Celebrating our Swimtrekking Success.

Our celebration – end of Swimtrekking dinner was held at the Waterfront restaurant. This time the atmosphere was right, the staff friendly and everyone was in a great mood. Naturally the fish curry was terrific.

Yves gave us a great farewell message followed by Lizzie giving out the awards.

There was Coral Colleen who seemed so attracted to coral cuts; pocket rockets Jenny & Wendy; no complaint Shean despite his shoulder injury; calm caring yoga Carmel; action-woman Kathy and action-man John with calm eyebrow raising Margaret !

Our youngest swimmer Bec for her fun approach- the comedian who is happy to write any letters of comments of complaint!

Tarzan Frankie for her spectacular rope swing into the lagoon and Pavarotti Ralph; kickboard Steve kicking ass everyday; a swim converted Greg who surprised himself with his strong swimming and maybe even enjoying it! Native dancer Maryanne; nurse Monique (a true Vanuatu local of the Watt family) for cheerfully dabbing all our coral cuts, and smiley Soosi for her never give up attitude soldiering on after injury, and Janice – most improved swimmer, who was awarded half price if she returned on another swim holiday.! I was awarded the best group organiser with a ‘joie de vivre.’ Thank you Lizzie for a wonderfully delivered awards ceremony.

We reciprocated with our group thanks and gift to the guide team especially Yves who put the trip together. To Lizzie the friendliest most helpful guide around and to Matthew the local who added so much local knowledge to each day and kept us safe.

Then the group had a huge surprise for Steve and I. He was named King Neptune and me, Amphitrite – his wife.

They had made crowns of thanks for us for pulling them together for this wonderful adventure.

As much as we loved our crowns we can’t take them home to Australia so gave them to Matthew and his wife for safe-keeping on the island Vanuatu for our return.

Definitely a swimtrekking success. One we’ll never forget.

A Fun Last Swim in Paradise. Vanuatu. Land of Smiles.

The last day is a mix of renewed energy, a dash of tiredness, extra chatting and lots of laughs.

No yoga this morning and I missed it! I really need to get into the habit of doing my own yoga. I know many of the moves Carmel does with us. So it’s over to me! Just do it ! Who out there reading this does their own yoga practice each day? Leave me a comment in the box to inspire me!

Onto the bus which this morning we hijacked and stopped at Tanna Coffee for a last day hit.

This morning we’re going to Lelepa Island 🌴. Another Survivor island spot. This time the guides found a better launching spot. Not a jetty! But not quite as much coral to hobble over. I’ve taken my reef shoes to all my swimming holidays and hardly used them. Here we walk around in them most of the day. The beaches are gorgeous but quite rocky with white pebbles.

Today another choice. Difficult decisions so early in the morning. 1. What type of coffee do I want and 2. How far do I want the swim. 5km? Or half that?

There were 4 of us who took the challenge today. Once again Kathy, Ralph and myself were joined by the machine man John. So with lovely Lizzie guiding us we set off.

The 4 members of the 5km challenge.

Yesterday’s 6 km challenge team. I did both challenges !

Oh how beautiful it is to swim these waters. Clear beautiful blues with a garden of coral underneath buzzing with fish life and an extra bonus every now and then. Today it was a stingray. Big and round with a pointed tail.

On and on we swam – most of it smooth swimming. Kathy took the challenge further and took her fins off. John added bigger fins for better glide but took awhile to adjust. Rule #64 on swimtrekking. ‘Don’t change your gear over on a longer swim!’ But John persevered and swam strongly.

We caught the larger group toward the end of their swim which turned into a 4 km for them and we finished strongly before climbing aboard the boats and heading for our aptly named Survivor beach.

Lunch was a feast prepared by our guide Matthew’s wife, mother and sister. It was beautifully prepared local foods. Fish, chicken, salads, fried banana, fried taro pieces and rice coconut balls. Then the most mouth watering fruit. All delicious.

We sat under palms on rocks and tree stumps and thought how lucky we were to be experiencing this special part of Vanuatu.

Then was time to wind our way through the trees climb up the hill and find the most amazing sandstone caves. These caves are very important to Vanuatu and have protection from hoards of tourists. You must come with a guide.

This is in Chief Roi Mata’s Domain. We had heard about the chief when visiting Hat Island’s small burial place a few days ago.

And it was magnificent. There are 400 year old cave drawings in this cathedral sized cave. Acoustics made it magnificent for singing and Ralph ( our Tatty Tenor) didn’t disappoint.

Back to the beach for some swimming and snorkeling- or just lazing.

John decided he wanted to up his swimming distance to join the ‘6km club’ so headed off on his own. Only problem – instead of following the coastline he headed straight out. He was stroking along – blissfully unaware of the shouts from the guides to stop and return.

He was headed for rip which could possibly carry him off to Hat Island in the distance.

Everyone on the beach yelled to him but perhaps he thought we were cheering him on? Finally he stopped , turned and made it safely back. Then he received what he called an “ administrative reprimand “. The guides are serious about safety and definitely didn’t want a last day mishap!

For the last time we entered the boats each one carrying flags. An Australian one on one, Vanuatu flag in the next and one of each on the third. No French flag! Getting ready for Australia v France in the football.

Our last stop was the cava hut where Matthew told us the reason cava is drunk by the islanders.

We indulged and agreed it wasn’t for its taste! But for its numbing, calming qualities. Better than alcohol which can lead to aggression and bad behaviour.

So feeling slightly sedated we had our last bus ride along the island.

Long day, long swims in Vanuatu. Survivor!

Another gorgeous start to the day with yoga on the beach in front of our Bures, looking out to the water. If only it could always be like this.

Breakfast is good as the little hot spot for wifi so the group are happy to sit at the little tables for 2 or 4 checking emails, messaging family or like me writing a blog.

Today we are swimming along the coast to one of the beaches used on the Survivor TV series.

The first challenge for us was entering the water. Not easy over rocky coral especially if you had fins on instead of reef shoes. We made quite a spectacle of ourselves as we congo lined our way into the deeper water.

We finally made it and were rewarded with sighting of an underwater collection of giant clams.

We set off feeling refreshed after our slower day yesterday. I was on tow rope duty pulling a little inflatable safety device.

We swam with the tide – stopping regularly to regroup and swap stories of sea life we spotted on the reefs below us.

We became turtle hunters following Mathew because he is so good at spotting things.

We swam and we swam. A few got leg cramps but before we knew it we were at our Survivor beach. About 3.2km. And about 1.5 hrs

Getting out of the water was another challenge not wanting to risk a fall on the coral so most took it slowly.

Lunch was under a big grove of shady trees then a nap on the little rocks or in the amongst the leaf litter. Bliss. Rest time before another afternoon swim.

Yves brought out a few flags to get us in the mood for the first football game for Australia tonight !

Our guides offered us a few afternoon options. Another 3 km swim with fewer stops , a half hour swim or a leisurely boat trip.

I took the challenge and decided to do the 3 km swim along with Kathy, Jenny, Ralph and Colleen guided by Lizzie.

We creamed up put our reef shoes on and swam away from the coral. Did an acrobatic change to our fins and off we went.

It was a good comfortable pace and we had a few stops to regroup and finished about 10 mins earlier than the earlier swim 🏊‍♂️ the morning. Exhausted yes, exhilarated yes, but well worth it. So today that make 6.2 km !

The rest of the group had a bit of fun on the island before setting off. They painted their faces and posed for photos!

Soosi, Wendy & John.

The second group pulled in on their boats just after us.

Meanwhile Matthew caught an octopus.

Feeling quite pleased with our days efforts we all changed into our ‘eveningwear’ in the grass beside the buses. No mod cons. Swim trekking is a great leveller.

We took off for the beach bar. We were all ready for beer and assorted cocktails, wine and something yum to eat. Fish curry was popular as was pizza.

Yves, Monique, Wendy and I took a quick ferry ride across the harbour to Hideaway resort. We had looked at it as an option for accommodation. But the bunk beds put us off. Even though the island is lovely. Not for us!

Then the highlight of the night – the fire show. It was on the beach with the water as a backdrop. Some very athletic looking men and women hurled fire sticks into the air catching them and doing various tricks. Good music added to the show.

It finished around 8 and everyone was absolutely exhausted. So time to return to our comfy Bures at Breakas. What a day.

A sleep in.

A slow start.

Yoga!

Day 4 of a SwimTrekking holiday is always hard. Tiredness is setting in. So Yves gave us a slow start.

Carmel gave a group of 7 of us a lovely stretching yoga.

Then a more leisurely breakfast and a quiet read in the hammock.

A visit to the town of Port Vila where we split into little groups of market wanderers and coffee drinkers. Hard decision. But the people at the markets were so friendly and not at all pushy when trying to sell their products.

There were the usual things. Colourful happy pants, sarongs, shirts, kids clothes and woven bags, hats and fans. And flowers , the most beautiful colours. And bunches of peanuts. All sold – or not with a smile.

Steve, Wendy & Soosi we’re taken with the iguana jewellery- but they were real slightly sedated iguanas.

As 12.30 arrived we heard tooting if horns and banding of drums as a parade started through town.

The World Cup is starting tonight and football is huge here so people are showing their support. There are local Vanuatu flags, French flags and Australian flags. Loyalties are split for the Australian v France game.

Our next stop is at Yves’ uncles house he is an artist. Emmanuel Watt. He lives in a house that is both gallery and home. He’s a charming man – a French speaker ( no English) so Monique, Yves sister did the translations.

His main art is sculpture. He takes wood he finds and turns into a representative piece. So clever. His works have been exhibited in New York, Paris, London, Brisbane just to name a few.

He showed his pride of Yves achievements by have a laminated article and photo of Yves completion of the English Channel. There is so much pride in this beautiful Watt family.

This sculpture depicts the volcano

Our last stop on this ‘down day’ was the Blue lagoon. It’s a fun lagoon- very pretty with a couple of ropes high in the trees for only the most game/brave/silly to try.

Guess who was first up the tree. John! He may be 70 but he is fit and brave. He did a few big jumps before being joined by Bec. Yes they both took on the challenge on the jumping castle the day before. Shean might have had a go but he was carrying an injured shoulder.

Frances D was amazing. She brought it home for the girls with height and distance. Bec was another champion with her ‘walk on water’ style.

Dinner was a small disaster. Reefers restaurant in the waterfront did not live up to its reviews. Food ok but expensive and a problem with the bill and lack of efpost which had ‘just shut down’. Apparently there is a back story to the owners. Anyway warning. Don’t go there.

But we smiled through it on the bus. Used humour to recover. Had a debriefing with Ralph.

So off to bed!

Melanesia Day.

Beginning a new day with a quiet yoga session is a treat on a swimtrekking holiday. We are lucky to have Carmel from Brisbane offer us yoga.

We did 20min on the beach yesterday and this morning another session facing the ocean. Downward dog never looked so good.

Muscles are starting to become sore so massage kindly offered by ‘Healing Hands’ Jenny and Yoga by Carmel are helping. Thank you ladies.

Breakfast, a briefing on the days program and away we went. A slightly shorter trip today. Through the town centre and up to the lookout and a secret road to the water. Into the boats to Hat Island which does indeed look like a hat!

Reef shoes are needed today for the walk across the low tide rocks into the boats and away.

This island is a special one in Vanuatu. No villages here at all. But there is a very old cemetery. It’s a significant one.

We arrived at the beach, left our things then continued along the coast for a few kilometres. The ocean is a darker blue and a little rolling. Very inviting.

So off we went. Our group is bonding both in and out of the water. Some like to zip to the front following the leader. Others lurk at the back really enjoying the views of the reef. I prefer to hover mid group – in my own space with a swim buddy. Today it was Margaret. We were keeping a steady rhythm – until we turned a corner of the island and it became lumpy and challenging.

We swam over coral reefs with lots of little fish flitting about. A multitude of blues and purples and pink tipped coral. Bright blue starfish, schools of black & white or yellow fish 🐟.

And Kathy, Soosi and I got out in our

S, M, L matching swimmers!

Back to the beach for lunch. A walk to the ancient cemetery led by a local through a rocky grassy path shaded by pandanus before turning right into the island. Matthew one of our local guides offered a gift to the dead in friendship.

A little nap was needed then before the final swim of the day.

All up we swam 2.7km in the morning and 2 this afternoon. Quite an effort.

Matthew caught a turtle during our swim. What an experience

It’s a really amazing experience here with Yves , his sister Monique and the people of Vanuatu. It’s as much a cultural experience as it is a swim trekking holiday.

Tonight is Melanesia night. Starting with Kava. It’s a full on week and everyone is getting tired!

Yves with his sister Monique

So Yves has scheduled a late start tomorrow morning.

We’ll have yoga at 7.30, breakfast then a rest before a visit to the marketplace in town. Then in the afternoon a visit to a lagoon.

Perfect swimming in Vanuatu.

Yesterday we said it was perfect but today the swimming was even more beautiful.

Swimtrekking- it just keeps getting better.

We had our briefing for the day at 8am after a breakfast of tropical fruit and for some of us eggs- for energy!

Into the two buses by 8.15. One slightly more comfortable than the other, so it was decided we’d mix it around a little tomorrow.

Good coffee was missed yesterday so on the way to the boats we stopped at the Tanna coffee house. The manager gave us a tour and we enjoyed a lovely coffee. Most of the coffee is grown on Tanna Island and 90% is exported – so look out for it particularly in Australia at the Oxfam shops. It tasty and the locals deserve support.

There was also essential oils production. They use mostly Sandalwood and combine it with other oils- ginger and lemongrass. I bought some delicious smelling soap with lemongrass lime and coconut. I’ll have to try not to eat it.

I also bought some oil for sore muscles! There won’t be enough for the number of sore muscles we’re going to have after our lovely long swims.

We continued onto the banana boats and headed off towards today’s destination Pele Island. Another new swim destination for Yves and the swimtrekking group.

Again we were met by the chief and welcomed but no dance of welcome. Just as well as we were keen to get going. The water looked gorgeous.

The curious children came down to see what we were up to but the village people didn’t turn out to welcome us. They have other tourists here from time to time.

And it’s no wonder. It’s a tropical paradise.

Into the water we went. Water temperature ✔️ perfect. Clarity of the water for vision ✔️beautiful. Excitement levels of swimmers 🏊🏻‍♀️ ✔️✔️✔️.

And off we went. Today everyone settled a little, swimming straighter lines, following the leader. I swam with Bec just at the back of the pack. ( ahead of Steve on his kickboard) We got into a nice steady rhythm and maintained a good pace. Until her goggles started to leak. Such a swimmers curse. Leaking goggles!

We all swam past our landing point because we felt so good!

Just over 2km later we pulled in for lunch.

Under the trees we sprawled on towels or red chairs. Lunch was provided by the lovely friendly village people. Grilled chicken, rice, salads delicious fruits. All tasty and much appreciated.

Spying the rather strange looking jumping , climbing, blow up contraption- the sort used in one of those Gladiator TV shows we set a few challenges. Fun and games started. The limber, focused, determined swimmers took on the challenge. Greg, John and Shean versus Kathy, Maryanne, Bec and Colleen.

Lots of laughs as they tumbled, rolled , pulled and climbed their way to the top! There’s always an accident and today it was Shean twisting his shoulder. Let’s hope he can still swim tomorrow.

A short, Carmel led yoga session on the beach followed by a nap under the trees reinvigorated us for the afternoon swim.

Off in the boats down the pretty coastline- into the water to swim back.

It was beautiful. We saw a giant turtle pass the boats and while swimming along saw a smaller turtle wizzing underneath us.

More excitement when Matthew our guide spotted a dugong. He was thrilled as he lives here and hadn’t ever seen one.

Back on the beach we packed up for the 20 min boat ride back to the buses on the main island.

This is the downtime of the day. During the hour long bus ride some sleep, some chat and I start writing.

We also see some spectacular views and an amazing sunset.

Now it’s into our Bures to freshen up for dinner. I’m enjoying the outdoor shower in our room. A great end to a great day!

We’ve enjoyed dinner at Cafe Villa just along from where we are staying. The fish curry was superb.

We really must try and get to bed early.

But Jenny massages, John’s cigars and the Scotch and Baileys are holding us back!

A Cultural Swim with a Difference

The first swim of a swim trekking experience is full of excitement and anticipation and nerves in equal parts.

There was no need for nerves on this trip. Yves, Matthew and Lizzie our guides had planned a great first day.

It was a sunny wind free day so we headed across the island in mini buses where the boats met us for the 20 mins ride to Emao a fairly remote island with 6 small villages and two primary schools.

We arrived to the wail of a conch shell. A local dressed in leaves was blowing a greeting to us.

We unloaded and made our way up the grassy slope to be met by a group of leaf covered men who danced a welcome.

Yves said these people had not had western visitors before. They greeted us in song and dance and everyone lined up to shake our hands as a hibiscus was placed behind our ear.

We were so moved by this beautiful greeting. Yves presented the village chief with books, pencils, paints poster and things for the children.

Then it was swim time. We creamed up and hopped in the banana boats for a ride along the coast. The coral reef was visible in the crystal clear water.

Safety instructions and then into the water. Unlike any swim trek I’ve been on – we swam as one group. A guide in the front middle and at the back to keep us contained and away we went.

Conditions were perfect. Warm, calm and current assisted we swam comfortably along the coast. We swam over coral, alive with little coloured fish. Parrot fish, striped sea snakes, electric blue star fish a turtle and lots of coral.

The reef was damaged in the big storms Vanuatu experienced recently as were the villages. The one we visited on Emao lost all but 3 buildings So sad for people who really don’t have much to start with.

We swam and swam stopping for a chat and a regroup.

It was exhilarating. Everyone was quietly pleased with their effort.

Some towed little floats for safety. Well done John, Colleen and Shean for helping us.

Our boatmen did a little fishing. And

We finally returned to Village and had some downtime. Lunch – rolls for most salad for the gluten free.

Suddenly it was time to leave so the village chief farewelled us and gave a blessing!

Home via the sand island. A little mystery.

Now we’re sitting at Breakas sipping gin and beer.

A good day.

Swimming Vanuatu. Fins, friends and fun.

Today we are on our way to Vanuatu a group of some 83 islands in the Pacific Ocean. We aren’t going to laze by a pool or dip our toes into the lagoon – even though that sounds great. No, we’re going to swim. Along coastlines, around small islands enjoying the water, observing the fish and feeling the sheer pleasure of being free in the ocean.

Steve & I won’t be swimming alone. No that’s far too dangerous!

We are joining a group called Swim Trekking. Our leader, organiser, guide and friend, Yves, who spent quite a few years growing up in Vanuatu has put together this trip for us. And we invited a few friends along to share the fun.

What is it that keeps taking us on swim trekking holidays?

This is our 8th swimming holiday! I took up swimming to be able to go along with my husband on our first one in Sardinia in 2013. I was terrified but loved it. Now I love swimming. I’m not fast. I still use fins. But I can keep going and love how it makes me feel.

What is a Swim Trek holiday?

We got on to our first Holiday through SwimTrek a company operating out of Brighton in the UK.

We joined a group of like-minded people from a handful of different countries. We had two guides- our first guide being Francesco from Rome. (he owns a company called Swim Trekking) And each day for a week – with a boat driver & Francesco we swam along picturesque coastlines, into caves and across from one island to the other.

I was scared but exhilarated. I’d found something I loved.

Since then we’ve swum in Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Spain and Galápagos. All different but all wonderful. We’ve met some fantastic friends. If you read my recent blog about New York you’ll have heard about our swim trek friends who came to meet us there. What a holiday !

This one is different. Only a short flight from Brisbane. With a group of people we already know and a guide who is a friend.

It will be terrific.

If you’re coming to Vanuatu there are direct flights from Brisbane and Sydney. It’s only a few hours and it’s a beautiful group of islands.its a tropical paradise.

We’re staying at Breakas resort. In little Bures lining a white sandy shoreline.

The sound of the waves will lull us to sleep under the mosquito net over our bed.

So after orientation by Yves and Lizzie we had a group dinner and planned our first day.

A 7am breakfast so we can head of. In the bus to our boats to swim a more remote island.

We can’t wait.

Our view friends m the Bure

Rain rain go away. New York on a rainy day.

Rain alters your perception on how you enjoy your holiday.

I don’t believe in grizzling about it. You can’t change it. Just change what you do.

Jordan and Rob are great at finding interesting things to do – so today it involves eating , walking, viewing, walking, eating, viewing. Eating!

We started with a late breakfast, sitting at the bar at Jeffrey’s Grocer. It’s a typical NY corner cafe/bar with a local crowd. We had to take a place at the bar and that was great. We were at the curved end so talking was still possible and we had a great view of the very small kitchen and all the activity.

Steve and Jordan started with a ‘wake-me-up’ Bloody Mary. Rob & I stuck to healthy juices!

Then it was lox and cream cheese bagels. Yum.

Back into the rain. Umbrellas up until we entered the subway station which took us to Times Square. We walked around the corner and into Gullivers Gate. It’s a museum of miniatures . It had cities and scenes from around the world. It’s fascinating.

See if you can pick the countries.

It had an airport with a take-off and landing runway. The planes were all on time!

 

We spent quite a bit of time examining the countries before we went back out into the rain and had a 30 min walk to 32nd street to Eataly. This is one of the latest food areas. It’s a huge area / markets. A sort of shop, bar, little restaurant all under one roof. It’s fantastic.

We once again sat at a high table and tasted cheeses, meats, veggies & bread and food all washed down with Rose. We sat and talked and got a fix people watching.

Then back into the rain and a return to the apartment for a small rest and preparation for what was to come.

Rob & Jordan suggested we attend a play they had seen a few weeks before. It’s an interactive play (be wary I thought!) set over 5 levels in a warehouse building with stairs and corridors – in almost total darkness.

You enter the ‘McKitterick Hotel’ to participate in the play Macbeth – it’s called appropriately ‘Sleep No More’

Oh my goodness.

It was amazing. Scary, fascinating, unbelievable. There were strange characters who acted in different rooms and then moved between floors and scenes. You followed whichever you wanted.

Everyone wore a mask.

There were some strange scenes. And it was exhausting. Running up and down stairs in the dark. Sometimes in a creepy room by yourself! Steve and I got separated at the beginning and there is no talking at all.

This is a theatre company that specializes in “immersive” theater in which the audiences wanders in and throughout spaces, interacting with the cast to one degree or another and having a unique experience often quite different from the people they attend the show with.

The audience is an integral piece of this theatre. Actors will approach individual attendees, whisper in your ear, kiss you on the hand. While performers gauge the comfort of those they get close to, if you don’t want this type of interaction—no problem. Situate yourself within the crowd instead of at the very front.

BONUS: Prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Enter Sleep No More with an open mind. No two visits are exactly the same and the film noir vibe makes for a mysterious, sensual, and exciting evening.

Quite a NY night!

Anyway I survived!

Walking New York.

Over breakfast at Rosemary’s on Greenwich St we decided to head in different directions.

Steve wanted to look at the big train stations and I wanted to visit Jordan at work.

I walked through West Village, down to Soho winding my way through some very trendy streets with very lovely shops.

I love people watching and found the dog walkers particularly interesting. And the gardens!

Spring is coming. The gardens are looking good. The bulbs are flowering. The sidewalks are festive. The planter boxes inviting.

I met Jordan at the Glossier Showroom. Her office is a few blocks away but we decided to meet where the action is! The Glossier Showroom. It is a relatively new skincare and make up range. It’s aim is to make good products available at a good price.

And it looks great! The showroom was buzzing with young women clustered around work benches with the products out for everyone to try. At one end there’s a big sink to wash off said products.

The flowers , the packaging, the room is all pink. Very cool.

Needless to say I loved being there with new daughter-in-law , Jordan.

Then it was lunch at Seamore a very ‘on trend’ seafood restaurant.

Then it was home to see what a boy’s day in NY looked like.

Steve had visited Penn Station and the Post Office,

Grand Central Station, and had a beer and hot dog!

The Empire State Building

Radio City Music Hall

And Times Square

Together we finished our day by visiting Rob’s club, right on Central Park. He was invited to play waterpolo at the New York Athletic Club, a very prestigious club in NY. As well he was invited to be a member, so has access to all the wonderful facilities the club offers. He took us on a tour before dinner.

The main foyer

The pool, where he trains.

The gym and basketball court.

The Billiards room and the rooftop with its spectacular views.

Then it was bibs on and into our lobsters.

After dinner it was a one block walk to the amazing Carnegie Hall. We had tickets to the Mets Orchestra and planned to introduce Rob and Jordan to some wonderful music. Debussy and Tchaikovsky and Mezzo Soprano Anita Rachvelishvili singing Mussorgsky.

The concert hall is beautiful. The concert was great and Jordan and Rob said they had enjoyed it.

What a day1