Mele: Kava, Cascades & a Karaoke Bus Ride

About a 10 minute bus ride north of Port Vila lies the calm crescent bay of Mele. The area of Mele is home to several villages stretching from just behind the volcanic and coral mix sandy beach back to the airport. The largest village (7000 people) on the island of Efate starts from the main road – behind The Beach Bar and a private housing estate – and spreads inland toward the dense green hills that have formed with many years of Volcanic activity.


One of the first things my husband wanted to do on our honeymoon was try Kava. He’d heard stories and was itching to get out and find a Nakamal, Kava bar. By the time we’d ordered our second round of drinks on our first day in Vanuatu (having arrived late the night before), he’d asked the staff at the resort about where we could go for good Kava. And this led us to John. John was keen to have some Kava after work. He would meet us and we could go with him.

There are rules to drinking Kava and everyone will remind you of these rules… And I advise that you listen to them.

Kava Drinking Rules:

  1. Do not drink alcohol or eat from about lunch time onwards if you are going to drink Kava at night.
  2. Drink water and eat a small snack after each shell of Kava.
  3. For your first time, maybe drink 1 or 2 shells, but don’t think you can drink Kava like beer.

The excitement got the better of my hubby…

Holidays + no work + the impending Kava drinking = Beer drinking on the beach all day.

Rule #1 broken

Kava

Kava

We arrived at John’s uncles house where they had prepared a really strong batch of Kava (see pic above). Kava is just really muddy water. Made from grinding the fresh kava root, mixing it with water and straining the liquid through some sort of mesh or cloth. It numbs the lips and mouth and then relaxes the body and mind. It’s not typically a drink made for getting drunk. But, that night, my hubby and John gave it a good crack. Rule #2 was kind of abided by – well they consumed a small packet of Twisties between them and their 3 shells of Kava each. That works out to about 2 twisties each after each drink. And Rule #3, yeah, well, that one also went out the window.

As hubby spent most of the night hugging the toilet bowl, I was really glad I spat out the tiny little sip of Kava I’d tried – after all, it really is just muddy water. He was convinced the chicken in his dinner had given him food poisoning… until we ran into John later that morning. John looked at us both and said “I want to die.” Turns out no one gets away from the consequences of breaking the Kava drinking rules.

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After spending a few days at Erakor Island Resort for our honeymoon, we packed up and headed north to stay in Mele Bay. The rain had settled in on Saturday, but by Sunday the clouds cleared and the humidity was back. We walked along the beach early Sunday morning, and after missing the turn off and walking halfway around the bay, we back tracked and found the road leading to the Cascades.

 

Chilling at the cascades

The Cascades are a series of pools connected by small waterfalls and rocky overflows. The walk takes about 30 minutes, starting from the bottom pools and following a path up a set of stairs, through the dense overgrown hillside and then criss-crossing the middle section of stream and pools before reaching the actual cascades.

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Mele Waterfall

The 35m waterfall at the top is a spectacular place to cool off after the humid walk. Go early in the day though. The pool at the base of the waterfall is fairly small. There was a family of 3 there at the same time as us and we all had enough space to swim and chill out. Five people were plenty,  I couldn’t imagine sharing this spot with a bus load of people, but then I’m a bit of a hermit and don’t like being in crowded places anyway.

Settling in to enjoy a beer on the beach as the sunset that night, we met Antuan – the only surfer in Mele. There are no waves in Mele, unless there is a cyclone or tsunami warning. So the boys planned a surf trip for the next day out at Pango.

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Game of pool at one of the Nakamals in Mele village.

As the break at Pango is shallow at high tide, and the reef is out of the water at low tide, a surf wasn’t possible until later in the day. We headed into Mele village for a few hours for a game of pool, an ice cream from the local who sells 3 scoops for the price of 2, and for me to indulge in chasing the pigs that roam freely alongside the dogs and chickens, all to get a photo of a pig (If we had land at home a pig would be the first animal added to the family, well after chickens anyway).

Piggy

We came across the local English primary school (there are French and English schools in Vanuatu). Almost 12 months on from Cyclone Pam and part of the school is still operating out of UNICEF supplied tents. The local community worked together to raise money and then with locals, volunteers and NGO organisations rebuilt one of the buildings in two days. Other organisations have supported the rebuilding of other classrooms, but there is still a way to go.

After hitching a ride, our last visit to Mele was for the famous Beach Bar Fire Show. But, it was the drive back to Pango that was the real entertainment of the night. We jumped in a bus (mini van) and the driver’s cousin, Sharon, offered us beers. A couple of minutes into the drive and we stopped for Woodstocks. The driver, Pete, turned off a few streets early in Port Vila and headed to a bar/restaurant. Here he shouted a round of tequila shots and the bar shouted a free round of home-made caramel vodka shots. Not being a big drinker anymore, and having already over indulged in happy hour cocktails earlier in the evening, I’d stopped partaking in the drinking and watched all of this unfold like some strange throw back to our younger days. We climbed back in the bus and Pete reassured me, as he reversed out of the parking lot, not to worry he’d only drunk a carton of Tuskers beer that day. We continued driving along roads leading away from Vila and our destination in Pango, eventually ending up on a hill full of mobile/cellphone towers overlooking the massive harbour of Port Vila. Sharon cranked up the stereo and under the glittering lights of the towers and stars we all danced and sang barefoot beside the bus to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. A few songs, and a few beers later, Sharon was asleep on the front passenger seat and Pete drove us the rest of the way to Pango, singing to songs ranging from popular electronic dance music to country and western, and driving at 20km an hour along the side of the road.

Pete was right… I had nothing to worry about at all.

 

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