We arrived here on Tanna Island on Monday evening 5/23 around 5pm. It is a beautiful little anchorage dotted with tiny villages around the bay. Close to our anchorage you can see steam vents up in the bush with puffs of steam streaming out and hot water running out of the rocks along the cliffs next to us. In the background Mt. Yasur is constantly blowing clouds of smoke up into the air and at night you can see the red glow from the lava in the crater of the volcano reflecting off of the clouds. It is mesmerizing to look at and think of how close you are to an active volcano.
In the morning there are about 20 fisherman from the local villages are working as a team to gather mackeral to sell. They are in their dug out canoes. Tom, one of the fisherman said it is made out of one of the local tree varieties (he didn't know the name) but it takes about 3 weeks to make one and they last about 20 years. He had paddled up to ask if we could charge his phone while he was out this morning... Then Patrick came to ask the same thing. It is nice to be able to help when we can.
Chris and I needed to go into the village and find a man named Stanley who organizes the tours to the volcano. As we arrive on the beach again, it seemed another scene from national geographic. The village kids were standing on a rock looking into the water for fish. One, the older one, had a bow and arrow (yes, bow and arrow) and was shooting at the fish, while the younger (naked ones) would dive into the water and retrieve the arrows for him with or without a fish attached. Truly beautiful to watch. On our way up to the village we stopped by the Port Resolution Yacht Club (a few couches in an open air building). It was fun to see all of the flags from previous years boats and races up on the wall and to see a few of the names that we recognized (Tallulah Ruby was one). This club house is up on the hill over looking the bay. The vegetation up in the villages reminds me very much of the Marquesas. Everything is cleaned, swept and planted in rows. So far in Vanuatu you can tell that they take pride in their lands and try to keep it clean. We wandered down into the one of the local villages to find Stanley, entering into his section of the village really takes you back into a primitive time. All the huts are made of the bamboo reeds and palm frond roofs. The huts are very small and only seem large enough for sleeping. Most of the kids are outside running throughout the village playing in the dirt. The people are very friendly and nice, but also reserved and shy. They kids will watch as you go by with eyes downcast but taking a sneek peek at you and then when you are past if you look back you can get a wave and a goodbye from them. After we found stanley we wandered through the village to the beautiful white beach on the other side. This is a beach I could have stayed a day at swimming and hanging out in the sun. It had a protective reef with small waves that came to shore and aqua blue waters contrasting with the white sand.
We met with Stanley and when we got there he said are you the catamaran with a family from america? Chris and I looked at each other like hmmmm how did you know. Stanley had heard from a Ray on a boat a few days ago that we were making our way up here to Tanna and to look out for us. Chris and I finally put it together that it was our friend Ray on Sea Note and another boat he cruises with Continum that was here a few days ago. We are hoping to catch up with them in Port Villa. It is nice to know that our friends we met in Mexico are still around us even this far away and are cruising on our same path.
We were all set to go to the volcano at 3pm so we went back to the boat to feed the kids and gather our warm weather clothes, tennis shoes, torches, snacks, water, mosquito repellent, and cameras. It is about an hour ride over extremely bumpy terrain. We all climbed in with our driver Issac, the girls and Alexia and I in the back and Chris and Tristan inside the truck. We sat in the back with a large box of fish from the fisherman and two of the locals that were catching a ride up to another village to see family. The road traveled is basically cut through the bush and is a one lane dirt path lined with grass in the middle and bush scraping each side of the truck. By the way this is their main road. Most people walk it except for those going to the main town of Lenekal or the tourists going to the volcano. There were times that I felt I had to lean over the side of the truck so that it would not tip over on its side. I felt like I was in a Landrover commercial showing what grade and terrain these vehicles could climb. The road was like an obstacle of lava rocks and huge ruts from the torrential rain run off. Issac's family owns much of the land on both sides of the road. They have crops of coffee beans that they sell to the Tanna Coffee company so he took us down one of his roads to show us the most amazing, extremely humongous, Banyon Tree. Issac said that it is the largest Banyon tree and I would have to agree. Tristan tried to climb one of the roots coming down, but it was pretty daunting seeing how high he would actually have to climb to reach the top.
We finally arrived at the entrance to the volcano. This is a new tourist activity for Vanuatu. Before you would just ask a local guide to take you up to the top but now the government has realized it can make the country money so it is regulated. They have a nice performance before the show (it needs a little work) but it was fun to see. You can tell how new they are at the tourism business and they are fumbling their way through it. Once the performance is over you climb back into a truck and are taken up farther onto the mountain with 2 guides who will escort you up to the lip of the crater. As you go up the hill you can see how the terrain changes from tropical vegetation to moon scape. The base of the volcano, where you park the trucks, is just red/black lava rock and sand. You can see the smoke billowing out of the crater and here and feel the rumbling of the explosions. The volcano is not very high and is the most accessible for people on earth. It is only a short 100 meter walk up a pathway to the rim of the volcano. At the top looking down into the volcano was for the lack of a better word just amazing, and we haven't even gotten to the good view point yet. There are 3 view points to see the volcano depending on which way the wind is blowing. Today happened to be a perfect day to go because the wind wasn't very strong but was blowing in the right direction for the best viewing station. It was also a cloudless night. The volcano was at a level 2 which is great because at level 3 they only take you to the parking lot and level 4 they don't let anyone go near. Level 5 they evacuate the local villages. Anyway we moved on to our better viewing station. In order to get there you are literally walking on a path that only one person can travel at a time, so single file, and then the mountian drops off on either side. On the one side it goes down to the villages, but the other is your demise. My legs were getting a little shaky walking along this thing because when you look down into the crater you can see the lava bubbling and bits of molten rock being blown up into the air. You feel the ground shaking under you feet and the pressure from the shockwaves when it explodes. When we got to our spot to view the crater was directly below us... in a shear drop down to the bubbling, glowing hot lava. I was on my knees for the most part because at one point there was a large explosion that shot molten rock and lava up almost at our height. The shock wave from that explosion shook the ground, blew my hair forward and then back, it sucked the air into the crater and then blew the air back out, and it felt like someone hit me in the chest and made me step backward. The power that you feel from mother nature at this point is truly frightening. All I could think about while we were sitting on this tiny ledge was ... are there ever landslides? This thing could really blow!!!! and then you get sucked back into how mesmerizing it is see the lava below. Words can not even describe how it felt to be able to look into the mouth of the volcano and be able to actually watch in person what most people see in documentaries. The kids couldn't stop talking about it while we were up there. They didn't know what to expect and were completely taken be the experience. Amaia and Alina were both frightened and looked over the lip into the crater once or twice but ended up sitting a little down the hill away from the edge when the volcano started exploding more. They wanted to leave but stuck it out for us and then fact that we all had to go down together with the group. Tristan, Alexia, Chris and I all with cameras and phones were trying to get the best recording or shot we could. We really wanted to try to capture the feeling, sound and beauty of the volcano so that we could share the experience. What I realized when we got back to the boat that it just isn't even close to being there and I am so very appreciative that we were able to experience this with the kids and I know that it will be a memory of a lifetime... starting with, Do you remember when we climbed up that volcano.....!
Being back on the boat and reviewing the pictures and videos that we took and then looking up towards the mountain and seeing the red glow from the volcano we were just at is a memory I will definitely never forget.
I will have to follow up with pictures when we arrive in Port Villa in a few days.
Hope all is well at home,
Hugs and love to all,
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