Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
A family holiday in June in Vanuatu - a great escape from winter in Melbourne. Staying at the Iririki Island Resort - we had plans for some simple and lazy resort time. However - we also had a Saturday morning date at Kazza Field and two big bags packed with 40+ pairs of footy boots and a couple of shiny new Sherrin match balls. First though - our recovery day one in Port Vila from a 2am arrival and getting to bed after 4am
Our first impressions upon catching the regular ferry 3 minutes back to the water taxi hub - includes a variety of luxury and stylish yachts and boats in the bay and some prominent waterside real estate. Stark in comparison to the water taxis and their clients or the less well maintained roads and buildings in the main. With a guided tour around town and perhaps the biggest standout are the number of 'buses' and Taxis. The number plate for the buses are prefixed by a red 'B' and the Taxis by a red 'T'. The buses are generally of the mini bus/people mover style of vehicle. And there are many of them. And peak hour in Port Vila can be as busy as anywhere. However - despite the lack of crossings and the absence of traffic lights - there is an order. There is a courtesy. There is a respect and it appears the rule of the roads is largely based on common sense. That said - the casual tourist wishing to sight see needs to be wary doing so around Port Vila - a bus or taxi seems a much better option. Above left - the 24 hr Fruit & Veg market ; centre red B is for Bus ; right water taxis at sunset. The 24 hour Fruit and Veg market provides a wide variety of 'exotic' tropical produce. All pretty unfamiliar to Victorians - especially in a fresh natural state!! Meanwhile an 'au bon marche' supermarket with an ANZ ATM near the entrance sits nearby. And is a clear reminder of the French colonial heritage - along with the quality pastries down the road at the Au Peche Mignon.
The harbour of Port Vila is a visual delight. The most regular sound of the harbour is the outboard motors of the small water taxi's - plying the waters by day and by night and at night without the aid of on board lighting as they traverse the waters they know so well. Almost on a daily basis a large ship - either a freighter or a cruise ship will enter the harbour and turn to starboard into Pontoon Bay to dock at the Main wharf. When it's a cruise ship - be ready for a flurry of greater activity as snorkelling boats, glass bottom boats, jet boats, fishing charter boats and more along with the sight seeing helicopters kick into a higher gear to make the most of the daylight hours before the cruise ship departs sailing out of the harbour and into the sunset. Cruise ship days are best not spent taking in day trips/tours - prices can some times rise and 3 days in we were feeling like locals!!! It should be noted here that many businesses accept Australian dollars - and this is almost expected on a cruise ship day.
Friday afternoon at the Taxi rank between the Fruit and Veg market and the 'Au Bon Marche' - I strike a deal with Taxi driver Denison to meet at 9.30 the next morning with my family and the boots and be transported to Kazza Field (near Korman Stadium). And sure enough - 9.30am Saturday morning and there he is waiting. Out we head - cramped but all in - and how good is the sight of the Australian Football goal posts in place against the 'jungle' backdrop. Kazza field is an oddity - a broad flat grassed area - with footy goals at either end and on a semi parallel field (with a bit of overlap) there is a synthetic cricket pitch. At the Erakor round about end is a roofed shelter and nearby a number of shipping containers - that service the cricketers, the soccer players and one that provides on-site storage for AFL Vanuatu. We meet Nancy Patterson - the other 'Nancy'. Nancy Jacob isn't there - alas - I hadn't yet been able to get the message to her that we'd cleared customs and there was no need to head out to the airport. Between the two Nancy's the young boys and girls including the pikininis have a couple of gems to organise them.
One of the first players I speak to is Robin Jacob - I didn't realise initially - speaking to him I was very impressed. As it transpires - Robin is Nancy's oldest - with 3 younger daughters - the girls not there this week due to exams. Kilip Andrew - as reported playing footy at Olinda Ferny Creek in Australia this season - is effectively an adopted older brother for Robin.
Making sure we get some photos of 'presentations' of boots and balls - and then a chance to check out the field - and noting the crab holes. More meetings as Blair Mortimer - the new AYAD appointee arrives - 2 weeks in to a 50 week stint - he's only had a chance to get settled and this is his first day at the footy Vanuatu style as well. Blair was put onto this role by Gabel Stathis - a former AYAD in Samoa. Coming from Queensland and having recently completed his tertiary studies of a Sports Management and Marketing double degree - he works with AFL Queensland for the Gold Coast Suns and has played footy in the NEAFL for Southport. Blair was quick to nickname Nancy Patterson as 'Patto'. Hopefully he'll have a great time - just gotta not leave his phone in a buses!
Above far left - land crabs and their holes - a feature of Kazza Field - photo from Alecia Thiel; Above centre left - Goal posts and crab holes ; (centre) new AYAD appointee Blair Mortimer ; (centre right) Nancy 'Patto' and me ; Above far right - Boots and footys
Next - Part 3 - footy Vanuatu style, a well earned Tusker for the umpy and planning Mondays training run.
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