Les and Kaye Evans flew to Vanuatu on May 3rd. After arrival in Port Vila they met up with members Evelyn Kanas and Giselle Taren. The next day they met Gilbert Gibson, who is the expert on all things “bees” in Vanuatu.
Their flight to Santo was delayed as Kaye suffered a sudden attack of vertigo and had to go to hospital. But they made it to Santo a day late, where they met with William Davies and shopped for beehives, equipment and supplies for Malekula. “Gilbert had told us he has a small group of people at Lakatoro whom he is mentoring about beekeeping,” explained Les. “It is important to realise that no bees, used bee equipment or honey etc can be imported from other countries or between islands, so Malekula has to catch their own bees for their hives to start up.”
Les also noted “Over dinner that night in the hotel the manageress came to talk to us and was very interested in what we were doing in Malekula. She said whatever honey was produced in the future they would buy! That’s how desperate they are for honey in the islands.”
On arrival in Malekula the next day they talked about many “dreams and schemes” with Marius, Elvise and Obre Taren, including obtaining the necessary wild hives, fish farming, a bee house, spouting for the church building, gardening, and the festival. Their gardens are now producing kumara, yams (with a view to export), peanuts and kava.
“Saturday was a church service and combined meal and relaxation and further discussions about such things as short term missions, repairs to the road, which is getting worse every time we go, and the refurbishment of the guest house. Their plans are to expand the gardens around the church grounds and engage in other worthwhile enterprise.
“By Sunday morning the boat with the beehives and equipment that was supposed to have sailed from Santo still had not arrived, due to weather (or whatever), so we flew out of Norsup not having been able to help put the beehives together or install any bees in them! The men had been out scouting for wild hives of which they had found two. Unfortunately people of another village had set fire to one of these before we left.
“Before we could fly out there was a small drama. Our luggage went out to the plane early and the pilot called “Hop on”, and some of us boarded. There were more people than seats but we seemed to be two of the “lucky” ones. An elderly lady sitting behind us needed help to do up her seat belt (she had obviously not flown before). The pilot then started the engine several times before taxi-ing out and around, then out and around again, finally parking on the grass and announcing that this plane was not going anywhere today!
“So we disembarked after helping the little old lady to get out of her seatbelt! An hour later the pilot tried again without passengers, but to no avail. He had been in constant contact with Vila, but we didn’t know what they were discussing at the time. A short while later he called again “Hop on”, only this time there were just 4 brave souls that were committed to flying. The little old lady was very clear that she wasn’t getting on that plane again!
“Everyone at the terminal wished us good luck, two Australians saying we may not be seen again! As we lifted off the pilot gave a safety briefing by turning around to us, thumb in the air, saying “No worries”. We flew the whole length of Malekula at the dizzy height of 100 ft. However the clouds broke and we were able to climb to 7000 ft. When we arrived in Vila I was able to talk to the pilot who explained what the problem was. The elevator had jammed—this basically is the same fault as the Boeing 737 Max had (the ones that have been crashing). He couldn’t fly in cloud as he couldn’t tell whether the plane was tilting up or down. Therefore he needed to see rather than use his instruments.”
Les and Kaye flew from Vanuatu directly to Australia to spend time with family there before returning to NZ.
In addition to expressing relief that they are still alive after such an incident, I’d like to express my thanks to Les and Kaye for the considerable time and effort involved in preparing this trip (which was entirely financed by the Invercargill congregation and the Evans personally), their willingness to use up valuable annual leave time to go to Vanuatu, and for all the ways they have been serving the members there.
The photos show (1) Les and Kaye Evans with William Davies, and (2) Ombre and Marius Taren (brothers, sons of the late Billy Taren).