2002-10-22, 8:49 a.m.,

While we were in Vanuatu, we flew to this little island called Tanna. Completely underdeveloped in the sense that all that really exists there are the native tribes of the island. Many of which still wear the traditional garb of grass skirts and all that. It's quite unreal. We went to Tanna basically because one of the world's most accessible volcano's is on tanna island. Mount Yassur.

So let me set up the scenario. We get to the "airport" in vanuatu which is basically a large room smelling of serious B.O. and cattle. And we hand them our luggage, which they weigh, then they get our weights because the plane is so small (about 10 people) that they need to know about every pound (or should I say kilo.) No security, no boarding passes, just climb into this plane, with people who are barefoot and a native woman with a small parrot on her shoulder that chirped so loudly people thought (well, the western ones) thought that it was something in the plane squeaking.

I've been in a few really small planes before and I have absolutely no fear of flying, but i have to admit, this time, i was a bit frightened.

We get to Tanna and are picked up with basically the rest of the people on our plane in a pickup truck, army-style, with a wooden bench in the back and metal gating around the whole thing. We sit in the back of the truck and are taken to our "resort."

Let me just stop here and define "resort". It's basically a foam mat on wooden slats inside mosquito netting. Not exactly the most modern toliet facilities. As we ran into a few that were nothing more than holes in the ground. The place we stayed in on the main island was more modern in the sense that it had a real bed and relatively modern bathroom facilities, but Tanna, which they say isnt "metropolitan" like Port Vila. Metropolitan? hmm.... don't know if i'd describe t that way.

So yes, from the resort that night we get back into our pickup truck with 6 other people and ride on the wooden benches an hour and a half over the roughest terrain I've ever seen. 4 wheel driving through mud (and of course it was raining), crossing a river, etc. until we get to Mount Yassur and it's continual eruptions. Now the volcano hasn't done what they call a category 4 eruption in nearly a thousand years but has a continual category 1-3 eruption all the time. Basically a lot of noise and enough lava to come out and throw a few lava rocks rolling down the side, but not exactly Pompeii.

So the guide says to us, as we stand on this vast vast area of black ash. "This is as far as I'm allowed to safetly take you, but if you go further i won't chase you up" Let me also mention that because of the height and the rain it was quite foggy and he told us that in fog, its hard to see the lava rocks and where they fall, so in fog basically , its likely to be hit with falling lava and or lava rock. So the name of the game is get close to see it, but not too close. So up we all hike, up this steep ash, and what a hike it was. My camera in hand to get those quick snaps of a volcano, the sound waves of the booming literally hitting your body, unreal. So we saw the lava, i got some pictures and down we hiked. Sky above us a scarlet fog. The ground pouring steam up at us, everyone feeling like they've been hung over a boiling kettle of water.

A few days later when we returned to the main island the woman in the resort asked us about going to the volcano and asked if we hiked up to the top. When we said yes, she shook her head as if to say "dumb tourists" and procedes to tell us of a man, a tourist, just 2 weeks ago who fell in. Hmm....our tour guides failed to mention that.

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My absenteeism - 2007-05-24
Defining Yourself - 2007-03-19
odd sort of flatness - 2007-03-06
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