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Greg Watt
Worked at www.traveller-info.com
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in Auckland, New Zealand
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Avid traveller, & advocate of real travel experiences at www.traveller-info.com/TravellerBlog
Introduction
Throughout my life I have loved to travel, and after gaining my qualifications, Anne and I took the opportunity to work overseas for a number of years, travelling when we could through Australia, Papua New Guinea, and parts of Asia.   

In recent times we have travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and have developed strong relationships in Vanuatu, where we live part of each year.  

As for the future, we hope to spend a significant amount of time travelling amongst different societies and cultures around the world, and providing others with the opportunity to do the same, by providing travel advice based on our own experiences

Bragging rights
I have very little to brag about. The more I travel, the more I appreciate my fellow human beings, their cultures, their struggles and aspirations. If I have anything to be proud of, it is to help where I can, villages and communities fulfill their goals.
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Help fellow travellers have great travel experiences, that are unique, 'real' and unforgettable
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  • www.traveller-info.com
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Auckland, New Zealand
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Greg Watt

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UPDATE ON RELIEF AID TO TANNA ISLAND.
Since the last post I have been trying to get in contact with anyone and everyone to see what is happening. I understand that Relief supplies (tents, canned food etc) have been arriving by Boat, and by large plane and helicopter (it appears over some days). There has been an initial relief disbursement ( I am unclear where), but is now being geared up. From what I hear ( not Esso), distribution points are presently being established along with some military outposts, and a careful release of relief supplies should commence any time from now ( 12.00 noon 25th March). There should be some official information released on this shortly. #Tanna   #Vanuaturelief
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Greg Watt

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TANNA ISLAND - MIDDLEBUSH DEVASTATED.
We have been able to contact Esso today and have been able to find out what has happened. Cyclone Pam has devastated the whole of the Middlebush Region Completely. Further, No relief or Aid has yet arrived to this area. There is no shelter, the last of the food is fast disappearing and many only have the clothes on their backs.

In regard to Rachel and Esso, their property has withstood the  Cyclone far better than we feared, but their tribal village has been completely destroyed. There is nothing left, except for the people.

For a complete update on What has happened to Middlebush, and Rachel and Esso, please go to our Blog as it is quite long - I have put it on the homepage.

https://www.vanuatutraveller.com

Now that we know what has happened, we will be posting shortly about what we can do to alleviate the suffering that is happening in Middlebush.
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Greg Watt

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I DARE SURMISE, AND FILL IN THE DOTS !
Up until now I have been very particular not to surmise too much, not make sweeping assumptions and to try and assemble all the information that is at hand to provide a picture of what has happened in the area that I know. The fact of the matter is that logistics are obviously incredibly difficult, and for most areas in Vanuatu, substantial help isn't coming anytime soon. For that reason,  based on my discussions with Esso in the Days before, I'm joining the dots here to try and work out  their communities most likely situation. I think is worth reading as it is likely to be a common story in  all the remote areas :


=>  Cyclone Pam scored pretty much a direct hit on Tanna. Winds are clockwise and therefore came from the east. Esso and Rachel are on the east coast in by a few km's but up on an escarpment, with sweeping views, but in an extremely exposed situation for winds. Their position places them in a situation where winds are likely to be twice that experienced elsewhere - the wind force and consequent loading would have been beyond belief. If the image in my last post was in fact  friendly bungalows, then it is quite logical to believe that there is almost nothing left of Esso and Rachel's accommodation. 


=> In the days before I was in contact with Esso (perhaps  twice a day), I impressed upon him the severity of what was to come. He certainly knew that it was a Cat 5, and likely a direct hit. He also knew very well what that meant. He spent Two days boarding everything up the best he could.


=> The Cyclone moved slower than we thought and therefore we were about 12 hours ahead of it. I believe they moved all the children and woman to a nearby school. I assume that the whole village went.  Rachel's brother Jimmy has a  Rural Training Centre nearby - and he has ensured that it has been well constructed ( concrete block), and I am confident that if they went there that they are safe and well. I hope that Esso did not remain too much longer afterwards.


=> I had indicated to Esso that he get his Vehicle to a safe place so as to avoid damage. Whether any vehicle could be placed safe from flying debri  and able to avoid some damage is unlikely. 


=> The community have large Taro and food gardens nearby, but anything above ground will be stripped bare and gone. Taro does keep in the ground  in the right conditions, with some actually preferring swampy conditions. While very starchy, there is also some important parts of their diet there. They have lived on this food for a long time. I am really unsure of the reports of food  levels, but it certainly can't last more than a week or so for all the population that needs it.


=> We installed for them as a part of a Unicef initiative, ram pumps ( do not need power) and a water reticulation system that distributes to a good number of  villages in the area. The general area, was put in by Unicef and we paid for one ram pump for Esso's accommodation and his local village. The streams that are the source are spring fed and therefore should not be contaminated. Esso put his big water tank back on a hill and this will be fine, especially as we know that the pump produces more water than can be used. The weight of the tank would have held it down. the only thing will be flying debri.


So where does this leave us. I believe that they have survived, that their buildings everywhere are gone, but they are out there at the moment salvaging what they can to try and provide what shelter they can. They will be surviving and will be able to survive for several weeks before aid comes. If his vehicle is in working order he will out and about to help transport people in need to the hospital or wherever - as long as he has fuel. More than that I cannot pretend to guess.

It will be a common story throughout Vanuatu, but one that ultimately will rely on us to help in ways that each of us feel be are able. The photo's below are of from my last trip there which was in Feb 2015, the top obviously Rachel and Esso and the bottom Chief Jack with his wife Amy. #tanna   #vanuatu  #cyclonepam
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Greg Watt

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While aid starts to come into Efate the main island, the news is not great for Tanna and Erromango. There are desperate times ahead
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Greg Watt

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WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE NEAR FUTURE !
For those that have visited Tanna, you understand that it is a special place ...... and you also are starting to realise that it has been hit particularly hard by Cyclone Pam. And while its early days yet, the fear is that unless we develop, and organise strategic plans, to help bring Tanna back to the amazing place that it truly is, then the island people will continue to suffer. We are going to set up two parallel initiatives.
For us, practically we can only help in the region that we are involved in - For us that is Middlebush, in the highlands region of Tanna, and in particular the community around the Naihne people - the greater family that Esso and Rachel, and Esso's Father, Chief Jack Kapum belong to. We hope that you too, see that it is a great thing to be involved locally.
HELP US BRING A LOCAL TANNA TOURIST BUSINESS BACK
Those who have travelled or stayed with Esso and Rachel, or another business like theirs, you will attest to the fact that is one of those unique experiences that only comes rarely. The operation of Tanna-Adventures in Vanuatu is their business (solely owned by them), with some help from Anne and myself. Their location will have suffered damage beyond belief, and they will need to start again. Through a lot of thought we have a concept whereby, if we all lend a hand, we can bring Esso and Rachel's business back to better than before, so that it in turn can help all the people that are around it. Its the old story about giving the fish or the fishing rod. Tourism can come back quickly, and Tanna needs this to happen so that it can start helping itself. We hope that you will follow us as we roll out the concept.
Details are to follow shortly.
THIS IS PERSONAL
This is definitely more personal. We intend to set up a fund that is specific to helping in the people around Esso and Rachel, especially the children, so that their lives do not suddenly get put on hold. Every time I go to Tanna, I talk to Esso and Rachel, their children and their wider community, and I am astounded by the clear vision they want to strive for in their future. We intend that this fund be used to help them in their quest.
Both initiatives are to be open book, and completely transparent for all those who are involved to see. It is Aid at Community level.
#vanuatu    #cyclonepam   #tanna  
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Greg Watt

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CYCLONE PAM - LATEST NEWS - 10.00pm SUNDAY 15th
#vanuatu   #cyclonepam  
Obviously today is a day where Aust and NZ aid has mobilised. The reality is that still little is known, even a short distance out from Port Vila. For ourselves, our property 'Sanddollar' is only thirty minutes out ..... but the photo below shows that it is difficult to get to as the road has been completely wiped out along Mele beach, with no hope of being restored. However, for us we have been able to make contact with our staff, who had moved to Port Vila and are all unhurt, but have their houses completely destroyed and have lost all their food. One is tempted to hop on a plane straight away, but the truth is that at this stage, that would be to no avail as unless you bought huge amounts in your luggage, you cannot achieve much with little transport, no power, no communications, no banking and only a small police / military force. For the next weeks the situation is so hopeless that we must all place our trust in the Governmental Agencies and their partner NGO's, and hope that they are effective in their endeavours.  

The good news is that aid planes from both Aust, and NZ have arrived, and my understanding it that the Orions will be doing aerial reconnaissance over as many of the 83 islands as possible to actually see what the situation is.

For us it is very disturbing that there has been complete silence from Tanna, and island of 30,000, that was directly hit by Cyclone Pam at the height of its developed intensity. It appears that not even satellite phones are working on the island. Further, the nature of the island makes it particularly difficult - the sub base of the roads are volcanic ash, and none are sealed so it is likely that many are gone. We need to quickly ascertain  the state of this island, as its infrastructure such as hospitals, are poor and will certainly be overwhelmed. 

I have had a number of requests for information on different people and facilities, and too be honest all I can say, is that I don't know. Actually at this stage, nobody knows.

For us, we hope the community we work with and who have become a part of our greater family have survived and are working to overcome the obstacles that are now thrown at them. I fear that the awesome tourism facility that Esso and Rachel have created, may have been destroyed. It will be a miracle if it has survived, being high on an escarpment on the eastern side of the island, and as a consequence likely facing twice the wind forces that were present in Port Vila. I know that Esso was working furiously to board up windows and protect it as much as he could ... I hope he was sensible and left to go to shelter when the going started to get rough.  

I hope that tomorrow, through the people that we are in contact with in Vanuatu, we are able to provide better news in the days ahead.
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Greg Watt

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The island nation of Vanuatu is a very special place and one that became special to myself and the rest of "The Wonder List" team when we filmed there in November for our premiere episode of the new series. It's been almost two weeks since that episode went out and for most people it was the…
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Greg Watt

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AT LAST - SOME NEWS REGARDING ESSO (ISSO) 
Finally, some news in regard to Esso. Esso is an active member of Taefa Tourism. We have had word from one of the major Resorts that  Esso, Rachel and their family are safe and uninjured. We are unclear if all of the extended family are all uninjured, but understand that to be the case. We do not know specifics regarding their buildings and land as yet.

What we do know is that Tanna is one of the main links in regard to cell towers amongst the islands, and they are working on them to get them operational again. Once that happens we will be able to provide a greater amount of information, and move forward in regard to the medium  term programs we intend to set up. 

The photo below is happier days ( a while ago) with Esso, Rachel and Anne on the whitegrass coast. #tanna  #tannaadventures
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Greg Watt

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PIECING TOGETHER THE NEWS !
Scouring all the news that is at hand at the moment, the following appears to be all that we are hearing from Tanna Island from the last couple of days :

=> It seems that the only plane that arrived yesterday ( or was it the day before) was a planeload of Digicel equipment and technicians. While this is good news as there seems to be a blackout on Tanna, they will be working on the towers around port Vila initially. Communication on Tanna and the remote islands is likely to stay that way for many days, if not weeks. This means we will still not know for some time what is going on.
=> Air Vanuatu provided one flight yesterday Thursday 19th, but I guess that this would have been booked solid with reporters, officials and NGO's. It will be one of the first flights to stranded tourists out.There is no news regarding flights Friday ( today).
=>There was an article on Middlebush, the highlands area which is near to where Esso and Rachel are located. It appears to be decimated, and the road up there pretty impassable, but the upshot seems to be that those people were the first outsiders that the highlanders had seen since the Cyclone.
=> The PM of Vanuatu indicated that a Hercules  had gnu to Tanna yesterday with supplies, but this cannot be confirmed.
=> There is a New Zealand naval vessel full of heavy earth moving equipment, either left yesterday or leaving today for Vanuatu. Again it will be likely utilised on the main island, at least initially. 


I'm afraid that Tanna Island is on their own at the moment !

The best news article at the moment has come from CNN, and I have liked it below. 

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/17/asia/vanuatu-before-after-cyclone/index.html

The reported is Ian Watson, who seems to have been there for the past few days and has quite good insights. For those that have twitter follow him on @IvanCNN as he has good tweets with photos, and quite good information not in the news, particularly from Tanna Hospital.

The photo below, is a resort on Tanna, and although I have not been there, I suspect that it is friendly bungalows located on the eastern coast, a fair distance down from where Tanna Adventures are ( Esso and Rachel) Someone who has stayed there can perhaps confirm or otherwise.
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Greg Watt

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FRAGMENTED NEWS OF RELIEF.
This article provides some more in depth news in regard to Tanna and Erromango.

Aid is slowly making its way around the Main Island of Efate, which is the most accessible having the international airport and one of the best ring roads in vanuatu. That being said Mele Village is still only 20 minutes drive from Port Vila, which gives some indication on the difficulties and logistics of getting aid to where it needs to be.

In regard to Tanna, the sense of despair and hopelessness continues. This article gives some indication of what has happened it is clear the eastern side of the island has suffered huge damage.

http://www.3news.co.nz/world/aid-starts-to-flow-in-to-devastated-vanuatu-2015031822
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Greg Watt

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CYCLONE PAM - FIRST NEWS REGARDING DAMAGE TO TANNA
This is the first substantive news of Tanna that we have heard to date and confirms that Tanna has been hit hard. It is generalised and brief, but indicates the seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, they are really only talking about the stretch of road between the Airport ( where both Whitegrass and Evergreen are ) and Lenekal. I can't be sure that they actually got to Tanna Lodge which is on the other side of Lenekal or damage was observed from the air. There is no mention of damage to Lenekal, the hospital, the state of the wharf so the trip must have been quite brief. I doubt that there would have been any word concerning Middlebush in the highlands, whitesands or any of the eastern side.
We must hope that more information will come out from World Vision and other NGO's today. I'm sure that if CNN are going in today that further news will be forthcoming.
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CYCLONE PAM - LATEST NEWS - 7.00am Sunday 15th
It is know a time of waiting and trying to get in touch with those that you know and work with. For ourselves, we are involved both on Efate ( just out of Port Vila) and Tanna. Communications are still down and we have been unable as of yet to get in touch on either island. This is difficult to deal with.
As right at the moment, Tanna is still being battered by heavy gale force winds, and our property at on the west coast of Efate will be still be experiencing strong winds and waves of 3 metres or more, even though the cyclone has passed.
This is nothing compared to the devastation that is being reportedly inflicted on the thousands of Ni-Van Villages, in regard to both their housing and food supply.
Port Vila Airport is still out of commission, and when it comes back on will only be taking aid flights until further notice.
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Greg Watt's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
Aid starts to flow in to devastated Vanuatu
www.3news.co.nz

Aid has started to arrive in some of Vanuatus worst affected islands but others remain isolated with flights over the Pacific nation showing

Huge devastation in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam hits. Please help them if ...
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The island nation of Vanuatu is a very special place and one that became special to myself and the rest of "The Wonder List" team when we fi

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Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people th

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The TRAVELLER sees what he sees. The TOURIST sees what he has come to see.

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines,

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines,

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Twelve songs I listened to in October. Main theme is cruisy music suitable for summer. Pop based with lots of fusion, acoustic, blues/Jazz,

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This is twelve songs i'm listening to this May. A mixture of cruisy semi acoustic alternative, mainstream, folk rock with a strong indie inf

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twelve music tracks I've been listening to in April 2013. Semi acoustic and crusiy soft rock tracks - great to listen to while travelling.

Sanddollar Vanuatu - Holiday Rental
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Sanddollar Vanuatu Holiday Rental Accommodation provides great holiday accommodation, 30 minutes out of Port Vila, Vanuatu. The large proper

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Sanddollar Vanuatu Holiday Rental Accommodation provides great holiday accommodation, 30 minutes out of Port Vila, Vanuatu. The large proper