LTY UPDATE: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Port Resolution, Tanna island, Vanuatu
LTY time: 18:10 (Vanuatu time = UTC +11)
Location: Port Resolution, Tanna island, Vanuatu
Position: 19 31.483 S, 169 29.800 E (you can cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
Wind: 5-10 knots SE (inside the bay)
Seas/Swell: 1ft @ 6 seconds SE (coming from)
Air temp: 77 F 25C
Sea temp: 84.2 F 29 C
That’s about the best I can do to try to describe what it was like to stand on the edge of the volcanic cone of Mount Yasur and look down into the boiling lava pit below. It is yet another of those great experiential learning events where you just have to be there to understand it. Something majestic and “raw” about the whole thing. Standing there looking into the “core” of Mother Earth, the moon like terrain of fallen lava rocks all around you. It is a very visceral experience with the smell of the sulphur from the explosions, feeling the ground shake with each eruption and feeling and hearing the lava “bombs” as they land not more than 20 meters away in some cases. Yet another awemazing life experience and learning for me!!
I’d made arrangements with some of the villagers ashore for this trip and went ashore in my dinghy about 4pm to meet them. They have a small (Toyota) pickup truck with some wooden seats made up in the back and we crammed about 12 adults into the cab and truck bed for the half hour ride up to the mountain top. Roads were all carved out of the black lava dirt/sand and surprisingly good condition most of the way. They have a little entry way at the base of the mountain where they collect the 3300Vautu fee (about US$33) which I think is very reasonable and goes to support local schools and road upkeep on the mountain. The road goes up very close to the top and you only have to climb about the last 300m up to the edge of the cone which you can then walk around about 1/3 of to get different viewpoints. The volcano is quite active and there were about 15 eruptions or so I’d guess in the 2+ hours I was up there. Some are relatively small and just cough up some molten lava that sprinkles back down on the surrounding inner cone. And then there are some much larger eruptions and explosions where very large volumes of lava come right up and out and flings hundreds of lava “bombs” a few hundred meters up into the air. They make a sizzling sound as they make their upper arc and come back down to earth and you can hear and feel the larger lumps of molten lava, some larger than a big beach ball and many the size of a basketball, as they thump the ground upon landing only meters away on the slopes of the inner cone below you. Huge clouds of dark grey ash erupt with this and slowly rise upward and there is a noticeable but not overpowering sulphur like smell.
The eruptions are all very sporadic of course so trying to have your camera at the ready is a game of patience and timing. I haven’t had time to go look yet but I think I got several very good photos and at least two good video shots that will give you a much better idea of what it was like. I will likely get a good internet connection this weekend or next week when I think I’ll make it up to the big city of Port Villa so I’ll post the video and pictures then and you’ll get a much better idea than my poor attempt to describe it in words. Trust me, it was AWEMAZING and as real at it gets!!!
I’ve also spent more time exploring ashore and it is equally authentic an experience and a bit like going back in time. The Vanuatu people prefer to live in small little villages and don’t cluster together so even in this small bay where I am there are 5 different villages within about a 2km radius. Several have buildings for Primary and Secondary schools and there are even a few “Cafés” that would serve you if you wanted to apparently.
I just enjoyed walking around, learning and looking. You ask permission in each village with the first adult you meet and they are very happy to show you around, answer questions or let you go on your own. In one of the villages there were about 20 ladies and young girls all busy weaving palm leaves together for a new thatched roof on some of the village homes. They apparently last about 2-3 years and they spend about a week at a time creating a whole set of these woven “shingles”. The men look after building the superstructure for the roof (out of branches) and then layering on the palm fronds that he ladies have sewn together. They were happy to let me sit there and watch for about an hour, answer my questions and do a lot of giggling. Amazing to be able to be a part of for a bit.
Their villages are immaculate. Well groomed and cared for, nicely built and lots of attention to details. The walk ways and roads are all made of the dark almost black volcanic sandy soil and they must rake and brush these several times a day as they are so unbelievably smooth and clean that I was almost hesitant to walk on them. Children are everywhere, some helping out with various jobs with the adults, some playing by themselves. There are chickens, some pigs and some cows doing their thing and mostly in the areas on the outskirts of the village. Like I say it is like stepping back in time and feels very special to me that I’m allowed to walk into their world and experience it with them.
Meanwhile back on Learnativity today I spent the whole day doing some needed boat jobs. My house batteries are pretty much done after 6 years and I’m doing my best to coax the last bits of life out of them before replacing them. Two of the eight have dead cells in them now so I needed to do some rewiring to isolate them and I think I’ll be fine for a while now. I really should have replaced them in Fiji I guess but I was spending so much money there on all the other parts of the refit and I always like to squeeze every last penny out of all my equipment so I’ve left it till now. I’ll have a look around the big town of Port Villa when I get there and see what I might be able to source for new batteries there but I’m hoping I can make it up to the Marshall Islands where I have much better options for getting good batteries. I’ve got lots of ways of producing lots of electrical power from solar to wind to diesel generator to the alternators on my main engine, so no shortage that way, but as with what’s keeping solar and wind power from becoming true solutions for electrical power ashore, the issue is being able to STORE all that electrical energy which is where the batteries come in. However I use VERY meager amounts of electrical power compared to most so I’ll be fine.
Tomorrow if the weather looks good I’ll make head off and sail up north to the next island of Erromango. It’s about 55nm so just a day sail and there is also a tiny little atoll about 20nm NE of here that I may stop at and will just wait to see what weather and whim dictate tomorrow. After that is on to the big island of Efate and the big city of Port Villa, largest port and city in Vanuatu, about 30,000 people. I’ll let you know more about these as I experience them and should get a full internet connection in PV so I can upload pictures from the past few weeks.
Till then I wish you well and thanks again for joining me on this amazing journey!