After my exhilarating boat ride from Elate Island to Nguna Island in Vanuatu, I trudge my dog-tired, roasting hot self up off the beach and into the cooler shade of the dirt-packed main road of Nguna.
The walk from the beach to the Vat-Vaka Bungalows is not far, maybe 2-3 minutes. It’s a beautiful walk, wending through a bush filled with tropical flowers and the most amazing trees with trunks that tower and twist like sinews.
Vat-Vaka is not a luxury resort. It does not have air-conditioning or running water or even electricity, but if it’s simple beauty you want, it is perfect.
Vat-Vaka is a family-run and family-built establishment. Joseph, the patriarch of the clan, is the chief cook who makes my deliciously hearty dinner and breakfast. Several of his sons built the bungalows, kitchen, and bathroom hut, and his youngest son Yoan runs the business end of things via a modest website, cell phone, and weekly trips to Port Vila to check his email.
I admit I am smitten when I shuffle up the ankle-deep sandy path to my little bungalow. There’s something so lovely about having a place all to yourself, no matter how small or rustic. I love the diminutive front porch looking out through the trees to my own private beach. I grin at the white mosquito netting knotted just so above the bed and am charmed by the wood and cardboard door, painted white and a cheery yellow. The walls are hung with traditional print fabrics and sunlight glints through dozens of gaps in the woven palm leaf roof. A secure fortress it is not, but I love it.
I especially love that someone has come through and carefully placed fresh hibiscus and frangipani blossoms all over the place. I like little touches like that.
After giving me a teensy rusted key for the equally tiny lock on my door, Yoan gives me the grand tour, starting with the bathroom facilities.
I should’ve known what to expect when a “Western style toilet” was listed as an amenity, but have to chuckle when I discover that while yes, indeed, there is a Western style toilet, it only flushes if you carry in two buckets of water from the rain barrel outside. The shower holds a similar situation. It is definitely a shower stall, but any ablutions are possible only with the aid of a second, larger bucket filled and refilled from the same rain barrel.
Yoan informs me that I can “wash in the sea, then pour one bucket over my head.” Hmm. Such situations call for a stiff upper lip and a dash of creativity. I’m already plotting a much better way to tidy myself up. 🙂
Leaving the loo behind, we cross the road and enter a gate through a white rail fence hung with even more hibiscus flowers. We enter the kitchen/dining area, an open-walled bungalow with sandy floor and tall trees blocking out the hot sun. It is nice and cool in here, especially with the sea breezes blowing through. We sit down at a table set with water (thank you!!) to work out the bill (approximately $35 for my bungalow and three home cooked meals), and once that is taken care of, the rest of the afternoon is mine.
I guzzle more water then don my bathing suit, grab towel, journal and camera, and head for my little private beach for a swim in the glow of the setting sun.
The warm water of the Coral Sea feels absolutely heavenly as it washes over me, easing away the aches and stresses of my journey, whisking away any memory of sweltering heat and humidity.
No matter which way I look the white sand beach is empty. Over the next island a single rainbow turns into a double and I smile in grateful awe.
I am blissfully alone on the shores of a tropical island. It is definitely the best $35 I’ve ever spent.