FAQ | Practical considerations ?

FLAMETREE
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FAQ : HOW IS HOT WATER PROVIDED ?

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UntitledThe most common means of providing hot water in Port Vila is via internal gas hot water units. These are 5 litres per minute ‘Rinnai’ units supplied by Origin Energy, Vanuatu’s gas supplier. For those back home who have gas hot water, a typical continuous flow gas hot water unit will be 24 or 27 litres per minute – so the flow that can be expected is correspondingly reduced. Of course often you don’t want a hot shower either, as the climate is much hotter.

While the use of bore water provides pure spring like water from the limestone aquifers, it does contain a high calcium content, which causes all gas hot water heaters to clog and become less effective over time. Consquently, the hot water can sometimes turn itself off for no apparent reason. Turning the shower off and on again brings back the hot water.

FAQ : POWER AND WATER SUPPLY - ARE THEY RELIABLE ?

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UntitledAll properties in the Pacific are subject to intermittent interruptions and stoppages in regard to their supply of water and power. In some countries such stoppages can happen on a daily basis. Fortunately, Vanuatu is relatively well organized and interruptions are rare – but guests should not bring expectations from their own country to the islands ( or any third world country).

The Flametree site is one of the properties that is a part of Pangona Estate, a professionally developed subdivision which had its beginnings about 10-12 years ago. We have owned the property for approximately eight years to date. The subdivision is serviced with power by the main electricity supplier in Vanuatu Unelco (a french company), and water is supplied by the subdivision developer via a bore and storage tank in the hills behind the coastal subdivision located on a farm which he also runs.

Unelco are an efficient provider whose main generator plant on the island is a diesel power plant near the airport – which is supplemented bya small wind farm of nine wind turbines located on an escarpment just above Devils Point Road. Power cuts are rare, with most being organized for maintenance with all consumers in the area being notified. However, there is the odd occassion when a power cut occurs for no reason, which can last up to a day or so and can be frustrating. The frequency is once or twice a year andthey are beyond our control. As hot water and cooking are by gas, these are unaffected and we try to have torches available (but as previous guests may have used them for whatever reason – you should check the batteries and renew if necessary). If a power cut does occur and last overnight, you should program yourselves to do your dinner etc during daylight hours.

In regard to water, the pump is reliable and water cuts generally only occur if the pump breaks down (maybe once every two years). Again you have to be extremely unlucky if caught in this situation, but obviously we have the pool and are in much better shape than most residents in the subdivision if this happens. If the pump does break down the developer does do all he can to fix it as soon as possible , however parts etc are not always that easy to get and it can take several days to rectify.

FAQ : STORMY WEATHER ?

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UntitledThunderstorms are a part of the tropics, whether we like it or not. However, they occur infrequently and are more common during the wet season than the dry. Due to the geographical nature ofthe area, around Tuk-Tuk Bay, ‘Pangona’ is drier than areas closer in to Port Vila, and while it can be raining cats and dogs in Vila it can be quite sunny at Sanddollar. Because of this, storms in the main appear to skirt around the area and spectacular shows of thunder and lightning can be seen in the distance over the water, providing a surreal vista at times.

Of course, there are times when heavy rain and storms do hit Pangona, and mostly these are short sharp events that are over within 10-30 minutes and you are able to get on with what you were doing before the storm. It’s a bit ‘Ying & Yang’ as you can’t be that close to the sea and enjoy the ambiance that it offers during the great weather, without accepting that there are times when the weather at times, is also not so great.

FAQ : WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT A LEAF ROOF ?

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UntitledA ‘Natanguru’ leaf roof is a traditional roof which is sometimes used in new holiday homes to provide an authentic island experience – afterall, why go to the islands if all you stay in, is a place that makes you feel that you never left home. Of course, for some being at home … away from home is what they prefer, and if this is you then perhaps ‘island style’ accommodation is not for you. However, if you want to experience ‘real’ tropical living, then it is likely that a leaf roof will be a part of this.

From a practical point of view, ‘Natanguru’ roof’s have developed over time for various reasons … being a local natural product is obvious, but other reasons are also important and provide an insight into why they continue to be popular. Unlike longrun roofing, leaf roofing does not corrode …. and unlike tiled roofing, they do not provide significant hazards during earthquakes. However, their real advantge is during storms and in particular cyclones, and many buildings have been saved during destructive weather due to the performance of their ‘Leaf roof’.

Buildings with longrun roofing provide an absolute barrier to wind and ‘storm’ or ‘cyclone’ wind rushing into a building blows the building up like a ballon often resulting in buildings losing their roof’s and consequently collapsing. Leaf roof’s on the other hand are permeable in the first place, and under extreme winds, each row of leaf turns vertically upwards under the wind pressure underneath and relieves the stress on the building. Often seemingly flimsy buildings remain standing during such events while more ‘robust’ buildings have succumbed and caved in. A case in point is our ‘Haus Wind’which appears to be a loose collection of sticks with no walls …. but has survived one cyclone and a number of extreme storms completely unscathed.

There are a couple of things to note about leaf roofs compared to roof’s you are accustomed to :

  • Unlike longrun roofing, ‘Natanguru’ roofing is permeable and depending on their age, sometimes during long prolonged storms, they can develop small leaks. These generally self heal after the storm.
  • The natural makeup and texture of the roof provide an interesting vista for guests. Generally, the darker colour (as opposed to light coloured ceilings of european styled houses), is offset by buildings having high aspect roofs with large internal spaces – allowing the interior to have a light and airy feel.
  • Being a natural product, leaf roof’s do breakdown over time and a a part of ths process is a small but continuous dropping of dust from the leaf itself, which requires fairly regular cleaning from surfaces.
    Leaf roof’s do provide a habitat for insects.

All in all, having an ‘island styled’ bungalow incorporating a ‘Natanguru’ leaf roof provides guests with a great themed experience and fantastic ambiance.

FAQ : HOW IS THE WEATHER DIFFERENT AT TUK-TUK BAY TO PORT VILA ?

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UntitledFlametree  is sheltered from both the eastern and south eastern trade winds and for the most Flametree enjoys calm and sheltered weather for guests to bask in the sun by the pool, snorkel just offshore in the adjacent coral reef, or kayak around Tuk-Tuk bay.

Contrasting this, Bukura lies on the eastern side of the arm of the peninsula leading out from Port vila with Tuk-Tuk bay at its tip. As a consequence, Bukura generally has higher winds which attain their greatest velocity (and annoyance) during the cooler dry season, making this time fairly miserable during this time, with salt laden sea air constantly invading the residences on this coast.

Mele faces south and suffers a similar wind discomfort as Bukura. While Mele beach appears attractive on first apperance, its is a surf beach with no coral reef, and it has vigorous dumping waves and the sea floor falls away steeply, making the beach fairly unfriendly. The road occurs on the beach side of residences along this stretch making privacy impossible.

FAQ : WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STAYING ON THE COAST ?

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UntitledStaying on the coast of a tropical island presents an idyllic holiday. You are closer to the sea than just about anywhere and the experience of living a coastal livestyle is pretty amazing. Of course, you are more exposed, both to the fantastic weather that is mostly associated with the tropics, but also to the less fantastic weather that occassionally happens.

Just being on the coast has its rewards, looking out to the sea and seeing the early morning fish schools jumping around, to being mesmerized by the larger waves breaking in rougher weather. The ability to just ‘go’ for a snorkel or kayak 10-20 metres offshore, or having a drink in a cape cod chair while watching the sun set, are obvious highlights ………… but it is generally just doing the everyday things in a waterfront setting that provides the greatest enjoyment and memories.

FAQ : WHAT FOOD IS AVAILABLE TO BUY IN PORT VILA ?

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UntitledThis is quite a relevant point, as traditional island food can be quite bland, with plenty of Kumala, Taro, and other starchy foods having a prominence. I can remember going to the markets in PNG, when we lived there years ago, and being totally despondent at the food choices that were available. I am happy to say that food choices in Vanuatu are absolutely fantastic, both in regard to meat and freshly grown fruit and vegetables. On top of this, it appears that everywhere in the pacific where the French have been, they have never gone without – they have always valued their food and have as a consequence ensured that local plantation crops, horticulture, cattle farms, bakeries have all been nutured during their tenure in Vanuatu. On top of this the main supermarket ‘Bon Marche’ is french and numerous french cheeses, wine, pate and other delicacies are freely available.

In regard to Island nations, one automatically thinks of fish as the mainstay of food dishes, and while both fish and chicken are certainly present … it is organic beef that Vanuatu is noted for. There are substantial cattle farms and beef forms one of the main export earners for the country. The organically raised beef is some of the best that I have tasted.

Further, anyone going to Port Vila should spend and hour or so at the main central market. The abundance of seasonally fresh fruit and vegetables can be amazing to see, especially when you realize that it is all organically grown by subsistence farmers. A small point however, is that it seems as though the tropical climate should allow for everything to be grown all year around, but this is not the case. On occassions, the market can be flooded with the crop of the moment, whether that is tomatoes, cucumber, pineapples … to the seeming exclusion of others.


By Greg Watt avid traveller and author of travel websites and blogs. You can keep up to date and share travel insights with Greg at Vanuatu Traveller's Facebook Page for things in the Pacific, or Traveller-Info's Facebook Page for things elsewhere in the world,  or with Greg himself on his Linkedin Page or  Google+ Page.