One day in Lu­ganville

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MICHAEL TAY­LOR

LAKE MacDON­ALD, QUEENS­LAND I WAS sit­ting out­side a store in Lu­ganville on Van­u­atu’s largest is­land, Espir­itu Santo, when an old man with just two teeth, each as white as snow, asked me if I would like ‘‘the big touch’’.

I was hop­ing I had not heard him prop­erly be­cause if this was the stan­dard of mas­sage in Van­u­atu I was stay­ing well away from the lo­cal day spa.

Then again, noth­ing would have sur­prised me in Lu­ganville, which sounds like the name of a town in a Phan­tom comic. The day be­fore, a man wear­ing noth­ing but a loin cloth and a co­conut neck­lace strolled right by, ca­sual as you please.

Where else could you go over­seas, just a 21/ hour flight from Bris­bane, and be one of only three tourists in a whole town?

There are no buses, but lots of utes with PT (pub­lic trans­port) on their num­ber plates. You wave down the driver, jump in the back and hang on. I saw a Toy­ota ute with at least 15 pass­sen­gers fol­lowed by another with two dead cows in the back. Howthose beasts man­aged to flag down a PT re­mains a mys­tery, as does the cause of their death. I also saw a 1960s truck hur­tle past with two guys sit­ting on the roof of the cab and look­ing sur­pris­ingly non­cha­lant.

There were up to 100,000 Amer­i­can troops sta­tioned here dur­ing World War II and it seems a lot of the stores are still hold­ing items on layby from those days. Faded posters share dusty win­dow space with Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions (in June?) and you can buy a gas stove, a suit and a six pack of beer all in the same store.

The Chi­nese restau­rant looks like it should be con­demned or it could fall down next time a fully laden truck or PT speeds by.

And that is why this place is so fab­u­lous. The food in the restau­rants is ac­tu­ally ex­cel­lent and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, the lo­cals are al­ways friendly. As well as world­class div­ing, bril­liant beaches and at least a mil­lion palm trees, the town, and in­deed the en­tire is­land, have bags of char­ac­ter and charm.

And that mas­sage? Not long af­ter I walked away from the store, the old man found me again and showed me a bag of pigs’ tusks. Would I like to buy one? Silly me. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­ Colum­nists re­ceive a Log­itech UE Mo­bile Boom­box, a por­ta­ble, wire­less speaker that lets you stream mu­sic from your phone, tablet or lap­top, and dou­bles as a speak­er­phone for hands-free phone calls. $99.95. More: log­

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