At 1600, (4 pm) we met at the Port Resolution Yacht Club for the trip to the volcano. Johnson showed up about 1630 and the truck came soon after that. There would be four of us going up – the other two from the sailboat Segera, Bill and Penny. The pickup also had another passenger, a rooster, tied up under one of the seats. We weren't sure if this was a pet, a sacrifice to the volcano or simply someone's dinner! We loaded into the back of the pickup which had a metal cage over the bed. We headed off and soon found the cage very useful for holding on and keeping the passing trees from whacking you too hard in the head. The key was not to look forward and get an eye poked out! This was when it was a helpful time to be shorter!
Halfway to the mountain, the truck stopped and the rooster was handed off to a young man – guess it's ride was over!
The trip to the volcano park entrance was over some very rough dirt road – with giant ditches, and the driver thought it was good to drive fast! Needless to say, we held on to the cage and got bounced around. We paid our park entrance fee and then headed up the mountain. One small part of the road actually had two narrow tracks of concrete making the drive a bit smoother. We entered a landscape that was all black ash with boulders strewn about. The mountain was rumbling and you could feel the earth shake on the really big belches.
We left the truck to hike a small way up a nice path. The whole time, you'd hear all these strange noises from the mountain. The volcano has four levels of activity. We were told it was at Level Two. Level one is relatively tame, two a bit wilder, three means you can only go so far up the hillside and at Level Four the mountain is closed to all visitors. We got there with enough daylight to see the landscape and the chasm filled with smoke. There is a cone between two large vents that is growing as the lava bombs hit it. We weren't alone as there were about 30 others up at the crater to see nature's show.
As it grew steadily darker, the mountain grew more dramatic. It seems to have come to life with darkness. The noises all seemed more dramatic and the light show phenomenal. The noise is what we didn't expect. There were various sounds coming from the chasm – aloud whooshing noise, a puffing sound, a loud growl and the even louder roar. You thought you start to see a pattern in the sounds and the lava bombs – but then it would change. For awhile, the large roar was followed by an incredible display of lava being shot into the air and then the hot rocks landing on the center cone and surrounding crater sides. Then you'd get a blast of pyrotechnics without any preceding sound. It obviously had a mind of its own.
The ground would also vibrate – not like an earthquake – but you would feel the vibration through your body from your feet up. It was also something, like the sound, that was a bit unexpected. But the multiple senses being touched made the experience very rich.
At one point, Michael was taking a picture of Barbara with the glowing light as a background – and the mountain roared and belched lava bombs scaring her silly. You can see the photo when it gets posted! Fear captured!
One woman from Auckland kept saying we were all "mad as hatters" to be up there so close to an active volcano. Perhaps she is right. But the sight, sound, feel of the experience is truly indescribable. It is so mesmerizing that you couldn't take your eyes away from it. You couldn't stop being excited with every sound and vibration. We were the last four along with out guide to leave the mountain. We could have stayed til sun-up watching it, but our guide was eager to get back home. He gets to do this daily!
The trip back was another memorable experience. The driver went a tad slower making the ride a bit more comfy (just a bit). The stars were out and very bright and riding in the dark through the bush was interesting.
Then BANG! The truck hit something. It was a relatively large pig and now it was dead (or almost dead) in the road. The truck stopped, the back gate opened and now we had a new guest in the truck bed with us...an almost dead pig! We understand if a pig is hit on the road, it is the property of who hit it – though it did seem that our truck was pretty stealthy about loading it and then unloading it at a house along the way! It added to the adventure.
We got back to the PRYC and made our way down a path with flashlights to the dinghy and weaved our way back to "Astarte" over the coral and rocks. We enjoyed a bottle of French red wine aptly named "Couer des Montagnes" (heart of the mountains). We had brought it up to the volcano with us – but were too mesmerized by the activity to enjoy it up at the beating heart of Mt. Yasur.
This wasn't on our bucket list – but seeing the volcano at Mt. Yasur on Tanna was on our Vanuatu "must see" list. We are so glad we beat into the wind to get here and experience it. The world's most accessible volcano is what it is known as and it is that! We'll get pictures on as soon as we can get good internet.
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