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TRAVEL TALES

Vanuatu & New Caledonia
The bucket-list gets longer

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  • The bucket-list gets longer

I often laugh at myself, how I make lists for everything. To-do lists, lists that go alphabetically, lists that rhyme and even lists about lists. I’m a list collector... One list demands constant actualization.

At the turn of the year, I had the opportunity to chat with Kathrin about her recent trip to the South Pacific. Perhaps, she would inspire me to add Vanuatu and New Caledonia to my bucket list.

Getting a hold of her proved a challenge. We were caught in the middle of the holiday season. The din and the clatter of endless celebrations and impromptu toasts coincided for both of us with transformative events in our lives. Kathrin and Marcus, her husband, just moved from Hong Kong back to Europe, and I began my life as a father. When we finally found a few minutes to talk, I was eager to find about her recent trip to the South Pacific.

The bucket-list gets longer

“So… How was it?”

“It was an amazing experience,” she said with a bright voice, full of character. “It was a perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, and we got to do many different activities.”

Vanuatu and New Caledonia are two gems in the South Pacific that have mysteriously remained untouched by the tides of tourism. There, travellers can enjoy coral-reef diving, sail from island to island, chill in luxurious beachfront resorts, or err on the side of adventure and go full Robinson Crusoe.

I ask Kathrin if the trip lived up to expectations.

“Yes! Especially Vanuatu, it is a more unique country than New Caledonia.” Her voice soared with enthusiasm as she told me about her favourite part of the trip: “I especially liked the Polynesian vessel… sailing under the stars. It is a very personal experience.”

Rediscover Paradise.

Her Blueflower personalised itinerary included several days of sailing from island to island along the Vanuatu archipelago. She elaborated:

“You always have a local guide with you. In the evening, you might stop at his island. Maybe he hasn’t seen his family for four years… They cook for you and you get to spend time with them. It’s an authentic experience.”

The bucket-list gets longer

Kathrin and Marcus were guests, not tourists. Their itinerary was orchestrated by Andrea Oschetti and his team of Dream Makers at Blueflower. They constitute a network of journalists, chefs, writers, artists and connoisseurs. Blueflower harness their expertise to get travellers to unique destinations in a way that is intimate and meaningful. Oschetti’s ambition is to inspire others to see the world from a fresh angle.

“Tell me,” I ask. “How did you get interested in Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the first place?”

“The initial idea came from a magazine, about diving in the Solomon Islands.

“We didn’t opt for one of the more popular destinations like Fiji, because of Zika. Vanuatu and New Caledonia are at a lower risk. This was one of the main reasons.”

A trip to the South Pacific was important to Kathrin and her husband. They had already planned to move to Europe. They felt they needed to cross this off their bucket list.

“We wanted to do something extraordinary. To travel somewhere more remote.”

They had the destination, now they needed someone who could plan and execute the idea.

“We met Andrea [Oschetti] at his kitchen,” she began. “It was through a friend, but then he organised a trip for us to Tibet.”

She told me it only made sense to have Andrea organise the trip to the South Pacific. I wanted to know what she liked most about travelling with Blueflower.

“It’s a unique mix of experiences. You end up doing things you wouldn’t with a regular travel agent. It is extraordinary. I can’t think of another word.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have the opportunity to meet the locals and to indulge into the culture.”

“Indulge into the culture!” I interject. Her choice of words took me by surprise.

“Yeah! I like the way it is organised, all the transfers included, there is always someone local with you.”

I also ask if Andrea kept an eye on them during the trip.

“Yes, he was very attentive via Whatsapp. There were even some changes to the plan.”

I learn from Oschetti himself, that he tweaked the itinerary because of the weather reports. Had they stuck to the original, Kathrin and Marcus would have been pestered by choppy seas. With the changes, they were guaranteed a smooth sailing experience.

“Are you planning to travel again, anytime soon?” I ask.

“We are just settled back in Europe,” said Kathrin. I understand, I don’t see myself travelling in the next couple of years either. However, she adds: “Getting to know Andrea and the way he approaches travel, I found it very inspiring. I remember him telling my husband about how short his bucket list was. He said there is always something else to add to it.”

The bucket-list gets longer

Lists are curious creatures. For the time being, the travellers are settled. But the list will eventually find its way to the front of their imagination, and I wonder then under what stars will they sail.

For my part, I take out my bucket list and ponder whether or not I should add Vanuatu and New Caledonia. After all, I’m more of a mountain person and Tibet is already on the list. I picture myself under a strange sky, gazing intently into the immensity of the Ocean, the spray caressing my face as the untamed waves swell in the darkness. Images of bonfires by the shore and swift vessels breaking the sea cross through my mind’s eye; the taste of freshly caught fish, cooked in the embers floods my mouth. It is a childhood dream that I just remembered. Now, I just need to find a pen.

9 epic travels for 2018, chosen by Andrea Oschetti himself

 

When to go:

Vanuatu and New Caledonia are true Edens where the seasons seem to stop. This is a truly year-round destination. Even during the wet season (November to March) showers are brief and most of the day is pleasant.

Where to stay and what to do:

There are beautiful resorts in the islands, but for a true South Pacific experience, there is nothing like the Vaka Taumako Project. Aboard a traditional Polynesian vessel, you will sail to remote islands, enjoy isolated beaches and have a truly dreamlike experience at sea.

The insider's take:

To maximise your enjoyment, it pays to have someone taking care of the logistics. At Blueflower, we take special care of our clients and liaison changes to their itineraries to take advantage of the best conditions. See what we have in mind for Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

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