Jul 19, 2007

A Day at the Races

Our final day in Vanuatu was spent at the annual charity race day just a few kilometres from downtown Port Vila. After a sumptious breakfast at Chantilly's (I hadn't had bacon for months and boy, was it delicious), we piled back into Gran's 4WD (license plate "Queen Pat") and headed for the racetrack. The track is conveniently located on land belonging to the island's abbatoir. That's right horsies - run fast or become instant glue. It's a powerful incentive.

My Gran is somewhat fondly attached to champagne, which is always a highlight of race day:

Despite Gran's pre-dilection for Moet, she didn't drink all of this. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. But she certainly bought a bottle very quickly, and we all chimed in for a toast:

Note Gran sitting on her "shooting stick"; she'd picked it up from a friend a few days earlier. It's a walking stick that folds out into a small seat - very handy for long days on your feet. Anyway, the first race was due to begin just after 11am, so I was off to the tote, to put a bet on "Brut" (we were sticking with the champagne theme):

Needless to say, Brut didn't win. In fact, none of the horses Greg and I bet on in the five races run while we were there won. Still, all the lost bets went to charity, and we did have to get rid of the last of our vatu (the local currency). As the others got stuck into the champers (and Greg got put on duty making sure Gran's seat didn't sink into the muddy ground), I headed off round to see where the horses were stabled:

I also got busy taking photos of kids who'd scored a great vantage point by scaling the trees overlooking the racetrack. I happened to be snapping just as the first race began, and got one of my favourite shots of the day:

And just to prove there were actually horses running:

You can see the tents near the finish line on the right-hand side of the photograph; after each race the jockeys would take their steeds back to receive prizes, trophies, etc.

I captured some other moments of the day - pretending to be a proper photographer with an eye for a catchy pic, I sought out local kids for some snaps. These girls just looked so beautiful walking around arm-in-arm:

And these lads were having a grand time perched on the barrier:

It may not be Flemington or Ascot, but there was still plenty of high fashion on show:

I was looking at the tote board, trying to figure out which horse to bet on in race five, when a bloke tapped me on the shoulder and said "Natalie - it is you!":

May I introduce Mr Andrew Erbs, a gentleman I haven't seen since we finished high school almost ten years ago (Christ, I'm getting old). He's working as an Australian Youth Ambassador for a year at a trade school in Vila. He even lives in the same neighbourhood as my Gran! I told him to keep an eye out for Captain Bochenski Street. We had a good catch-up for about ten minutes, before Greg and I had to start getting ourselves ready to go. Time for a quick loll about with Gran:

Then it was off to the airport. Our luggage was already packed and in the back of the car; the airport is just a five minute drive from the abbatoir - ahem, racetrack. We said our goodbyes and thank-yous to Gran (as well as her good friend James, who'd driven us - Gran being a few glasses of champagne under by that point). And yes - after doing this all through our trip last year, I finally managed to get a picture of it - my Richard Nixon impression:

And then it was back to Brisbane; chilly, chilly Brisbane. We enjoyed our trip to Vanuatu very much; the final day at the races was certainly a highlight. I'd recommend a visit in winter - the days are still warm with low humidity. And the charity race day is always the second Saturday in July, so get a frock, get a big hat, and get up there!

1 comment:

  1. The 2008 sequel - Walking home latish down Rue Captain Bochenski on race day we noted a car going backward and forward as if uncertain whether to go into a driveway or not. As we hesitantly proceeded the car suddenly reversed into us and we fell into an unpruned roadside bougainvillea. The apology was genuine but champagne tinged and I have no idea who the driver was.
    But why worry about drinking and driving in Vanuatu - even the minister of health does it all the time with apparent impunity.
    Its good to see your gran's love of life - she must be an amazing lady with so many stories to tell.