September 06, 2010
MYSTERY SOLVED TO GOING ROBINSON CRUSOE
SO you wanna go Robinson Crusoe…
There's a little place in the South Pacific that's just for you. But that doesn't mean you won't need to do some planning if you're thinking of really escaping to a people-free paradise.
Because despite no one living on this miniscule 1.5-square kilometre oceanic dot that has no electricity, no running water, no roads and no telephones, your peace could still be shattered.
By hordes storming the beaches, and all keen to share your little piece of paradise, if just for a day…
And it's no mystery why: because, simply, this magical little spot you thought you had to yourselves, is called Mystery Island. And the mystery why you won't find it on the map, is that it's officially Inyeug, the most southerly island in Vanuatu.
And no one lives here is because its traditional owners who live on the island next door, believe it's haunted after dark by ghosts.
In the 1850s Australian traders who set up operations on the larger Aneityum Island just across the channel, mostly lived on Inyeug as they figured that the-then cannibalistic Aneityumese were unlikely to attack spooky Inyeug under cover of darkness.
Canadian missionaries also built the biggest church for its time in the South Pacific on the neighbouring Aneityum, its 1000 seats enough for a quarter of that island's population.
The traders and missionaries eventually drifted away due to ill-health or waning years, and abandonment and a tsunami put paid to the church; by the late 1800s Aneityum's near-4000 population had been decimated to just 500 – the legacy of western diseases introduced by the foreigners.
Aneityum and Inyeug faded into obscurity for over a century until in the 1980s the cruise ship Fairstar started visiting Vanuatu, often putting her passengers ashore by lifeboats for a day on this jewel of South Pacific white sand islands.
Fairstar's owners, the Sitmar Line also re-named Inyeug as Mystery Island – as it was always a mystery whether they could land their passengers there due because of unpredictable seas.
After Fairstar was sold, P&O started visiting with its bigger South Pacific cruisers out of Sydney and Brisbane; the company helped build a landing-jetty on the island, and every year its ships now put around 65,000 guests ashore for a day's swimming, coral reef snorkelling, beachcombing, or buying fresh fruits, shells, and souvenirs from the Aneityumese who come across on "ship days."
Mystery Island also has the clean and basic Mystery Island Bungalows: a Double-bed Bungalow that costs $66 a night, Beach Bungalow with two single beds ($33pp per night,) and Guest House with a double bed and three single beds costing $160 per night.
And you'll have the whole island virtually to yourself: Aneityum villagers who may turn-up to occasionally fish, are always well gone before sunset for fear of those ghosts.
It leaves visitors at the bungalows to rise in the morning when it suits, dangle a line for reef-fish or lobsters, beach-walk, snorkel, and ponder what we poor fools are doing back in "civilisation…"
And with no TV, telephone or internet, if isolation becomes too much it's simply a matter of waiting for someone to come across from Aneityum and negotiating a lift back by canoe to explore the neighbouring "big island."
Bungalow guests have to bring all basic food and other needs on the twice-weekly flight from Port Vila – the grass airstrip was built on Mystery Island to service the too-mountainous Aneityum.
Arrangements can also be made to have someone from Aneityum bring over local garden produce and cook for you if you want to experience the local fare. (Details from travel agents or www.vanuatu.travel)
And it's important to check whether during your planned stay, one of those cruise ships isn't going to pop up on the horizon and disgorge its 1000-plus passengers to share the solitude of your 1.5sq kilometre island for a day – the more so if you're prone to sunbaking in the bollocky.
FOOTNOTE: In 1974 while Queen Elizabeth was on her way to Australia from Port Vila aboard the Royal Yacht Brittania as part of a Pacific tour, she made a unscheduled stop at Mystery Island for an impromptu royal beach picnic in paradise. And for the first time, she had no one to wave to…
 BLINK and you've missed it – Vanuatu's tiny Mystery Island
 LONG gone cruise liner Fairstar that put Mystery Island on the map
 TODAY's P&O Pacific Jewel a regular visitor to the island
 ISLAND in the sun for Pacific Jewel day trippers
 MYSTERY Island Bungalow for that Robinson Crusoe getaway
Images: Vanuatu Tourism; P&O Cruises; Malcolm Andrews