The expectations of prospective tour operators were a little odd at times, but truth be told, Mike and I were not the most typical of tourists either. This might have slighlty perplexed the easy-going ni Vanuatu, in some ways. Not that any of their perplexity was overt. If anything our hosts were just just the slightest bit confused by our non-touristy behaviour.
In all our ten days at the isolated tropical beach, Mike and I did very little by way of sight-seeing, preferring to stay on the beach where we’d first arrived and choosing to move very little in the tropical heat.
Expectations of us and actual behaviour probably became even more disparate, after Mike , who was to read an advertising brochure for tours and services in Vanuatu, encountered a particular one of many warmly but clumsily worded adverts. This one suggested a resort which would “bring out the tourist in you.” After exactly this time of reading, Mike dug in his psychological heels, and began explaining to the eager operators something which must have been rather incoherent to them: “We’re not really tourists.”
What were we? What were we doing on the isolated beaches of Vanuatu? Well, looking at the politics and structure of the society for one thing, or so it transpired. But more than that, simply taking a break from compulsive every day forms of activity.
When John (pronounced “Chon”), then, took Mike and myself (pronounced “Chenny”) to see the “Nimo fish” — a short paddle out from the rocky part of the shore, equipped with fins and snorkles — he acted like he had expected more from us. We had not pulled out an underwater camera to photograph this yellow and white tropical creature, as expected. “Some tourists like to take picture of Nimo,” John patiently supplied, as he examined us half-expectedly. But as sure as nimo was there in front of us, we had failed to produce a camera and take the anticipated shot at the expected moment. For neither of us had been carrying a camera with us of any sort.
A similar event occurred when I took, alone but for my paddling guide, an ocean trip to see the giant turtle (which never did actually appear). And this canoe ride then continued on, not exactly planned but quite agreed to, out beyond the small laguna. Here we stopped and I was given opportunity to gaze at the lush but costly “Champagne beach”. My lack of camera also produced a gesture of expectation. The guide had suggested suddenly — “You can take a picture, if you like.” Throughout the canoe ride, with me sitting aplomb at the helm, my guide had not noticed my obvious lack of any camera. A bad tourist then. But, this was a problem which could be fixed, with a plan B.
“Maybe your husband can come in the afternoon to take a picture?” he suggested, helpfully.
“No,” I said, apologetically. “That isn’t likely.”