Saturday, June 13, 2009
Yasur Volcano, Tanna Is, Vanuatu
I saw a documentary on ABC TV on Yasur Volcano few years ago and had been itching to visit it for some time. With the Swine Flu now on full swing, decided to go now to take advantage of the discount travel and accommodation rates.
The volcano is 361 meters above sea level. It erupts continuously all year and is easily accessible. Just get to Tanna Island in Vanuatu. Once there, all accommodation sites will organize a trip there. The eruptions are best seen at night when you can better see the red fireworks and lava bombs.
My flight from Port Vila (capital of Vanuatu on Efate Island) to Tanna Island was in a 15-seater noisy propeller plane and took about an hour. There were 10 people in the plane, half were tourists; the others were natives. Some of the natives had never been in any vehicle before, let alone a plane. So I became a flight attendant and taught them how to buckle up the seat belts. And when the plane landed, helped them to unbuckle. That was my one-kind-act-a-day for the day.
Tanna is an unspoiled beautiful island, no shops, no bitumen roads, no public transport, no taxis. Nonetheless, for such a tranquil island, it boasts a variety of accommodations, called lodges or bungalows, all catering for the volcano tourism.
We were supposed to be picked up at 3pm for the Volcano, but the driver didn't turn up until 4pm. This is known as Tanna time ... always add an extra hour to whatever time has been promised. For example, the next day's breakfast at the lodge where I stayed was supposed to be available at 6am. But the restaurant didn't open until 7am. It was too late for me as the return flight to Port Vila was at 8am; so I had to miss breakfast since it was time to head for the airport. And you guessed it, the plane was an hour late, so I could have had my breakfast if I had stuck to Tanna time like everyone else.
I side tracked ... back on the trip to the volcano ... it hadn't rained in Vanuatu for weeks. And would you believe on the day the sky opened up with buckets of rain!?! As already mentioned, Tanna has no bitumen roads. Whatever roads they have are narrow, winding, one-laned and full of bumps and pot holes. But our driver could still manage a speed of almost 100 kph on these muddy slimy roads on such a rainy day. It was a feat that Evel Knievel himself would be proud of!!! The ride was more thrilling than a roller-coaster in any amusement park.
It was all very exciting fun until Mr Evel Knievel tried to overtake a slower car. He misjudged the width of the road and we came to a sudden dead stop with half the car in a road-side mud ditch. I thought, oh oh, that is the end of the tour and how the hell are we going to get back to the lodge? Or worse, we may have to help push the car out of the ditch ... and as I had already done my one-kind-act earlier on in the plane, I was definitely not looking forward to do another kind act. Fortunately after some deft wheel spinning backwards and forwards, Mr Evel Knievel managed to get the car out of the bog and out of the ditch!!! He is my hero of the day!!!
Whilst we had a lucky escape and was able to keep driving onward to the volcano, the weather still didn't want to smile. It kept on raining. At 6pm, we reached the base of the crater. After a 10-minute climb up the crater rim, all we saw was thick white steam rising from inside the volcano - none of the red eruptions promised on the tourist brochures. Reason was when the rain hit the hot earth and molten lava inside the volcano, the water turned into thick white steam and mist, obscuring everything.
It was a big disappointment!!!
Not much pictures in this trip ... well, it was a rainy day and also very late in the evening ... too dark for proper photographs :-(
1: Tanna is untouched by modern civilizaton. Here, a woman is washing her clothes by a stream.
2: The bungalow where I stayed for the night.
3: Yasur Volcano
4: Ash plain near Yasur Volcano
5: We had to cross this river. If the current is strong, a car can be swept away ... and many have suffered this fate. But we got through.
6: Near the volcano now ... hot steam rising from the earth.
7: A 10-minute path to the crater rim.
8: This is what we were supposed to see ...
9: ... instead, all we saw was white steam as a result of rain hitting the hot earth and molten lava inside the crater. In the photo, you can make out part of the circular crater rim.
10: A video.
By the way, Vanuatu's highest mountain is in Santo Island ... see http://www.tabwemasana.com/ Quite interesting. Is there any masochist out there interested in having a go at this mountain with me?