Visiting Mount Yasur - the active volcano
Adam: We had to clear customs, which can only be done at the other side of Tanna. Stanley, one of the villagers, manages the cruisers (among other things as: Asking the gods for sunshine, and more bananas, and drinking lots and lots of kava). An open Toyota Hilux took us through the midst of Tanna. Awesome. Probably the best 43 km I have ever driven (well been driven that is). It took us just under 3 hours. And I could have gone on for hours more. The past days it had rained extensively. The roads were bad, and that is a serious understatement. We passed through thick rainforest, remote villages, ash fields from the volcano that looked like we were driving on the moon.
Until we made it into the "capital". A couple of dirt roads, a couple of shops, a market, and a customs office. Customs took about 3 minutes to clear. Immigration was on holiday, and the Quarantine officer didn't show up after we made arrangements to meet him. I bought some fresh produce on the market, including some kava for the village elders (they didn't like our Fijian kava, not strong enough…). And after 2 hours we drove back the same route. And that was only the beginning of a day that got even better.
Renée: Apparently Mt Yasur is the most accessible active volcano in the World. Accessible must be a relative term since the drive there and back was definitely part of the whole nerve wrecking experience. The road was a 4x4 enthusiasts' dream. It took us an hour to drive there in a open Toyota Hilux and we made it into second gear about four times and third gear only once. The boys were in the back deck with Adam and loved it. They were occasionally passed in through the window for a change of scene. Sam, the driver, did an amazing job and we jolted, jarred, bumped and bounced our way over Vanuatan roads to the volcano park entrance.
We paid US entry fee and entered the park. Sam then commented: "The road from here is a bit rough." Leonie and I glanced at each other thinking: 'ít wasn't until now?!'. It actually managed to get worse, obviously our entrance fee doesn't filter through to the road repairs division. To top things off, Sam then got a call on his mobile phone, which he answered. That's taking the 'no worries' attitude to a whole other level. Leonie and I couldn't help but giggle.
We parked about 150m from the top of the ridge and started walking up. We heard some loud rumbling, which definitely wasn't thunder and sounded scarily close. There was a strong wind, which was blowing ash and sand into our eyes and ears. It felt a bit like a poor man's dermabrasion. Fortunately, Adam and Leonie had received a tip from a cruiser friend of theirs to take goggles, a scarf and toilet paper. Toilet paper? You'll understand when you see the photos! We sat for a couple of minutes wearing ski and swimming goggles and waited. Next minute there was a hiss and a roar and flaming lava and rocks were thrown into the sky from the craters in front of us. It was scary. The longer the pause between the eruptions, the bigger the roar. Right at the end of our visit there was one last burst that really gave us a fright. The whole mountain trembled beneath us. It truly made you feel small and vulnerable. The goggles came in handy once I had rinsed the grit out of my eyes so they didnt keep filling with tears.
Thankfully, none of us were terrified enough to need the toilet paper. Mees and Pete did an amazing job in going up with us and watching the lava through their swimming goggles. They managed to fall asleep on the way home, which is a credit to their ability to adapt to rocking sensations. This morning we went ashore for one last Tanna coffee from Sarah and said our goodbyes to our new friends at Port Resolution and set off. We had good wind and were flyng along in front of some dark clouds in the pouring rain. I loved it. We are currently on route to Port Villa. If conditions remain the same, we should be there by morning.