Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls Unless You’re In Vanuatu
While discovering the beauty of her new Vanuatu island home, our regular contributor Rose Jacobs unearthed more than she ever imagined!June 24, 2018
Pacific Island LivingJune 24, 2018
Since our move to Vanuatu early this year, several new friends on the island had mentioned a secret waterfall that only locals knew about and its beauty was said to be extraordinary. Now this was saying something since several of Vanuatu’s well-known waterfalls were already, in my book quite breathtaking.
So it was one lazy, hot Saturday afternoon when our young daughters Isabella and Francesca were in need of an adventure and I was in need of a swim that we packed a picnic lunch, threw our three dogs into the back of our 4wd ute, collected our neighbour Debbie and her daughter Charlotte and off we went in search of this mystical cascade.
No clear instructions
And it’s at about this point when things started to go wrong.
For a start, neither Debbie nor I had actually managed to ascertain any clear instructions from our friends as to where this magical flow of water existed, or how exactly we should go about reaching it.
Sheer determination over-ruled, along with the cheer squad of five year olds in the back seat that were getting hotter by the minute. We took a gamble and drove in the direction of “Bellevue…and a long dirt road at the very end that goes forever and eventually brings you to the waterfall”… or something like that based on what we could remember. What could possibly go wrong?
After roughly half an hour along this dirt road (and let me just add, there were several instances when we were faced with a perfect intersection of identical dirt roads leading off in different directions) we were quite awestruck by the unexpected sight of what must have been over one hundred beautiful, happy young Ni Vanuatu women walking casually along this isolated road, singing, laughing and waving to us as we passed and smiled and waved right back. Alas, it never crossed our minds to actually ask for directions.
Three thirsty dogs
Eventually, just as the kids were starting to genuinely lose it, we noticed a couple of local ladies walking up an embankment, dripping wet. We decided “This must be it”! We parked the car in a pile of scrub and unloaded the three overheated kids, the three thirsty dogs, the towels, the picnic basket, the floaties, the sunblock and the sense of adventure we managed to drag along behind us.
Strange green algae
Well, it certainly was lovely. After I slid down the soggy, muddy embankment on my bottom, we swam in waist deep chilly water that flowed over the edge of a concrete man-made barrier and formed something of an unimpressive splash at the bottom. The kids were hesitant to join us, not just because the water was so fresh and full of a strange green algae but mostly because once you jumped off the bank to get it, any attempt to haul yourself out of the river resulted in a battle of the fittest, man-versus-mud slip-and-slide with rocks, slimy weeds and quite probably a few eels under your feet finding great amusement in your dilemma. It’s true – even the dogs refused to come in.
We attempted the picnic. Utter disaster. The dogs stole the roast chicken and covered the towels in thick muddy footprints. The kids turned their noses up at the salad and I forgot to bring the bottle opener for our mineral water.
After half an hour, our beautiful group of one hundred roadside singing friends arrived at our swimming hole and proceeded to splash, dive bomb, sunbake, squeal in delight and almost entirely transform a serene (albeit muddy) remote slice of nature into a “Survivor-style water park”.
A macerated mess
It was enough to send our three kids climbing quickly through overgrown scrub to reach the car and refuse to come back out. Our amazing adventure hadn’t exactly transpired the way I had imagined.
However, on the drive home my spirits were lifted by the sight of wild growing elephant taro leaves (which are the most extraordinary large fern like plants that can transform your garden or indoor plants into a lush oasis). I stopped the car and took a moment to snap a few of the leaves off so I could transplant them at home … at least the day wasn’t a total disaster!
I threw the Taro leaves into the back of the ute with the dogs and leapt back into the driver’s seat. What a fabulous find! The day had a silver lining after all! And then, it didn’t. My hands started to burn, and itch, and sting and throb. And then I was in agony! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that Taro leaves had a poisonous sap???!!!
I drove home gritting my teeth in pain, with three hot children going completely ballistic by this stage, victorious only in the knowledge that I still had five beautiful big Taro leaves to show for my efforts all day.
I dropped Debbie and Charlotte home and pulled into our driveway. I let out a huge sigh of relief and actually thanked the gods we had made it home in one piece. I let the kids out and opened the back for the dogs … and there it was. A mangled, macerated mess of taro leaf shreds, utterly destroyed by three sharp clawed dogs who had clearly decided that this was the best game they had discovered in a long time.
Best day ever!
If my hands hadn’t been swollen with poisoned sap I would have buried my head in them and wept. But I didn’t. Because out of nowhere I heard my daughters’ two small happy voices racing off into the distance of our big green grassy backyard, towards the setting orange sun, three happy doggies at their sides, delightedly calling to each other “that was the BEST DAY EVER!!!!!”.
I smiled. I unpacked the car. Oh, and I have since been given actual in-depth directions to the REAL secret waterfall that is apparently only about an extra one hundred metres further down that road. And to this day, I cannot wait to get back there again, armed with a bottle opener, a dog lead or three, some reef shoes, a pair of gloves for the taro leaves and the very same sense of adventure that I came to Vanuatu to cherish.
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