I know that I say this a lot, but this could be my favorite place in the world. Not just Port Resolution or even the island of Tanna, but Vanuatu in general. And not only because of the awesome point break just outside the anchorage, or because the ni-Vanuatu are very friendly while still retaining their traditional ways, or because the land is full of fruit, coffee and coconut trees. And did I mention the active volcano? This place is wild. Rugged. Remote. Alive.
Two nights ago we made the pilgrimage to Mt. Yasur (which means "god" in the Tanna dialect). When we were sailing up to Tanna we could see huge plumes of ash erupting from the volcano. The idea of standing on the rim of the volcano and watching the same thing was a bit daunting, or just plain scary. Regardless, if you make it all the way to Tanna you have to go see the volcano, after all, it is the most accessible - and perhaps the most active volcano in the world.
Around 4pm (and after a sweet but quick surf session) a bunch of yachties congregated at the Port Resolution Yacht Club to be picked up for the hour drive to Mt. Yasur. When the truck arrived I was not sure how twelve of us were going to fit in the bed. We all squeezed into small wooden benches, packed like sardines, which made me feel more secure and less likely to fall out.
The road to the volcano is a dirt road with lots of ditches and dips and dust, but it only added to the adventure. An hour later the landscape changed from lush foliage and huge banyan trees to a moonscape. Black sand and rock covered the land, with pumice boulders dotting the surrounding area. The truck parked and everybody hopped out and prepared to make the ascent to the top of the crater, a few hundred meters away from the carpark.
As we hiked up the volcano I could hear distant rumbling and slight vibrations on the ground, along with a bit of rumbling and churning in my stomach. I mean, if this thing blew a big one, we would all be dead in a second. But as we got to the top of the crater all was quiet. "Hmm, ok, this is..." KABOOOOOM!!!! Oh sh!t! I almost dropped to the ground as a huge cloud of ash billowed into the air. The noise coming from the depths of the earth would easily lead one to believe that a very angry god lived down there. It was as if the volcano was alive.
As the sun set and the moon rose, the pieces of molten lava down in the crater burned bright red. And then it happened. With an angry roar and a bomb-like explosion, red hot magma shot into the air. Oh. My. Yasur. The eruption lasted a few seconds and as the earth fell silent, the lava cooled and floated back down into the crater. Sometimes the molten lava rocks fall outside the crater and you have to watch your step so that one doesn't fall on you (or you fall on it).
If this volcano were in the US you would not be able to get within a mile of it. There would be security fences and liability forms and all that jazz. Here you can walk up to the crater, or even walk into it if you want a fiery death. There are no guard rails, nothing to keep one from falling in. The only sign of caution is a piece of wood that says, "Think Safety" before the walk to ascend the mount.
We were up on top of the crater for an hour or so, from sunset until it was dark except for the light of the nearly full moon. The volcano put on a spectacular show, erupting and shooting bright orange and red lava high into the sky every five minutes or so. It put the best fireworks in the world to shame. I do not feel like I have done the experience justice, or adequately explained the sense of awe and humbling effect of standing on the rim of an active, alive volcano.
Unfortunately we do not, and have not had internet for about two weeks now, so I can't post photos, but I will ASAP. And for all I know the western world could have come to an end while I was blissfully ignorant. This is one thing I really like about the ni-Vanuatu. While they come around asking for gasoline for a chain saw or wanting to trade fruit for fish hooks, they are not very interested in living a western way of life. They like their subsistence way of life, working when work needs to be done and relaxing the rest of the time. They strike me as a very happy people, in spite of the fact that most of the world would consider them impoverished.
The ni-Vanuatu of Tanna are, however, very traditional. When I told you that they don't make their kava by chewing it and spitting it out anymore, I was ignorant of the ways in Tanna. And when I told you that women are not killed for entering a nakamal anymore, again I was ignorant. Well, women might not be killed (or they might) but Miriam, the hostess of the yacht club, told us if a woman enters the nakamal while the men are drinking kava they will be hit "On the head and on the back and on the legs... yes, we do not enter the nakamal while the men are here." Interesting. And while I have developed a fondness for kava, I can't say that I am disappointed not to try the chew-and-spit method. Dad and Mark went in last night to try it and said it was absolutely disgusting. But each island has its own traditions pertaining to kava drinking, so I will have to investigate on the next island.
Speaking of, it looks like we are leaving our beloved Point Resolution tomorrow. It is going to be sad to leave my perfect wave behind. I intend to get in one more good session this evening at high tide before we leave, although it will taunt me all day to watch the perfect waves barreling across the reef, knowing that I would lose some skin if I were to surf it at low tide. I know, I know, its a rough life, but somebody has to report on the volcanos, barrels and bowls of spit kava.
At 9/27/2012 9:29 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°31.48'S 169°29.79'E
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