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  • jdettmann

Tropical with No Chance of Orang-utans

Sydney’s weather over the last few weeks has been stifling. Humid, hot and generally unpleasant. It’s always like this in February, and it makes people cranky and forgetful: every year we act like this weather is out of the ordinary. February coincides with everyone sobering up from the summer festivities that begin here with the Melbourne Cup in November and run pretty much through until Australia Day on 26 January, the kids all head back to school, and the daily rhythm of life returns to normal, just with more sweat.

How I cope with this is to put aside what I should be doing (perhaps preparing my keynote speech for the International Conference on First-World Problems) and spend a lot of time researching where to go on holiday later in the year. I am looking exclusively at places where the weather is exactly like the weather I hate so much here. I’ll admit it doesn’t make much sense.

We have been exceedingly fortunate to be able to travel overseas a fair bit, both before our kids were born and since. H and I have been to Borneo twice, and while that sounds very adventurous and intrepid, we mostly stayed in really cheap, quite fancy hotels, and it was more tiny-bottles-of-shower-gel than machetes-through-the-jungle. One hotel had its own adjacent orang-utan sanctuary, which I really think all hotels should have.

Now, Garnet remains obsessed with animals. Every morning he wakes up and tells us what animal he is, and stays in character on and off for the rest of the day. (Today he is a puppy. A sick puppy, suffering from Dog Pox, apparently.) He liked when we went to Fiji, except for the absence of a zoo. He actually walked out of our beachfront hut the first morning and politely asked which way the zoo was and when we broke the sad news he cried for an hour. We thought a trip to Borneo to see the orang-utans would be just the ticket. We booked the hotel, and just as I went to click the button to give all our money to Malaysian Airlines, a clever friend sent me word that the orang-utan sanctuary was closing down the week before we were to arrive. Borneo’s a really long way to go to not see orang-utans.

I then spent  several days deeply ensconsed in TripAdvisor reviews, with the Australian government’s SmartTraveller website as backup. This is a very bad way to research a holiday. Between the two resources, you will be convinced that at all destinations you will either be blown up, stricken with Zika virus or killed by the substandard offerings on the breakfast buffet. These websites should redirect you to a page that just reads: ‘Stay home. It’s just as disappointing as a holiday but much cheaper.’

After texting H every fifteen minutes with a new place I thought we should definitely go, including but were not limited to Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Singapore and the Cook Islands,  and then deciding against them because of price, distance, safety and/or lack of bacon on the buffet, we decided to go to Vanuatu. (We are ignoring the fact that Qantas and Virgin have recently stopped flying there because they claim the runway isn’t safe. Pshaw. If it’s good enough for Air Vanuatu it’s good enough for me.)

H and I are over the moon, though the kids are reserving judgement.

May Blossom’s preferred pastime is diving for some neoprene rings in the local pool, so she is is deeply unimpressed that there is no pool where we will be staying. Never mind that it’s a tiny island in the middle of a turquoise lagoon in the Pacific Ocean. ‘But there are DUGONGS in the water!’ she wailed when we suggested the sea might provide a decent alternative place to swim, as if the dugongs are going to steal her diving rings.

Garnet is pretty broken up about the whole orang-utan situation. (A tip for young players: don’t tell your kids there are going to be orang-utans on your holiday unless there is a 100% chance of there being orang-utans on your holiday. He has been slightly mollified by word that there are pigs and goats on the island. He doesn’t realise they are for eating. (His position on animal rights is conflicted: he recently announced it was unkind to chop up cows. He was eating beef jerky at the time.)

As for me, I’m happy about the dugongs, the goats and the lagoon. I’m ecstatic that someone else will be cooking the meals for nine days, and delighted by the lack of time zone change and the short flight time. I’m happy there will be very little wifi and no TV. (Obviously we’ll be taking a laptop and some boxed sets of TV series with us; we’re not going on Survivor.) And I’m really, really looking forward to H getting a break from work.

I am also very pleased to read that the place we are staying apparently puts 100% of its profits back into the local community. You know, some of those kids don’t even have neoprene diving rings or zoo memberships.

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