Sorry we’ve been rather quiet for a few weeks and thanks for the check ups! We’re still alive, arrived safely in Sydney this week! We’ve spent 4 months crossing the Pacific. We’ve seen the tsunami warnings, dodged the earthquakes, survived the sharks and sea snakes, survived the 24 hour ferry crossings, even got by without much wi-fi(!) and now we’ve made it safely back from the summit of erupting Mt Yasur volcano. It’s been erupting almost continuously for over 800 years and we stood on its edge and watched it blow!
Yasur is situated on Tanna island, Vanuatu. We flew there on a tiny 8 seater plane (I was probably more nervous about this!) and climbed to the summit to gaze at the bubbling spitting very much live, twin craters erupting every minute or so and spitting great red rocks in the air. It was pretty close for comfort.
Hope you like the pics and videos. Full story coming soon along with the rest of our stories of final weeks in S America, week in the Falklands and S Pacific Adventures. Meanwhile a snapshot of our Pacific adventure…
It was one of our big ambitions for our family gap year to spend some time really exploring the Pacific. When you look at our planet the opposite side from home, the other side of a typical map that has Europe in the middle you see just how vast this giant blue ocean is – it fills the view almost completely!
I’ve flown across it without stopping twice before. It takes 15.5 hours to fly from LA to Sydney. 14 hours from Santiago if we’d flown direct on this trip. But what a terrible miss to never stop and discover the life of the islands. We’re so glad we did. This is the map of our Family Gap year Pacific island hopping!
These are the highlights and a few facts about this part of our Family gap year (or two) journey …
You’re more likely to be able to explore these islands if you happen to have a yacht and many people do it. WIth exception of Easter island, there are many islands within each pacific country group. The only way to get around them is with a lot of time and a yacht at your disposal, or by air. Flights between countries are limited but can be found. We met quite a few yachting families and were asked many times if we were on a yacht too with a many surprised that we were actually backpacking. Without a yacht, we have managed to visit 7 countries, 16 islands, take 17 flights, 4 ferries, cross 8 time zones ranging from UK + 12 hours where the new day begins in Tonga to UK -11 hours where the sun sets 23 hrs later in the Cook Islands, crossed the international dateline where we lost a day and travelled 13,273 miles (21,366km) of vast and insanely deep blue ocean!
This is what we did ….
Easter island – exploring the giant Moai and discovering the history and legends of their creation, downfall and rediscovery…
French Polynesia – island hopping with a family air pass, seeing magnificent islands, reefs and atolls from the air, fishing, snorkelling and diving, freedom for the kids to head off and explore for hours alone. Lara learning to cycle…
Cook Islands – oozing smiling, island charm and humour we could actually understand, some lovely beaches, cuisine, fire walking and learning some true hip wiggling, Polynesian dancing, which Lara puts to good use with a little busking outside out motel!
New Zealand – a fabulous mix of home from home living with good friends Claire and Jack, some exciting adrenalin rush adventures, stunning scenery and discovering with a fresh Island perspective the rich Maori history, beginning with the arrival and settling of pacific islanders on Wakas, giant canoes around 1250-1300AD, the rediscovery and settlement by missionaries, the questionable Waitangi treaty of 1840 when the British signed the English version and the Maori chiefs signed a different version in their language.
The Kingdom of Tonga – also known as the Friendly islands, the Union Jack is still part of the flag, it was a British protectorate but never colonised, dog-eared photos of Queen Elizabeth’s visit with Queen Salote in 1953 adorn the walls of cafes, a laid back, rather subdued culture, still drying out and weaving their mat skirts from tapa leaves, very religious with the most fabulous angelic singing coming from the many churches on Sunday morning and quite often through the week, wonderful natural harbours with many long term yachting families anchored for a break and the wonderful opportunity to watch and swim with humpback whales.
Fiji – a quick 90 minute hop west from Tonga and a short week to explore and discover the coral coast and Suva, capital of Fiji and the Pacific, enjoy the Indian influence and cuisine, discover Fiji’s history of cannibalism, the kids loved viewing the remains of a missionary boot that finally proved inedible after a week or two of boiling and chewing! final destination in the pacific.
Vanuatu – another fairly short hop and our final pacific destination – populated 4000 years ago by Austronesians, the New Hebrides, as named by Captain Cook and run by a British-French condominium until independence in 1980. A place of accomplished linguists, with many local island indigenous languages, but united by Bislama, the wonderful trading language developed in Vanuatu and the Solomon’s and fun to try to translate as well as a lot of English and French speakers. Here we experience unchanged village culture and customs, find an island village who worship Prince Philip as a god and climb the wonderful and fierce Mt Yasur.
If we can spend 4 months crossing an ocean you might reasonably ask how will we ever fit Australia, SE Asia, India, China, Japan.. into our remaining 11 months?! Let’s just say we’re giving it our best shot!