"Welkam to Vanuatu!" As they say in bislama (the local language here, also known as "pigeon English"). We have been in Vanuatu for nearly two months and it has been super duper awesome!
Aneityum and Mystery Island
Aneityum Island was our first stop in Vanuatu. After a quite rough and rolly 3 day crossing from Fiji, it was so nice to walk through this beautiful and serenely peaceful town.
There is one car on the entire island (a well-used land rover) and there are no television antennas and barely any electrical poles. As you walk through the little village, people are walking back from the fields carrying miscellaneous fruit and veggies over their shoulders and wishing you a good afternoon. I also met a young boy in the village who invited the two boys from SV Perry and I to come up to his house and help him feed his three pigs.
|By the river just outside the village|
Just across from this little village is a very small, uninhabited island called Mystery Island. It is a picture perfect paradise spot with a white sandy beach and beautifully blue water. And we are not the only ones who have noticed this... The cruise ships have too (duh, duh, duh!) ! About once a week, a huge cruise ship anchors in the bay and about 1000 tourists pile onto Mystery Island! The locals from the village come over in longboats and set up crafts markets, hair braiding stations, and all kinds of different tours. Then, the day after the cruise ship leaves, there is not a soul. The crafts market and tour booking huts are empty and there is not a sound to be heard! These kinds of experiences are the things I really do appreciate about this lifestyle.
|Mystery Island Airport: where your boarding terminal is either Terminal A or… Terminal A!|
Tanna Island and Mt. Yasur Volcano
Port Resolution on Tanna Island has a beautiful little village and a yacht club on top of the hill with a great view. However, it is not this so much that attracted us to this island, it was the... VOLCANO! Every single one of our cruising friends who have been to Vanuatu told us that Mt. Yasur volcano on Tanna Island is a MUST-SEE. Mt. Yasur is the sixth most active volcano in the world and is quite possibly the only very active volcano you can get this close to. Honestly, if you could get closer to a volcano more active than Mt. Yasur, that would be pretty dangerous!
We left for the volcano tour mid-afternoon and headed up to the yacht club with cameras, running shoes (and the dreaded socks), and excited spirits! We all piled into the back of the pickup truck and drove off to the volcano.
|TAKE ME TO THE VOLCANO! (line from movie 'Joe Versus the Volcano')|
We first stopped at the volcano tours new visitor's centre (that only opened in April this year) where there was a dance performance called "the volcano dance" that consisted mostly of the dancers stamping their feet. I think they were either trying to imitate the volcano or they were trying to talk to the volcano. There was also a safety briefing but it was quite unique because I've never seen a safety briefing before where the guide simply asks the village chief's to talk to the volcano to ensure our safety.
|The ground shook when the dancers stamped their feet in the volcano dance|
When we got up there, we couldn't actually see the volcano crater itself (where all the lava is) but judging by what we could see exploding from the volcano, I bet the crater was pretty active and I think it would have been pretty scary to see! Every two or three minutes (and sometimes even more often), the volcano would produce this monstrous roar and then, dozens of pieces of molten rock would come flying out from the crater down below! Some would be shot about 150 feet above the crater! Then, the molten rock would land "like wet blankets" (as my dad said) on the cliffs sloping down towards the crater! At first, I didn't think the pieces of molten rock were all that big but after a while, I started to realize they were actually frighteningly large: the smallest about were maybe a bit smaller than me and the biggest were about the size of a small car!
|No this wasn't taken with a green screen!|
|The "wet blankets" on the cliffs surrounding the crater|
There were two viewing platforms: the lower one and the higher one. The higher one was more exposed to the wind, was louder, but also got you a better seat for the show! You were kept more on you toes up there though, because the molten rock did fly a bit closer to you and one time, a large enough piece landed only about 20 metres down the cliff from our platform. Luckily, we knew when it was going to explode because of that great bellow the volcano would make. I am so glad we went on the evening tour because we got to see the caldera and terrain as well as the landing of the molten rock in the daytime but when the sun went down, we got to see the best, best, BEST fireworks show ever!
My heart didn't stop racing until we got back to the beach but I don't think I'll ever see anything like that again. Plus, this is definitely going on my list of epic field trips: I saw a very active volcano exploding liquid molten rock and then I saw the process of the molten rock cooling down really quickly to form extrusive igneous rock!
Malakula was a memorable stop and it really showed me the true meaning of "down to earth" and "peacefulness". Like Aneityum, there were no signs of televisions or radios and barely any cars or electrical poles. Also, I don't think they had any motorized boats on the island: only the traditional, wooden, outrigger canoes.
They have one tiny general store but either than that, everyone is completely self-sufficient. Everyone has their own cattle and chickens and they grow all their own produce in their gardens. No one needs a refrigerator in their kitchen and their ovens are simply firewood powered. It is no surprise to me that Vanuatu is said to have one of the highest population of happy people in the world!
We established a nice relationship with a man named Rex and his wife Trudy. My dad and Rex exchanged different tools and fishing lures. Trudy baked us some delicious bread buns and so we gave her some dried goods and toys for her kids (Rex and Trudy have four or five kids). Trudy also invited me to play volleyball with the women in her village who play every afternoon. Just seeing Malakula's simple and yet beautiful way of living is what made my stay there so special.
Ambrym Island: Another Awesome Volcano Experience
Tanna's Mt. Yasur is definitely not the only volcano in Vanuatu. There are quite a few volcanoes here and so we visited another famous one on Ambrym Island. This one, however, was not as easy to get to. No, for Ambrym's volcano, we really earned our show by walking three and a half hours through dense jungle, vast ash plains, and finally the up to the rim of the Marum Volcano caldera. In case you are wondering, the ash plains are a long, flat plain made of volcanic ash and igneous rock pebbles.
|Walking down the cliffs that lead up to the volcano rim|
These are only four of the many islands we visited here in Vanuatu so here are some pictures of some other great places we stopped at here.
|Nautilus shell which we carved in half that we found in Aneityum|
|David, from Erromango Island, in his handmade, wooden outrigger canoe|
|Sacred burial caves we visited on Erromango Island|
|Our museum tour guide at the national museum in Port Vila|
doing 'sandroing' (sand drawing), a world-renowned art
originating from Vanuatu
|At the market in Port Vila|
|A "Carribbean-Beautiful" beach found on Espirutu Santo Island|
|The dugong (or manatee), a very rare marine mammal, we spotted in the|
bay on Espirutu Santo Island