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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Wallis, Oui!

WALLIS AND FUTUNA ISLANDS | Saturday, 15 September 2018 | Views [127]

Bonjour! With not much sleep after arriving last night I'm in Wallis & Futuna: one of the world's least-known countries. Coming from NZ with temperatures at or near zero to the tropics where it's 27 C with high humidity makes for a major shock. It's difficult to find anything in any guidebook pertaining to Wallis, although an old Lonely Planet book states that you'll find fewer people walking in the capital, Mata-Utu, than in LA. When I say "capital" we're not talking Manhattan; the tallest "structures" are palm trees or radio towers. Michel, my CS host, and I would shoot the "no walking" theory down as we went for a long walk this morning. Wallis, with the exception of French being spoken, feels nothing like France. Wallis is more connected culturally to Tonga, and Futuna is connected to Samoa. There'd be no morning trip to the boulangerie for croissants, nor are there 100 different French wines or a whole wall of exotic cheeses. Instead there's a whole isle dedicated to canned tuna and tinned fatty corned beef. New Caledonia this is not! I should add that there is no tourism infrastructure here whatsoever: no glamourous brochures or glass-bottom boat tours like in Fiji and no overwater bungalows like in French Polynesia. And you can forget about key chains and souvenir T-shirts but hey, it's part of why I came here! Only a small handful of people I've spoken to have even heard of Wallis & Futuna and for everyone else I've had to say "Google is your friend." 

At around midday we ended up at Kafika Stadium, built for the 2013 Pacific Mini Games which were held in Wallis & Futuna. Michel had me guess which events and sports were held and the only one I correctly guessed was rugby. Swimming and tennis, to my surprise, were not part of the Games. I had a bit of fun playing basketball which some of the kids and had an opportunity to ask around for contacts on Futuna. 

 

My birthday is this coming Thursday and I'll be 34. Every year I try to go somewhere exotic for my birthday, but this year I had a really hard time deciding where to go. Weeks ago I wrote down the pros and cons of visiting certain places and I eventually narrowed my choices down to Norfolk Island, Wallis & Futuna, or Easter Island. Norfolk is my favourite place but I've been before, Wallis is rather isolated and untouristed and has a considerable language barrier, and Easter Island is mysterious and would offer a rich experience but is very expensive to reach. I would also really love to fly Juliett over Norfolk Island, so with Easter Island out (flights there would have cost upwards of $3,000) I was down to two choices, and I nearly flipped a coin for the first time on my travels. The advantage of Norfolk is that I'd have friends to celebrate my birthday with. Since I've been to Norfolk five times already, I opted for Wallis after a very difficult decision. 

I've promised myself to have loads of practice with Juliett, so it wasn't long before I soared her into the sky for a view of Wallis' colourful lagoon. Now that I've been to Wallis, I've now been to 10 different Pacific island countries, although only three of them (Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa) are actually countries; the rest are either dependencies or self-governing external territories. My big plan for next year is to go to Pitcairn Island. 

There is only one geocache and all of Wallis & Futuna and I was itching to sign off on it. After telling Michel about caching, we set off for Gahi on the southeast part of the island. There's a lovely view from the cache location.

We looked all over for 20 minutes and we figured since it hasn't been found in nearly four years (not that many people come to Wallis anyway) it's gone missing. I scraped together a jar and a makeshift logbook, signed it and then had the bragging rights of saying I've found every geocache in a country. It rained a fair bit today, but rain in the tropics tends to not last long and provides a cooling effect. 

The thing with Wallis is that it's always hot and humid; the only reason I brought a jumper with me is because I needed one for the hitchhiking journey from Queenstown to Christchurch. There isn't much of a restaurant scene in Wallis, and what restaurants that do exist are very simple places that charge an arm and a leg for everything. As a result, Michel makes simple fare at his home. Tonight we had a light but tasty tea of pasta and a chicken schnitzel. 

This is my first day in Wallis. I'll be doing a lot whilst I'm here and I'm excited for sure! 

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