Tanna, Vanuatu

Prior to leaving Fiji we received special permission from Vanuatu Customs to clear in at an “unofficial” port of entry; Port Resolution on the island of Tanna. By email we were quite surprised to receive a typed official document for entry followed up with an email from the customs officer on Tanna; Iau to say he was on standby for clearance for the day we expected to arrive.

Why did we want to go to Port Resolution? A protected bay where there is good access to Mt Yasur, one of the world’s most active volcanos, where you get up close and personal. So yes it was definitely worth getting the special permission and was a highlight for us.

On arrival into Port Resolution, Iau from Vanuatu Customs had driven from Lenakel on the West Coast to Port Resolution on the East Coast to clear us and another vessel SV Coquelicol into Vanuatu. It was all very efficient to be honest and surprised us. Immigration didn’t turn up but Iau told us he’d come out over the next few days. Hmmm…..As Iau was heading back to Lenakel the 5 of us saw this as an opportunity to go visit the big smoke of Lenakel so jumped into the truck, together with Stanley, the organizer of tours at Port Resolution. The 1.5hr trip there was amazing with incredible scenery driving on a dirt track or ash while passing the volcano, lots of villages and a very dense forest. It was a crazy trip across the island in the back of Iau’s 4WD truck.

The road thru the ash plains ahead

Lenakel is a small town but was incredibly busy as it was market day (Monday’s & Friday’s) with LOT’S of people hanging out and selling produce. There was an ATM machine, plenty of stores for food and the all important Digicel or TFL SIM card stores. Stanley organized a truck to take us all back and all up it was a great adventure, which we hadn’t expected.

Brett organizing a SIM at the local store

The Lenekel Market

Back in Port Resolution we kayaked around the bay admiring the steam vents rising from the rocky walls lining the shoreline and at the far end of the bay we’d spotted ladies gathering at low tide to bathe and clean clothes in the natural hot springs among the rocks. At night you could spot the red glow of the volcano on the hills surrounding the bay. All signs of the volcanic activity in the area and our upcoming adventure to the rim.

The village here is broken down into lots of smaller communities of families where there was a central cooking station surrounded by traditional homes made from woven thatch. A very basic existence and extremely happy and friendly people.

no wheelbarrows here

traditional houses in the village

After a couple of drizzly days we finally saw an opportunity for our volcano tour. We organized a big lunch at Chez Leah’s together with Sylvie, Daniel and Thomas from SV Coquelicol who were also going to do the tour. Leah served us up a tasty chicken stir fry dish with vegetables at a Cost of 850 Vatu pp (US$8)

The 5 of us decided to get some exercise by walking the 8km dirt track towards the staging area to the volcano where we met locals along the way wondering who these crazy white people were walking.

Once at the entrance gates we paid our entry fee of 9750 pp Vatu (US$100) and signed all the waivers etc. There was a ceremony to welcome all the tourists and trust me there were probably 50+people from all over the world there. What happened to our private tour! Yeah right.

men, women and children stomped into the black ash soil in the Ni-Van kastom

Prior to being loaded into trucks, together with a white hard hat, we were given the security speech….. “If the magma comes over the rim don’t run, listen to us we as tour guides are here for your safety”. We drove up to the base of the volcano and then walked a series of stairs to the rim of the volcano where plumes of smoke, gas and steam billowed….before an all mighty boom and molten magma flew into the air. Cameras came to life with lots of excitement.

Unbelievable that we could be this close to an active volcano. After a huge rumbling blast where molten rock was thrown into the air and beyond us we all gasped and the safety crew arrived to tell us we had to move further back down the viewing area. We all sighed, secretly wanting to stay close to where the action was. As darkness came the colors in the volcano intensified and we all crept back up to our previous positions at the viewing area to see the orange glow with a deep rumbling that threw magma up again.

Magma blowing out

Before we knew it our 2 hours were up and the call for last photos and a 5 minute warning to leave the area came. It was truly amazing hearing the rumbling sounds, booms and seeing molten magma being thrust into the air from within. Just as we were leaving the volcano gave an almighty boom and sparked to life again.

Great time in Tanna.

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