Whilst staying in Havannah Harbour we decided to pay a visit to Lelepa Island which was just opposite where we were moored, Lelepa is one of the outlying islands on the north west corner of Efate. We jumped in the dingy and sped across the water trying to find somewhere to land on the shore, it was rocky and shallow and we had to pick our spot carefully without causing damage to the dingy. Whilst doing this some children started shouting hello and then a man appeared waving at us and welcoming us toward him. We asked if it was OK to come onto the island and he nodded his head vigorously saying ‘no problem, no problem !’ with a big smile on his face. He said he could show us around and took us on a little tour of his village.
We went over to a man who was sitting by the waters edge who had taken a break from boat building, he was the current village chief. He was only acting village chief as they were due to elect a new chief in the next couple of weeks. He shook our hands, said hello and confirmed it was OK to take a look around. The first thing we noticed was a dug out canoe that he had been building by hand, from a trunk of a tree he had been cutting out the inside slowly with just a single tool, a kind of scooped chisel. This was a finished one we spotted later on our tour –
The majority of homes on Lelepa were basically shacks, mostly made of corrugated metal with corrugated metal roofs, the window openings were merely shutters.
Some were more traditional with proper thatched roofs and the best homes were built of concrete but still had tin roofs.
We were surprised to here that the village had a population of about a 1000, you could only see a few homes when you were out on the water.
Our guide Coburn told us of the night that the cyclone came through, virtually all the homes had their roofs taken off and the poorer built homes were flattened. When their homes were damaged they fled to the chiefs house but when that was damaged too they fled into the forest behind them for shelter. Its not difficult to understand how much damage could be done so easily when you see how these people live. Our guide taking us through the village –
This was the local primary school with its newly fitted roof, it had two American teachers who lived there, after this school the children would go to the mainland for secondary school –
Path from the school down to the waters edge, playtime must be great !! –
Coburn told us how they received help quite quickly from various countries of which they were very greatful for. Food supplies arrived and they were able to plant and start growing new food soon afterward. Everybody we met was friendly, happy and upbeat, thankful for what they had and shared whatever they had with others. This was there view from Lelepa to Efate –
We all agreed it was a humbling experience and we left the island to return to the boat. On our way back to the boat a whale breached in front of us breaking the surface and then the tail came up too. In the distance some mist had come in over the hilltop causing a rainbow which we had seen a few times, after the afternoon i had certainly felt there was a pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.