Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trip to Tanna Island

May 6, 2010—On Tuesday we spent the day finding items in town. We stopped at the central market to look around, and as we were walking around we passed a box with a live rooster that was all trussed up. I jumped because it surprised me, and the local ladies at the table starting giggling. A little while later, I looked down at a table and saw a bat whose wings were tied, but this time I stayed cool. It was a very interesting shopping trip.
We finally found a wonderful French bread shop called La Parisierie. We bought delicious baguettes and a round loaf of white bread that was exceptional as well. Steve was happy because across the street was Wilco Hardware, which is like Lowe’s or Home Depot. We spent the next hour looking at all the isles in the store. On the way back to the boat we found some great ice cream that Steve had been wanting since the middle of our passage.
On Tuesday night five cruising couples went out to eat at the Raging Bull Restaurant. Steve and I both ordered the eye fillet with mashed potatoes and salad. It was exceptional! We had heard that Vanuatu had the best beef in the Pacific, and so far, we would have to agree. Unfortunately, we also ordered Crème Brule, which turned out to be tapioca with ice cream. Oh well, it was a very fun evening.

On Wednesday we left to fly to Tanna to see the volcano. We had checked with three tour agencies in town and decided to use Island Holiday Tours. We discussed the package with John on two different occasions in order to be clear about what the price included. We had heard that in Vanuatu you will receive a price, but you will be asked for additional money. John assured us that everything was included except the airport tax.
We flew out of Port Vila at 3 o’clock and arrived in Tanna at 3:45. Philip was there to meet us as well as a young man from Canada and one from Australia. The drive from the airport to the volcano took about an hour and a half in a 4-wheel drive truck over dirt roads that were eroded from the recent rains. We stopped for petrol and bread along the way, dropped Daniel, the Australian, at his bungalow accommodations, and then arrived at the Jungle Oasis Bungalows. It was now dark, and we had scheduled a tour of the volcano for the late afternoon and into the evening, but that plan was now out the window. We put our things in our bungalow and changed into warmer clothes and then climbed into the truck with Cullen, the Canadian.
The drive to the volcano was a very short distance; however, the road was pretty steep and even more rutted. As we were driving up, we saw the red glow from an eruption. We reached the parking lot and began hiking up the side of the hill to the viewing area. Of all the things that Steve and I packed, a flashlight was not among them. We could not believe that we missed that, but Philip was kind enough to help us out with his “torch.” Before walking up to the top, we mailed several postcards in this mail box. This picture was taken the next day.

When we got to the top, it was absolutely spectacular. The volcano danger level has recently been elevated from level 1 to level 2 so the viewing area had been moved back from the rim, but we still got a spectacular show of lava spewing into the air. The volcano would rumble, belch out smoke, and then spew red lava and rocks into the air. It was a bit unsettling to be standing there. I could not tell which way the rocks were flying so when it blew, so I would unconsciously step back just a bit each time. It was a cloudy night, but, luckily, it did not rain.
We returned to the bungalow and then went to the restaurant for dinner. There was a local band with eight guys who were there to play for us. They had a couple of guitars, a ukulele, a tambourine, and a home-made bass that consisted of a broom handle with a wire that was connected to a large plywood box. Their sound was different, but they were very entertaining. They asked for a donation, which we were happy to make.

We returned to our bungalow with the help of Philip’s flashlight. We soon climbed into our double bed, pulled down the mosquito net, and called it a night. Unfortunately, Steve woke me up around one in the morning because he heard something trying to chew through a baggie to get to some bread that we had brought along. He took the bag and tied it to a piece of line, but he told me in the morning that he heard the “critter” come down the line and continue to try to get at the bread. Otherwise, it was a restful evening—if you didn’t mind hearing the rumble of the volcano during the night. A couple of the eruptions even shook our bungalow.

The next morning we got up and went to the restaurant for breakfast of coffee, toast, and bananas. We were supposed to go to see the Custom Village, but we decided to skip it. We really wanted to see the volcano during the day, but now Philip told us that it would cost us an additional amount of money so we decided to use the money for the village trip instead. Philip and the driver picked us up around 11 o’clock, and we returned to the volcano.

The view during the daytime is not as exciting as the evening; however, it was still quite a show. Now we could actually see the large amount of smoke rising up with each rumble as well as the large rocks that would come flying out of the crater. We spent about 30 minutes watching and taking a lot of pictures just as we had the night before. We are very happy that we decided to return during the day—it was well worth it.

Now it was time for us to make the long drive back to the other side of the island and the airport. We were able to get some additional shots of the volcano from a distance and seeing the ash field during the day was quite interesting. We saw where the lake used to be, but it drained a few years ago. We also had to drive through a small river that runs down where the lake used to be. We arrived at the airport a bit early so they dropped us off at the Evergreen Resort so that we could have some lunch before our flight. We enjoyed a burger and fries and then went to the airport.

Our flight left on time, and we arrived back in Port Vila at 4:30 in the afternoon. We were tired and were happy to be back at the boat and in our own bed. The trip was not perfect. The accommodations were minimal, but they were neat and clean. We are, however, very glad that we went to see Mount Yasur.

Tomorrow we will have to get everything in order so that we can leave on Saturday. We have just two more weeks in Vanuatu before we leave for Papau New Guinea so we will be on a fast track and can only hope that the weather will cooperate.

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