Trip to Mt Yassur
27.03.2016 27 °C
The small plane took us over a beautiful blue ocean and small green islands, whose beauty was only marred by the obvious signs of destruction and as we landed at Tanna, I could see that the damage was considerably worse there.
It didn’t take long to find our backpacks in amongst the bags and UNICEF boxes and to get through the tiny airport and out into the green surroundings of grass, palm trees and a distant hillside. There waiting for us was Lizzie, our beautiful hostess and several members of her family. We all, eventually, piled into the waiting four wheel drive and headed off for our new temporary home. Right from the start, their sense humour was obvious and we joked about everything, including my being related to the Queen of England, though I think the driver optimistically believed it for a short time, thinking of the probable financial benefits of a royal lady in his car. I was sorry to disillusion him.
The dusty unmade road was the main road from the airport to the “city” and seemed to go on for hours, passing some small villages and a lot of jungly woodland. Eventually we turned down a small track that didn’t seem possible to drive down and we arrived at a clearing, containing a few thatched buildings and a path that led down to the sea. Later, walking down the track I realised that it was actually quite short and that it had all seemed so far as the car had to drive so slowly. “You’ll have all your meals here and we’ll arrange all your outings” our hostess was used to tourists that liked everything laid on for them and said this to reassure us, but later my son and I admitted that our hearts had sunk at that remark, feeling a bit trapped in this apparently isolated place.
Once we had organised ourselves in our thatched bungalow, we walked down to the beach in time to see the sunset. It was very beautiful, although obviously recovering from the cyclone. There were several people on the beach, fishing out by the reef and walking along, making me realise that it wasn’t so remote after all. Everyone was very friendly and the group of boys fishing explained that the wheeled sticks they were pushing along the beach were for rolling up the nets.
We arranged to go to see the volcano the next day, sharing the trip with the Twins, who were going that direction anyway, and engaged in some stiff negotiation. Mt Yasur is one the world’s most accessible live volcanoes, it’s 1,184 ft above sea level and has been continuously active for the last 800 years. Its best to go to the volcano in the late afternoon and to stay there while it gets dark and so we all set off at what seemed to be a ridiculously early time for such a short distance. The whole Island is only 25 miles/40km long and 12 miles/19km wide and it was only on the other side of the island! Our first stop was to buy some postcards at the post office in the “city” - more about that later, and then to drop the Twins’ stuff off at their next nights accommodation near to the volcano. There is a post box on the path to the volcano and postcards that get posted there get a special frank. I sent two off, and several months later they arrived!
As we drove to the volcano, it became quickly apparent why the trip had cost so much and took so long: apart from the odd very short stretch of tarmac road in very surprising places, the road was quite easily the worst I’d ever seen, the 4WD lurched up and down. Potholes were the easy bit, but it was the massive banks and falls in the road that made it such a slow and tortuous journey. We carried on for about 2 hours like this, the driver cursing the road with every manoeuvre. Before we left I’d wondered about coming as I had a terrible stomach ache, but after half an hour of churning around, it miraculously disappeared. Eventually we came to the other side of the Island and could see the smoking mountain in the background.The drive actually became easier as we left the road and crossed a lava mud landscape and a river. The man washing his car in the river was the owner of the Twins’ new tree top accommodation and he directed us to it. However all the tortuous driving and the photo stops essential with two photographers in the car, meant that time was getting on and so we carried on to Mt Yasur.
After driving incredibly close to the volcano, you just need to walk uphill a bit, post your cards at the postbox and walk up some steps. From this vantage you can actually see the frequent eruptions but after a bit of exploring, we realised that there was a path going right up to what seems to be on the edge of the crater. It’s mainly black volcanic sand and as the path wends its way upwards it often disappears a bit.
Although I’m a fairly “comfortably built” lady myself, I like a bit of uphill walking the trouble comes when I’m going downhill, especially if it’s slippy and slidy. Having known this would be the case, I prepared myself carefully by bringing a walking stick and had scoured Port Vila for a torch for coming down in the dark. Of course, these remained in my room and I so I did my usual: walk uphill and try to forget about the descent. I walked up the sometimes disappearing sandy path and sat down to watch the show. Although it felt like one slip and you’d be in one of the three active craters, there was wasn’t too much heat coming from it. As it got dark the display got more and more impressive until it was completely breathtaking. Eventually it was time to attempt the slidy descent, but luckily I had a sure-footed son with a steady arm and a torch on his phone and so it was relatively easy.