Nothing like starting a new year with adventurous stunts in Vanuatu! We had travelled up the coast of Queensland cruising on the Rhapsody of the Seas for NYE and then headed on over to Port Vila to start 2014 with a bang. Mel and I got off the cruise ship with no plans or bookings.  We were confronted with a mass of taxi drivers shouting and gesticulating with their arms to get customers’ attention. Looking at a sea of mostly mini vans we realised that getting a taxi into town might take a while to get the right kind of car for us.


Wanting to get out of the noisy affront, we spoke to information who told us it was relatively flat to get to town and would take someone walking about 20 minutes. I didn’t remember it to be that far but I had taxied it last time. Lesson number one – don’t believe what they tell you in a third world environment when it comes to access! No… I was in an unusually stubborn and confident mood and encouraged Mel to follow me and we headed down the road pushing our chairs along.

As I’m writing this post I’m still shaking my head wondering where did this desire to push so far come from?  I was the last person to normally push anywhere far, my arms have never been that good at long distance pushing. Mel is usually the athlete and she was skeptical!


It was a stinking hot humid day, taxis full of cruise guests waving and whizzing past us, on and on we went.  We couldn’t get on the curbs because they weren’t ramped, the road had potholes to maneuver around and cars were travelling extremely close…but I had committed to this and we were too far gone to turn back.

After about a kilometer even the Police drove by and asked us what we were doing. ‘Going into town’ seemed a normal response.  We should have taken the cue then that this was not a good idea… but no we kept going, Mel doubting this all the way! About halfway through, the thought “What were you thinking!” did come to mind but I had to keep it positive for Mel otherwise we’d both freak out.

We traversed some hills and some close calls too.  Mel having a rollercoaster ride on the downhills because she is such a featherweight, every little bump felt like she was going to lose control. We were getting very interesting looks from the locals. On we went till we finally came to a car park near the shops, off the road we got and felt much better once we weren’t in the line of fire. A good two hours from our starting point might I add!


It started to sprinkle and we made a beeline for the undercover awning of the shops with a lovely local chasing us with a shoe and asking Mel if it was hers.  We looked down and I said to her “Where is your other shoe?” Hilariously she had no shoes on!!! If there was any doubt that Mel couldn’t feel her legs, there was the proof, both shoes came off without her even realising it!!!  Haha!!!

We looked back over the car park and noticed our courteous local running back to find the other shoe for us. Too funny, what a hilarious moment to break the stress and trauma we had just been through of pushing from the port. A good belly laugh dispelled the tension and gave us a positive mindset to head towards the beach and markets…stopping along the way, we met our Gekko yielding local for some photo opportunities and then headed to the helicopter sales office to check out the possibility of taking a ride.

This was going to be our treat for the new year and the best way to see the varied aspects of Vanuatu and Port Vila and quite frankly we had no more energy to be pushing too far! We headed over and were welcomed with a ‘can do’ attitude in getting us to go up for a flight.  So accommodating!

While we waited for our time slot, we headed across from the sales office, over to one of the few cafes with accessible toilets and chilled looking over the water, having a refreshing drink while we cooled down and laughed at our day so far…


To go for a flight, it meant a ride over to where the helicopter landing was and then being lifted into the helicopter. No probs, a couple of blokes each, a Ute and we had the job done! Vanuatu is a laid back kind of place…I did have some concerns when I saw our Aussie pilot navigating barefoot…but he seemed confident! After what we’d just been through this seemed like nothing…


The view is always breathtaking (this was my second time flying over Vanuatu). From the forests and waterfalls to the green pastures with animals grazing and then along the lagoons, the beautiful turquoise water and resorts to tempt a return visit for a land experience. Once we got back we made the wiser decision to take a taxi back to the ship. Although the haggling was almost as intimidating as the push into town!

The taxi ride – this is when we realised just how far we had pushed! It was a good 4.5 km from the port!!! We were nuts…well actually I have to take responsibility for this one… it was me who pushed to do it.  I’m glad Mel is still talking to me!

The guests cheered us on as we boarded the ship, so many saw us pushing all the way in to town earlier that day.  They couldn’t believe we had done it.  Some thought we deserved the Victorian Cross because it was so dangerous pushing on the road that essentially left one car at a time to pass in a dual roadway. I wasn’t going to say we couldn’t believe it either but we’re certainly not doing that one again! It was nice to see the inspiration people got seeing us out there though.  We were the poster girls for disability… true resilience in the face of fear!

Take a look at some photos from my trip. Click the photos to view them in full size.

lizzy hodgins