Vanuatu volcano mania

2016-11-01 – 2016-11-04

Obs! Picture album with more awesome pictures will be published soon.

Tanna, an island in south Vanuatu, turned out to be a great last stop in the South Pacific islands for Kenobi. Since we are getting tired of beautiful blue lagoons by now (sort of…) we were happy to spend more time here on land hiking in the jungle and visiting an active volcano. We also had the most interesting meal of our trip here…

We left Suva in the dark on Saturday the 19th of November. The last day we had a lot of business to take care of, among other things we needed to apply for our Australian visas, why we couldn’t leave until late evening. The wind had picked up and the first couple of hours we were beating upwind before we could turn around the southern point of Vitu Levu, towards Tanna. The wind was great this whole leg, since we were running almost dead downwind we were using only the genoa and still averaging about 7kn. We completed the 500+ M in 3,5 days and we were happy to reach Tanna earlier than expected, our tight schedule is down to counting days now. Lukas had stocked up on more lures in Suva and it payed off immediately when we caught a decent Mahi mahi on day 2. We have not caught this kind of fish since the Caribbean and it was a nice surprise, it’s a beautiful fish with great food value.

The reason for us to go to Tanna was primarily to visit the active volcano on the south part of the island. This was something we planned since before leaving Sweden so we definitely didn’t want to miss it. Since we are on a tight schedule the plan was to make a quick 2-3 nights stop, therefore we went straight to the main town on the west side of the island where we could check in directly with the customs. Though, most cruisers anchor in a bay on the east side and spend one day crossing the island by car to visit customs. By now we know why people do that… The anchorage in town was completely lousy, super small, all coral bottom, huge surf swells and A LOT of gray volcanic ash in the air that completely covered the boat in only a couple of hours. We realized we couldn’t stay here so we decided to put two guys ashore to check in before we left for the east coast anchorage by lunchtime. We made it to the other side of the island before nightfall. This bay, called port Resolution (of course named after a Captain Cook expedition), was a beautiful and protected bay surrounded by limestone cliffs, a wide blackish beach and you could see and hear the volcano from the boat.

alt
Volcanic ash covered the boat in only 3 hours.

alt
Kenobi anchored in Port Resolution, Tanna.

The more to the west we have travelled in the Pacific, the more traditional lives the people have been living in general. Before arriving in Tanna we had read that this place was “like travelling back in time”, in regards to the standard of living. In one way it was true, in the villages all the houses, mainly huts, were built in a traditional way with traditional materials, and you could tell the people were self-sufficient growing their own crops and keeping live stock. On the other hand, we found the people to be quite modern and used to dealing with the “many” tourists. Some of the villages had restaurants and small bungalow resorts (that they marketed through their Facebook accounts), in general the people seemed really entrepreneurial. I think the people of Tanna have found a way to combine their very traditional way of living with elements of the modern world, using smartphones, Facebook and other modern world features.

In Resolution bay there is as small “yacht club” and local style resort on one of the cliffs overlooking the bay. Apparently they have about 100 visiting yachts each year in this bay, but being late in the season we were the only yacht here at this time. The yacht club is a nice meeting point between sailors and quite busy at times. As soon as we landed the dinghy on the beach we were met up by the friendly and helpful owner who guided us to the village to set us up for lunch at a local restaurant the first afternoon. We continued walking along the main dirt road to find a traditional village that we had heard about, it was about 5 km down the road. The walk took us almost two hours in the hot and humid weather, fortunately some people we met on the way gave us a few coconuts to drink and bananas to eat. At the village we met with chief Jackwaiwai who showed us around his super nice place, he had 2 simple bungalows and was right in the process of building a tree house bungalow in a huge banyan tree. It would have been interesting to stay a night at his place to experience the jungle by night. Instead we decided to come back the next day to go on a jungle hike and have a traditional lunch. More about this experience later…

alt
The super nice village of chief Jackwaiwai.

During late afternoon and evening of the first night we were finally going to visit the active volcano, named Mount Yassur. We had arranged for a tour operator to pick us up in Port Resolution and take us to the base of the volcano where the guided tours start. In the line to the entrance we met a Swedish girl called Britta who were travelling from Noumea (New Caledonia) where she lived at the moment, it was nice to meet a fellow swede again. To our surprise this turned out to be a super arranged event where we, together with about 60 other tourists, got to participate in a “traditional” ceremony with the local chief before we got permission to visit the volcano. This was all a bit touristy but had to be done. We were then taken up close to the volcano crater by car. On this day the volcano activity was in level 2 (out of 6), this is a fairly calm state where the activity is limited and regarded safe, but you could still hear and feel big bangs and see big puffs of ash rising from the crater. As we were all standing just below the pathway up to the top of the crater a small explosion occurred throwing a couple of rocks way up in the air, they turned towards the crowd and landed in the slope about 50m away. One big rock, about 50cm in diameter kept rolling down the slope stopping just in front of us, the rock was still burning hot as we approached it. The guides made us back away a bit (good call) while they evaluated the situation and got in touch with the responsible seismologists on site. Eventually they decided it was safe to go to the top but we could only stay for 5-10 minutes looking down the crater before we had to go back down again. While on the top another explosion took place and we saw rocks raining down on us. The instruction was to NOT run in a situation like this, instead you should stay put, look up and dodge any rocks falling in your direction… quite exciting experience! Visiting the volcano was really like being on another planet, the landscape was moon-like and the sky dark from the shadow of the ash clouds. The volcano was way more active than I expected. Small explosions and bangs, and rocks and chunks of lava being thrown up in the air every now and then. On a calmer day you get to stay on top of the crater during nightfall to see the glowing lava lake inside the crater. This night we had to stay watching this from a couple of hundred meters away. You could at least see the lava cloud being lit up from below, and occasional lava chunks thrown up over the edge of the crater. A spectacular sight. We went back to the boat excited with another great adventure behind us.

alt
The top of mount Yassur.

alt
This big hot lava rock dropped down just in fron of the group / Simon was excited about the level of action!

alt
Walk on the rim of the crater. Fellow swede Britta in the middle.

On day two we were picked up in Port Resolution by chief Jackwaiwai who were accompanied by 10 kids from his village on the back of the pickup truck. We arrived in his place and we were offered lemon leaf tea and some fruits before we headed into the jungle for a hike. The village was super nice with tree huts, crop plantations and animal enclosures. We met all the villagers, maybe 30 people all together, of which a lot of interested kids who followed us through the village. Like always, we prepared for the hike by cutting and drinking a few fresh coconuts to keep us hydrated.

alt
The pick-up on the way to the village.

The jungle surrounding the village was not really a rainforest, it was pretty open and not too difficult to walk through. There were a lot of huge beautiful banyan trees everywhere. These trees have multiple tall roots making up one big trunk, perfect for climbing or building a tree house in. They look like the “tree of souls” from Avatar… Jackwaiwai showed us different plants they used for medical and health purposes. Leafs and bark used as a bandage kit, small red berries that were good for your vision, and an aloe very-looking plant you would mix with water and drink, of course making you strong and potent! Lukas had a sprained finger he got bandaged (see picture below).

alt
Jungle hike with Jackwaiwai.

alt
Lukas gets his finger bandaged with a leaf soaked in sap and wrapped in a plant strem.

alt
Healthy berries.

alt
A Banyan tree, or the “tree of souls” if you like...

Back at the village again we went to their big outside get-together area. They had arranged a big space below a big banyan tree with benches to sit on and a fire place were the lunch was going to be prepared. We were now in for a real local style lunch. The women of the village came over with a living piglet in a firm grip, we soon understood that it was becoming our lunch… pretty fresh meal. It was an interesting experience for us city kids to see the whole procedure. The pig was killed, gutted and cut up into four pieces, put on sticks and barbequed over the open fire together with some cassava roots. Some small kids from the village gladly helped the woman to prepare the pig, it was in one way great to see these young children being involved from an early age. They definitely know where their meat comes from, quite different from people back home (like us) who have only seen meat in clean trays in the supermarket. Keeping it simple with no spices and served on banana leafs, it was definitely the most interesting meal of our trip. To be honest the whole procedure was a bit strong for my liking, I seriously have to consider vegetarianism now…

alt
Well, you see what's going on here...

alt
Not like your regular barbeque party (picture slightly censored).

alt
Nice hang out area in the village.

During our days in Tanna we decided to try to not stop in Noumea, New Caledonia, on the way to Australia. Instead, if the weather forecast was good as we passed by New Caledonia, we would continue directly to Sydney. We had enough fuel, water and food onboard to make it, so other than waiting for the right weather window, we really didn’t see any point in making another stop. The last night we spent preparing the boat for the longer crossing, we are looking at about 10 days at sea to get to Sydney, of course depending on the winds. We had to clean and sanitize our food stores and cabinets to arrive well prepared for the Australian border control, they are known for being very particular in their controls.

Before lunch on day three we set sails for an unknown destination. It would be interesting to see where we were heading next!

Obs! Picture album with more awesome pictures will be published soon.

comments powered by Disqus
Older posts
Australia and the selling of Kenobi -
ON AIR: Four Swedish Guys -
Kenobi in Sydney! -
The last Kenobi crossing -
Vanuatu volcano mania -
Suva, Fiji - quick and efficient stop in the big city -
Fulaga & Matuku - the Lau Group, Fiji -
Savusavu, Fiji -
Passage Niue to Fiji – no stopping in Tonga this time -
Quick Update from Fiji -
Niue cave exploring -
NEW: "Fishing Tips" page is up! -
Meeting the Marsters at Palmerston Atoll -
Ciguatera poisoning in Aitutaki -
Aitutaki, Cook Islands -