SO you want to send a letter from two of the world’s oddest post offices, or have a bet at the world’s most bizarre annual horse race meeting where jockeys often change their names between races and the hayburners go by such monikers as Another Westpac Folly, Lick-Lick and Equus?
Maybe your taste desire is to sample some exotic cuisine such as flying fox ... or even ‘fake’ coconut crab.
If so, the good folk of Vanuatu – or ni-Vanuatu as they are known locally – are waiting to welcome you. There are the motley bands at Port Vila’s Bauerfield airport and various village markets, and friendly ‘warriors’ at one of the many resorts, blasting out a greeting on a conch shell.
And the locals in each and every one of the 82 islands of this South Pacific nation a couple of hours north-east of Australia, are expecting to host many more tourists thanks to a decision the other day by Qantas to resume code-sharing flights with Air Vanuatu between Sydney and Port Vila.
Their previous code-share was suspended in January last year because of safety concerns by Qantas over the condition of the runway at Bauerfield airport. But now the World Bank has agreed to loan the country most of the cost of upgrading the runway.
Tourism accounts for about 20 per cent of Vanuatu’s economy. Among the favourite destinations over the years have been two unusual post offices.
Surrounded by beds of stunning coral, the underwater mail depository was opened in 2003 in a marine park just out of Port Vila. Thousands of colourful fish swim in, out and around the small egg-shaped, fibre-glass post office, even when the postmaster collects your special waterproof postcards which have stamps and a variety of messages already printed on them.
Postal authorities developed a novel embossed cancellation device rather thank ink franking them. If you don’t dive a member of the post office staff will dive down with it on your behalf.
The other equally unusual post office was established in 2005, on the slopes of Mt Yasur, the volcano on the island of Tanna, about 250 kms south-east of Port Vila.
Yasur is considered the world’s most accessible active cone-volcano. It erupts 10 to 20 times an hour and it was up to the postmaster to decide on the location of the portable post office according to how violent these eruptions were likely to be on any specific day. For authenticity the edges of the commemorative post cards had a special burned look about them.
Indeed, the ni-Vanuatu have developed a fine art in authenticity. One of the most popular dishes sought out by tourist gourmets is coconut crab. But in an effort to protect this endangered species, the real coconut crabs which live in the palm trees, are rarely served up.
Instead normal marine crabs are grilled and smothered in a sauce made from coconut cream to give them the desired taste.