having a five star hotel turning up on your door step every week or so.

Our routine is also (nicely) interrupted with yachties turning up every now and then and a few independent travellers hopping off the plane and exploring the region. All the solitude has an additional upside. Fiona and I have both lost about 6kg each. Mostly because we are not drinking alcohol but also because we are a tad sick of the boring food and this limits our taste buds crying out…”please sir can I have some more!”

For R & R we do a lot of snorkelling and I head out fishing with the locals (see mandatory pics). As you can imagine the fishing is amazing but using a 100 lb hand line is hardly sporting. Luckily an ABV volunteer was visiting sent us a rod down which I immediately broke on the first fish.

A lovely break in our routine was the arrival of Neil and Ros Thompson who wonderfully accepted our invitation to come and join us for a week. Neil was a great help on some aspects of the project and Ros was a great help finding new ways to cook tuna and rice.

After our week in Port Vila we will have three weeks back on Mystery island then heading over to Tanna (to see the Volcano) before heading back to Australia (to see Nadia) and back to Bohol for another project and seeing how the apartment renovations are progressing.

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