All good here
10/08/2009, Port Villa
Just a quicky to say thanks to all of you who have been worried about us. We are fine , so is Migaloo .
When the Tsumami warning was issued we were out on a charter boat marlin fishing with Matt in about 1000 ft of water so we fealt safe however we were concerned forMigaloo and the Port Vila people but luckily all that eventuated was about a 30cm surge . The town was apparently evacuated and all the boats headed out to sea but everything is back to normal now , all the boats are in the harbour again and the bars are open and serving cold beers. Will do another blog tomorrow and tell you about the fishing trip and post some more photos on the blog, Till then as they say in these parts" Lukim you after Ta-ta .
Tanna Island , Yasur Volcano Safari
10/04/2009, Port Vila
The experience of a lifetime!
Big statement I know but it doesn`t come close to summing up what it was like to visit an ACTIVE LIVE VOLCANO.
This is a long blog but this was an extraordinary adventure and I hope you can find the time to read our account of it & visit the photo gallery, I also hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have typing it .............
Yesterday, (Saturday 3rd October) , we met our bus in Port Vila and were delivered to the Port Vila airport where we boarded our 9 seat twin engine light plane(see photo gallery). After a bit of a delay, our pilot was late (nothing unusual, Island Time, is what it`s called which basically means, no hurry, no need to set deadlines, relax and we will do it sooner or later), we were allocated our seats along with 7 others and we were up, up & away, our destination; Tanna Island, Vanuatu, Yasur Volcano Overnight Safari.
After a scenic flight over Port Vila harbor (see photo gallery) we headed south. About 40 mins into our flight we were over the largest of the Vanuatu Group of islands, Erromango. Erromango although the largest of the group has a population of only 3,000 compared with Efate`s 220,000. It is very much removed from the mainstream and the inhabitants dwell in traditional villages, no electricity, and live a very simple life, focused on not a lot more than the essentials, food, water & shelter. Twenty more minutes in the air and we were beginning our decent to Tanna.
Tanna initially seems not unlike Erromango, no electricity, very basic dwellings and very rough dirt roads that when driven over shake the vehicles (and the occupants) to pieces. However as we were bounced along and past by roadside dwellings we noticed many signs with phrases like "Digicel available now" or "Top up your Digicel here "and just as we were about to ask about these the unmistakable sound of a mobile phone ringing was heard and our driver was soon yapping away on his "Digicel" for the remainder of our trip to Tanna Lodge our overnight accommodation. The dust created by our vehicle was considerable, however the local people still were to be found standing on the road shoulder and waving , calling out hello and smiling as we approached them, then they would disappearing into the dust cloud as we passed .
We arrived at Tanna Lodge (see photo gallery) around 2.00 pm, already very dusty and beginning to understand why the trip was called a safari and were pleasantly surprised to find a number of traditional style bungalows, one of which was ours for the evening, camouflaged by the typical pacific island vegetation of coconut palms and assorted fruit trees and ferns looking out over a black volcanic sand and stone beach to the deep purple of the pacific ocean. We were greeted by a friendly smiling local, offering us tall cool fruit cocktails (complete with little umbrellas) who introduced himself as "Nick" and informed us he was the lodge manager and that he was very sorry but because we were running late (it appears Island time applies only to locals) that we must quickly join the safari vehicles and guides for immediate safety briefing!? , followed by departure for the volcano. We were shown to our bungalow (see photo gallery) , and told that we should change in to our jeans and shoes and quickly return to the driveway for the safety briefing!? Hmm what is this safety briefing? We were intrigued, hadn`t we just bounced over a very slippery sand road in a very tired Tarago that was being driven by a Peter Brock wannabe? Why was there no safety briefing about that?
We quickly changed as suggested and made our way to the driveway where 2 other couples were waiting along with 3 or 4 very dusty looking locals an even dustier 4wd Ute, complete with timber planks in the back which we discovered were seats! We were relieved to learn that not all of us would be travelling in the one vehicle however and that we would all be seated in the relative comfort of the cab. Pheww!
Then the much anticipated safety briefing began, it went something like this, (this was delivered in a very serious manner and was as much of a warning as it was a briefing)
"You will be travelling across some very bumpy , very dusty roads / tracks for aprox 2 hours before reaching Yasur , the Volcano ,where your guide will lead you to the volcano rim. Once at the volcano it is important to do exactly as your guide tells you as the volcano is very active at the moment and it is likely that large rocks will fly into the air and possibly fall near you each time the volcano erupts. If this happens do not run as you may slip and fall into the volcano, just be sure to look up and take notice of where the rocks are headed and if you think one might hit you step carefully out of the way, have a nice time , and we hope to see you back safely this evening",,,,,,
Hmmm, I thought that the risky bit was sailing here, however it appears that there is a good chance we might be squashed by a red hot piece of volcanic rock, oh well you only live once, let`s go!
We boarded our 4wd and off we went , after about 10 minutes our driver "Michael" a local fellow about 25 years old asks us if we mind if he stops to pick up some friends of his who want to come and see the volcano , "of course not" we say. So we stop soon after and 3 local girls and a fellow jump in the back of the Ute and we are off again.
The road from the airport to the Lodge now seemed to have been no so bad after all. For what seemed a very long time (about 1 hour) we bounced, jumped, bumped, creaked, clanged, jolted and slid our way to the eastern side of Tanna over this dusty but well worn track. We wound our way up a steep hill and about 4.00 pm stopped behind several other similar vehicles (see photo gallery) to ours all loaded with passengers just like us. It was here we were able to get our first glimpse of it, and what a glimpse it was (see photo gallery). From this cone shaped mountain rose thick plumes of white smoke creating a massive smoke cloud above it, this was Yasur! , and it was well and truly alive! , and we were going to climb it.
We set off again on our decent to the base of Yasur and the moon like landscape that had been created from old larva flows, across a black sand desert (see photo gallery ) to the base. It was here that we encountered many, many locals wandering like nomads across this barren landscape. These guys however did not seem quite so hospitable, in fact coming across men carrying well sharpened machetes who were yelling and waving at our vehicle was somewhat disturbing. It however turns out that these guys were protecting us? Making sure there was no trouble we were told? One of these machete wielding characters had standing next to him a child in a nappy (see photo gallery) and when we stopped at his demand he after some "discussion" with our driver jumped in the back of the Ute and ordered us to proceed , leaving this child to just remain unaccompanied and standing in this black desert. Our hitchhiker jumped out of the vehicle after about 500m and then proceeded to walk back to the child?
After crossing what we were told was once a huge lake (now dry with terrain like a creek , gullies and steep banks) we rounded to the opposite side of Yasur were we transited through lush forest before again being stopped by a padlocked chain across the track guarded by more machete wielding young men who did not smile or wave. Again a considerable amount of dialogue (about 10 mins) took place between one of these guys and our driver along with a lot of pointing to our occupants in the back and consultation by the machete man with his other friends before our driver produced and envelope containing a thick wad of cash which was exchanged for a receipt and what appeared to be a reluctant permission to enter. When I enquired what had that transaction been about our guide informed us (he did not speak unless spoken to or offer any commentary unless asked) that these men collected the visitor fees and that these fees were then used in a manner that the people of Tanna thought most useful, he did not elaborate.
Another bit of bumping and jumping along and we arrived at yet another black sand desert that looked up on one side to the Volcano summit and down on the other to what appeared to be an old larva flow that had cut a channel through and left a hard crust on the earth's surface. We parked our Ute (see photo gallery) and waited to began our climb up the volcano`s side. Our guide then informed us to just go straight up and he would be along shortly and to be careful!
At the beginning of what was a well worn track up the mountain was a post box. Yes that's right a post box (see photo gallery) which is cleared daily and is the only Volcano post office in the world. It is obviously something that is well known of as we witness some Asian tourists from another tour proceed to post letters and post cards, very, very bizarre!
We climbed the short but steep ridge that lead us to the rim of the Yasur, yes that's what I said, THE RIM OF A LIVE VOLCANO THAT WAS SMOKING AND HISSING "NO SAFTEY FENCES - NO HARD HATS OR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING JUST US IN OUR JEANS AND SNEAKERS PEERING INTO THE CENTRE OF THIS en ENORMOUS CRATER THAT WAS GLOWING RED --- ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.(see photo gallery)
It was now about 5.00pm, what a view, the full moon was rising to the east and the sun was setting to the west and we were standing on the edge of a live volcano - hard to believe.
Then it started ..............It would begin with a hiss, then a rumble followed by a gust of hot air hitting you like a sonic boom then an enormous explosion followed by the eruption of fire, red hot glowing larva and huge rocks / boulders being ejected from the core of this monster and being catapulted into the sky before falling again to earth where they would continue to glow red and smolder. (see photo gallery)
People including us, gasped, yahooed, and just stood with jaws dropped and astonished looks on their faces that were a combination of awe and fear.
For the next hour Yasur repeatedly demonstrated its extreme power providing all present with a fireworks show that could never be reproduced and left us all feeling very insignificant and feeling so fortunate to have witnesses such a display of natures power .
Like all things good , they come to an end and it was time to begin our decent and journey home and I was reminded of a saying I heard once that goes , "don`t be sad it`s over - be glad it happened" , man was I glad it happened !
Soon enough we are back in our Ute with our guide Michael carefully navigating the twists turns and bumps along the track when once again we arrive at the machete men's camp and are yet again detained for more questioning, pointing and discussion in Bislama, the local language (or something similar that we couldn`t understand) that again continues for some time. All the other tour vehicles pass by us and soon we are alone in the darkness with what appears to be an unhappy group until finally the issues seemed to be resolved and we set off only to be called out to and stop again 20metres down the track for more of the same. Finally we set off again and this time are allowed to continue our journey. Michael did not enlighten us to what had gone on but we believe that the machete dudes were not happy about our hitchhikers, perhaps they didn`t pay the entrance fee, perhaps they were simply not welcome, who knows but we all did think that we might be spending the night as guests of the machete men,, not an prospect we were excited about.
At about 8.30pm we arrived back at what we consider now to be the luxurious Tanna Lodge where a cold Tusker (local beer) for me and a Bundy for Leanne was quickly consumed followed by a few more of the same . Dinner arrived and it was fabulous.
We dined with some fellow safari participants and soon found ourselves yet again making some new friends. Gary & Laurel, some kiwis who are working in Vila and Clint & Shelley another Kiwi couple who invited us to stay at their farm in Hawke`s bay on the east coast of the north island when we get to NZ. Again we find that the people we meet during our travels are just as good as the things we experience and help make it a totally fulfilling experience.
So now I am sitting in the saloon of Migaloo having safely arrived back in Port Vila writing this blog in the hope that we could share with our family and friends the story of our Volcano Safari something we consider to have been the most extraordinary experience of our lifetime to date.
Go and see this volcano, do this tour, DO IT SOON. I doubt that it will be long before the experience is lessened as a result of rules and regulations; this Volcano Safari to Yasur on the Island of Tanna, Vanuatu is truly an adventure, sure there is an element of danger and discomfort but that is what makes it such an unforgettable experience, don`t wait until it is safe and comfortable because it just won`t be the same.
Hanging around Efate
09/30/2009, Port Villa
We are safe & well - thanks to all who were concerned. We have been monitoring the weather re Somoan Earthquake and Sunami Warnings! We have been just bumming around Port Vila and getting to know our way around re supplies etc. Frank & Jane (Escondido) are joining us on the 10 October to crew with us to join ICA New Zealand rally at Isle of Pines around the 25 October...Enjoyed a movie in Spanish Motorcycle Diary, quite funny (English sub titles) @ Nambawah Cafe last night-just love the atmosphere. The buses & taxi's here are wild, just a relentless stream of them, all you need to do is give them a wave and you jump aboard...some not in too good of condition...but get you from A - B for 150 Vatu pp (approx$1.80AU) Just got to remember to look at the time...as we took a 10 min ride outside Vila to get some timber for strapping on extra fuel drums...and shop was closed for 1 1/2hrs for lunch! Maybe head out tonight to the Sebel or Waterfront Bar & Grill - music going off most nights, sounds like fun! (Thanks Ross for Sunami info) (Jan great to hear from you,hope the carpal tunnel is a success love to you & the kidssss!)(Hey Kay glad you are enjoying the photo's & keeping up with us love ya)(Di thanks for the weather updates - Happy Birthday for tomorrow)(Chris may see you in Vila look forward to it)