Country Living – This is the life

So I’ve been a little holiday piggy, waltzing around in a bikini, drenched in sun cream and barefoot on beaches, while all of you guys have been freezing your knackers off hiding under puffer jackets and umbrellas! That wasn’t very sporting of me, was it? We have just returned from Santo Island, which is about one hour’s flight off the coast of Vanuatu. Santo is a dream and would rate as one of our favourite places in the world, so much so that we are now working towards our goal of buying and developing a virgin coastal farm there. Santo is underdeveloped, pristine, void of flashy resorts and European eateries, and completely full to the brim of their indigenous culture. These ingredients produce a holiday baked to perfection for my adventurous family, so I’ll tell you about it.

We found a fisherman on the beach when we got there who was happy to hire us his “bongo” van and trip around with our family. The bongo van proved to be one of the highlights of the trip, hysterical laughter broke out every time we got in it. The windscreen was smashed and held together with sticky tape. None of the doors had handles, so crawling in through a window and opening doors from the inside was the daily slog, I think it used more oil than petrol. We blew up the rocker arm but the locals managed to fix that overnight, how and with what nobody knows. Even flat out downhill it travelled at turtle speed, but it was painted bright 70s orange with racing stripes down the sides. We thought we were the coolest cats in town.

The food we ate was “blow your mind” stuff. Think lobster as big as your calf, fish varieties that stretched all the colours of the rainbow, trees dripping with tropical fruits, wild boar that would fulfil any pig hunter’s dream and little roadside stalls selling vegetable varieties I have never had the privilege to lay eyes on.

On one particular day we grabbed a wooden outrigger boat with three locals, three machetes and a fishing net, and spent the day catching, picking, cooking and devouring a feast of the sea and land. The food was cooked on branches or wrapped in vines, and out plates were big leaves. The locals caught coconut crab – a variety whose entire diet consists only of coconut. These are huge and are thrown straight on to the coals to cook. It was truly a glorious day.

Freshwater deep blue lagoons are everywhere. It was like swimming in bottled water brimming with colourful fish. I held my children’s little hands as we jumped off rocks and swam in all its goriness. These memories are tiny little time capsules forever etched in my children’s hearts. I felt so young, so happy and so free.

Back home now, and I have slowly floated back down to earth. My bikini may have now morphed into jeans, Ugg boots and heavy woollen jumpers. But the mind is clear, and I feel invigorated. I need holidays like this. I seem to have an uncanny ability to over process and complicate my life. We are going back in December, as we have those new dreams and goals to tend to. It’s like Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Julie Cotton