Thursday, July 28, 2011
There She Blows
Our magna carta for our adventure to Mt. Yasur, known as the world’s most accessible active volcano: 1. Never turn your back on the volcano; 2. Don’t go too close to the edge; 3. If the flying neon orange lava looks like it’s coming our way – RUN.
We left Port Resolution around four o’clock with a truck load of five Kiwis (not the birds but the people), and an Englishman also eager to see the volcano. There were twelve of us total, including the driver and his friend, who I think was supposed to be our guide, but didn’t say much.
We packed into the 4- wheel drive Toyota pick-up. Maya, Kai, Tim and I sat in the back of the truck, holding on at every bump in the road and ducking to escape various thick branches. We passed huge Banyon trees and a number of villages, with their homes made mostly from bamboo, woven palm fronds and other organic material.
Every once in a while we stopped to let a cow pass or another rare car and we slowed down and honked at the little piglets squealing as their short legs ambled the dirt road. I could only imagine how tough the route would be during the torrential rainy season.
After about 45 minutes, we reached the park entrance.
Admission wasn’t cheap, about $100 US dollars or $10,500 vats (Vanuatu’s currency) for four of us to experience the furious volcano. Apparently, the park fees go to the local village that has to relocate every year when Mt. Yasur’s eruptions destroy their home.
From the entrance, we continued for about 15 minutes up the steep volcano, so steep in parts that I feared we’d topple over. We could hear the loud roar of the volcano shaking the ground and the air thickened. We parked in the black dirt on the edge of the volcano and walked the last bit up to the crater.
“Stay to the right,” advised our local guide, Jimmy. There were people already on the edge watching Mother Nature hoot and holler.
We turned our backs just for a photo op.
Of course, there’s no fence to keep spectators from falling into the crater. “Not too close,” I yell to Maya, who in her tween stage rolls her eyes at me. “Oh come on Mom, it’ll be ok.”
It wasn’t ok for two tourists and their guide who, according to the Moon Guide, were fatally struck by a projectile that hurled them 20 feet into the air. “Just keep your eye on the lava and don’t turn your back to the volcano,” I warned.
When the sun set, and the sky became dark black, the show was even more spectacular. We marveled at how high the lava pitched into the air. One part of the crater billowed forth thick ash clouds into the air and moments later the other side would throw glowing red and orange rocks hundreds of feet into the air. Fortunately, the wind was blowing from the southeast, away from where we were standing. Wow! Look at that explosion!!
The boisterous sound of the eruptions made me shutter, often grabbing Maya or Kai just to make sure the earth didn’t split open and gobble us up. Apparently, activity is a positive sign and when the volcano is silent, the neighbors are concerned that the volcano is bottling up its fury and will explode dramatically. Tonight, was deemed a Level Two, moderate to high activity, but not too dangerous. It was a fantastic show, one which made me more appreciative of cold solid ground.
A few days later, the wind direction changed and we weren’t so fortunate. On Thursday night, the wind blew from the west and in our anchorage in Port Resolution, thick black ash rained all over our boat. The west wind was predicted to continue for a few more days, so we had a choice of enduring the black ash or sailing upwind to New Caledonia. We decided to raise our anchor and sail away from the magical island of Tanna. I wish we could have stayed longer.
One last photo of the Almighty One
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