Saturday, August 23, 2014

Off to the Races

A few notes first – there are new photos up on the page and more top come – enjoy. And this entry is a bit "out of order" as the happened before our trip to Tanna and the volcano.

On a lovely Saturday morning, we headed into Port Vila for a day at the racing that is! This is an annual event on the island of Efate. It is considered the "Kentucky Derby" of Vanuatu – or at least that is what we were told. The Kiwanis Club sponsors the event and raises money to support its local charities with this multi-day event. On Wednesday night there is a black tie ball and then the races on Saturday followed by a post race event. We would participate in the races – having left our tuxedo, ball gown and tiara at home!

In town, there were free buses out to the venue. It is about a 45 minute drive out to the "track" so we got a good sightseeing tour along the way. Past a golf course, we were dropped off near the track. One of the sponsors of the event is Tusker beer...and the other, was the local Vanuatu abattoir (slaughterhouse). The track actually runs past the abattoir - that should get the horses moving fast!

On sight, there were lots of food stalls selling Tusker beer and all types of food. The place was packed with ni-Vans (locals) and ex-pats – mostly Australians. The ex-pats get all dolled up for the event – derby style. Lots of fancy dresses, high heels (fun to watch on the grassy terrain), hats and frills were on show. Several tents for the sponsors were set up and one called the "birdcage" was part of the fund-raising activity. You could pay 8500 Vatu to get in and eat and drink and have the best vantage point for the races. We stayed out of the tents and stood by the fence with the locals and enjoyed the festivities.

The races were great! These are local horse and local riders – though they did have pretty shiny satin shirts and jockey helmets. Several of the horses ran in several races. There were some stats on some of the horses – but picking them by name was as good a chance as any for winning a race. The betting was simply for "win" - as some of the races only had four horses. We decided to put a few dollars in the second race on a horse named "Tanna" because we would be heading to Tanna in a few days. It was a good pick – as our horse won and our 200 Vatu bet got us 300 Vatu in winnings! Whoo-hoo! In the next race we placed our money on Jenny (Barbara's mom's name, sort-of) and it was a great race. Two horses as they went past the abattoir freaked out and tossed their riders. Both riders were okay but the horses came to the finish line riderless. Jenny was neck and neck at the finish – so it was a photo-finish. Unfortunately the other horse was bigger and nosed Jenny out – so no win for us! But it was really close.

We enjoyed the day in company of our friends Sandy and Rankin from Gypsea Heart. A few Tuskers, lunch, a little betting and good company made for a really fun afternoon. There was a stage playing music the entire time and the track announcer – from Austalia was very entertaining. A successful outing – though we didn't come back with pocketfuls of Vatu! We caught another free bus back to town. It was one of those events we were glad we heard about. It was a local event with lots of local folks and it was something very different.

There are photos of our day at the races on the sight!

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