New Trail on Malekula

Noah Thomas, a Peace Corps volunteer on Malekula in Vanuatu, informs me that his group has pioneered another hike across the island, the Man Bush Walk. This one goes from Unua, near the mouth of the Pankumu River just south of Mbwitin, to Lawa just north of Wintua on South West Bay. The basic rundown is as follows:

Day One: Unua to Melken (9.32 km). Elevation 94 meters. Time walking: 2 hr. 15 min. Resting: 30 min. Total 2 hr. 45 min.
Notes: Easy walk. The road is good and clear. The village is currently working to widen the road so that trucks can pass. You cross the Paunkumu 12 times, so a lot of river crossings. Most crossings are shallow, rarely over thigh high. Heavy rains could make the road unpassable.
Accomodation: Stay at the Melken woman's club. Simple. Mats were placed on the floor for bedding, and food is included. Only 100 vatu per person.

Day Two: Melken to Lambongbong (17.39 km). Elevation 840 meters (finish at 540 m). Time walking: 6 hrs. Resting: 2 hrs. Total 8 hrs.
Notes: Difficult. One very steep climb that gains over 500 meters of elevation very quickly. There are some river crossings early on, and also areas with soft mud. There is a fresh water source after the big climb.

Day Three: Lambongbong to Lawa (15.19 km). Time walking: 5 hr. 30 min. Resting: 1 hr. Total 6 hr. 30 min.
Notes: Moderate to Difficult. Lots of mud. Three climbs, including one steep one after you cross the Matanoi river. Gains 300 meters of elevation in less than a kilometer. There is a large waterfall at the river, which is amazing. After Lawa we chartered a boat (1,500 vatu) and slept in a small village near Wintua.

Maps and photos of the many trails Noah and his group are opening up on south Malekula are on the Kula Trail Blog. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to experience the real Vanuatu, as opposed to the tourist's Vanuatu in Port Vila. This isn't “soft adventure travel”, however. Only the audacious need apply. Here's a recent video filmed in the area:

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