Pango, Vanuatu

We’re in the middle of winter now at home. Not that you’d know it most days, but that chill in the morning air makes us long for the warmth of Vanuatu again. And after a month filled with long work days/nights, study, surgery, and a few other health issues, we find ourselves reminiscing about the lazy days of reading by the ocean, surfing the Pango reef break and Breaka’s left, and chilling on the beach, surrounded by the local pups, watching the sun set.

Pango surf 1

We spent the last few nights of our honeymoon at Breaka’s Beach Resort. The resort was stunning: bungalows, hammocks, cocktails and a pool. But, we are simple creatures, and after spending the previous few days on Pele Island, we felt slightly awkward around so many people dressed in nice resort wear. Breaka’s, though, is a perfect place to stay if you enjoy a surf.

After carting a surfboard around for the whole of our honeymoon, hubby finally got to indulge, testing out both breaks. The swell was fairly small during our stay, but that didn’t stop him – and a bunch of others – from enjoying the fun little waves rolling in as the tide rose. And when the waves were too small, I’d catch him in the shallows pushing the local groms on to the waves, cheering them on as they stood up and high-fives when they paddled back out ready for the next wave.

SONY DSC

It was at Pango that we met John (local pro-surfer, surf coach/guide at Surf Vanuatu, and involved with the Vanuatu Surf Association – VSA). John shared a few tips of local breaks around Pango, Eratap, and Pele and how the local community is encouraging kids to get into surfing. There are no board shapers in Vanuatu and the kids cannot afford to buy new boards. All of the surfboards used are donated by visitors. The VSA, John or other surfers help repair the boards and then give the boards to kids as prizes in the local surf contests, as well as to those who show enthusiasm and positive sportsmanship on the water.

Every afternoon, kids of all ages would ditch their school uniforms and head into the ocean. Many shared surfboards, most of them had no wax or leg ropes, but they would take turns paddling into waves until the sunset. I’d spend most of the afternoon chilling on the beach, kept company by the local dogs, alternating between sleeping in the shade and watching hubby and the other surfers hanging out waiting for the next set to come in, cheering each other on with each wave caught, and finally emerging from the ocean – smiles plastered across faces – salt wrinkled skin as the sun disappeared behind Breaka’s.

Pango beach 2

Me and my mate just chilling on the beach

The surf may not have been huge, but the experience was different to surfing at home. There was no aggression, no sense of ownership, just joy for being in the ocean, and a whole lot of fun as everyone was stoked for each other and for every wave caught. It ignited a flame in my hubby, one that had been snuffed out under the pressures of work and the lack of surf time back home. The thrill of seeing someone stand up for the first time on a board. The fun of surfing together and having a whole lot of laughs. A reminder to not take life so seriously, but simply enjoy being in the water and in the moment.

Pango beach

We are planning a return trip to Vanuatu. One filled with surfing and time spent in the ocean having fun. Next time though, we’ll return prepared… with a bunch of extra boards, wax and leg ropes, so that a few more kids can join in the fun too.

 

Vitamin Sea: Yuraygir National Park

“The cure for everything is saltwater – sweat, tears or the sea.”

The sweetest words I’ve ever heard from a doctor: “you need salt. Eat it, swim in it. Just add it in any way you can into your life.”

For months, we’d (my new hubby and I) tossed around the idea of packing up and heading off camping over the Christmas/New Year holidays. I’d had a relapse of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) start a few months before and other circumstances kept changing around plans for Christmas, so we flipped back and forth on the idea several times… that is until my new Doctor told me to get some Vitamin Sea. Decision made.

Sandon Beach, Yuraygir National Park

Sandon Beach, Yuraygir National Park

Yuraygir National Park encompasses the coastline between Yamba and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales with the Solitary Island Marine Park covering the ocean/waterways from Plover Island (Sandon River bar north), out to the Solitary Islands and south to Coffs Creek. We spent 12 days camped at Illaroo South Campground under the shade of Eucalypts and Banksias just behind Sandon Beach. A perfect little spot to easily access supplies from Minnie Water, the 4wd beach access track to Sandon, the road to Wooli or Grafton, or simply do nothing but move between beach and campsite hammock all day.

There is something about camping that suddenly makes lethargy and sloth-like behaviour socially acceptable. For 12 days it was perfectly normal to go bed when the sun went down at 8/8.30 at night and sleep for 10-12 hours. It’s fine to nap at least once during the day, if not twice, even if you only woke up an hour before hand. If you brush your teeth and had a swim in the ocean that day then you are clean. If the sun was out and you end up with hot water in your solar shower then maybe you’ll wash in fresh water too, but not for long, as you have to conserve the water in your jerry cans until you can be bothered driving out to the tap to refill your water supplies. Hair washing is definitely out of the question (well it’s not, but I was glad for the excuse not to wash hair as it’s one of those mundane tasks that lately requires between 30 minutes on a good day and over 2 hours on a bad day to recover from). For 12 days I didn’t feel guilty if I was tired. I didn’t feel as if I should be doing more. Instead, I simply enjoyed ‘being’.

For 12 days I also switched off my phone. There were no power points, laptops, TVs, microwaves, or washing machines. I disconnected from the technological world and reconnected with the natural world –  the real world. We loaded up all of our fishing gear, which we had very little idea how to use, and dropped a line in the Sandon River. My hubby puffing out his chest and feeling manly when he caught a Silver Trevally. I’m a hunter. A provider. See – he said, waving the fish towards me. After taking it off the line though neither of us knew what to do next. Slit its throat. No, just put it in the bucket with water. How do you gut it? Where do you start filleting from? We caught two more fish over the following days and ended up gutting them and baking them whole on our camp fire. It was just easier. Our campfire became our main source for cooking. Baked potatoes, baked fish, damper, garlic bread, and caramelised whole sweet potatoes. Then we’d sit around the fire reading and warding off the sandflies and mozzies through the plumes of smoke blowing onto us.

All the gear, no idea. The waterways in the Yuraygir National Park are some of the cleanest waterways in all of Australia.

All the gear, no idea. The waterways in the Yuraygir National Park are some of the cleanest waterways in all of Australia.

In the early afternoon, Black Cockatoos screeched overhead dropping empty Banksia pods on the ground. Soft thuds on the sandy grass. Goannas slowly creeping around camp, their tongues flicking out smelling for scraps of food and insects seeking shelter under the edge of our tent. I came across a baby whip snake on the path back from the toilet one night. Burnt orange and brown scales blending into the ground below. I thought it was a shoe lace, left behind by one of the kids that race around the campground on their bikes, then the end moved and a tongue poked out, head tensed into a compressed ‘S’, body ready to spring forward.  Who needs TV when Mother Nature puts on a show 24/7.

Yuraygir National Park is home to the Coastal Emu with 100 roaming through the park. Signs warn you to slow down – Emus active. But we saw none. I suppose them disappearing into the bush is no different to us heading bush to get away from the Christmas craziness. I can’t stand people lately. I prefer silence, well apart from the soundtrack provided by Mother Nature. The dolphins, on the other hand, seemed to love people. Surfer’s anyway. There is something quite meditative about watching dolphins frolic in the waves. I also felt a lot safer in the knowledge that hubby wouldn’t be eaten by a shark with a pod of dolphins chilling beside him.

Dolphins playing in the waves off Diggers Camp

Dolphins playing in the waves off Diggers Camp

More than anything, disconnecting from the material/technological world and reconnecting with the natural world reinvigorated my desire to write (something I haven’t wanted to do or been capable of doing due to mass brain fog over the past few months). I started taking photos and reading again too. Some days lying in the hammock reading until the sea breezes gently rocked me to sleep. My dose of vitamin sea may not have magically improved my energy levels, but it did inspire the creative juices to start flowing again. I could happily live in a tent beside the ocean for the rest of my life, but until that moment comes when I can shut off from the ‘civilised’ world, my mantra, my goal, for the new year is to slow down, to reconnect with nature and myself, and to simply be present. Busy is no longer a part of my vocabulary.

 

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