Every winter, NZ television is full of advertisements for escapes to tropical islands. Ads for Rarotonga, Samoa and Fiji dominate, but this year there have been a lot of ads for Vanuatu.
Mr D & I went to Vanuatu on holiday last year, and it was amazing.
This year Vanuatu is pushing tourism very heavily, because most of the country was devastated by Cyclone Pam this March, and the country desperately needs tourism money to rebuild.
Unfortunately I don’t think a Vanuatu holiday is on the cards for us for this year, but I can’t help thinking back to the islands, and thinking of our favourite spots, and wondering how they fared.
My favourite spot in Vanuatu was the Mele Cascades. It was, basically, more than anywhere else I have ever been, heaven on earth.
I love Hawaii, and it is, beautiful, and wonderful, and it is home, it is tūrangawaewae. I will always go back to Hawaii, dream of a certain valley, feel most connected there.
But the Mele Cascades were paradise. They were perfection. If you specifically set out to create a place to utterly delight and captivate me, you could not have done better than the Mele Cascades.
Twisting along the stream is a little path, running through the jungle and crossing the stream at shallow spots, passing little gardens of banana, cassava and and pineapple.
Where the path crossed and climbed through the stream there were little ropes to help you keep your footing.
The ropes and poles have been there for so long that the poles have been covered in calcium deposits, and have become part of the Cascades.
At the end of the rope path was the final goal: a waterfall
Sitting at the base of the waterfall, the water pounding against your skin and churning the water, you could look up and watch rainbows sparkle in the mist, and native birds that looked like swallows sweeping in and out of it, catching insects.
Back down the path, where the Mele Cascades gardens started, the stream spills into a pool by a pavilion, with a simple dam built at one end, to create a huge natural swimming pool.
The pool was the most delicious water I’ve ever swam in: warm enough that you didn’t feel the slightest shock climbing in, but cool enough to refresh you against the tropical heat.
And it was full of fish! Beautiful large fish, that came and swam with you, nibbling your toes and dancing and flashing through the water around you!
And despite the stream of tourists taking the path to see the waterfall, walking right past the swimming pool, I was the only one who ever went in it (on the way up, and then again on the way back, and then up again, and then another dip in the pool..)
I could have stayed in the Cascades for hours.
In fact, I could have just about lived in the Cascade gardens, moving up and down the path, hanging out in each pool, taking little walks to look at the view…