September 12, 2012

Tanna, Vanuatu #AroundTheWorld #Downtime #Vanuatu

Tanna is the next island north is located a short 25 mile sail away. We set sail early and the winds filled in nicely by the time we cleared the north end of Anatom.

We were flying our new Code Zero sail that was repaired in Fiji and it was doing a nice job pulling us along on a beam reach topping 10 knots of boat speed at times in 15 to 20 knots of wind. This sail is huge! It is 73 feet tall and the foot (bottom) is 46 feet long giving it a total area of over 1500 sq. feet. I was confident we had all the bug worked out of this sail but…..I was wrong!

Bang! The top attachment point tore loose and the sail drifted down into the water alongside the boat. Daria! A little help here please…. We spent the next half hour pulling the soaked sail back aboard and roughly bundling it and playing dog pile to smash it down small enough to tie a rope around, we would attempt folding it another day.

Out came the jib sail and within an few hours we were anchored in Resolution Bay which was named by Capt Cook himself. Resolution Bay is the only protected anchorage on Tanna but is still a bit rolling from the sea swell. The locals came paddling up in their dugout outrigger canoes like they have for centuries and welcomed us to their island.

The day we arrived there was a baby boy born in the village and we were invited for a celebration of his birth, well actually a lunch that we would donate a few dollars and get a local lunch. We took off with our bag full of gifts and made our way to the village. The first thing we noticed was that the kids were a little more wild on this island and dirty. The red clay soil was ground into their little hands, feet , and clothes and left me thinking that giving white tee shirts as gifts was not the best choice of colors on an island. I was also thinking what a difference where you are born makes in life…would this little boy spend his whole life in this little village growing up with out shoes orwould he be the one that made a difference in the way they lived?

Our main reason coming to Tanna was to see the active volcano located on Mount Yasur a hours drive away from the harbor. The next morning one of the locals came paddling up and asked if I could charge his portable DVD player and if we had any movies he could have. We gave him a few kids movies and the daily routine of charging the player began. In exchange for the charge he brought us a few bananas, green onion, and basil leaves. Another guy, Charlie came paddling up selling papaya, bananas and fresh eggs and we asked if he knew of someone to take us up the volcano. It turns out that Charlie has a brother, Robert who owns one of the few trucks on the island and for $40 US he would take us to the volcano. Luckily we were able to pay in US dollars since are Vauatu bucks had all been spent and the nearest ATM or bank was a 5 hour ride across the island.

The only road on the island is a one lane dirt road connecting the main villages and also goes to the summit of the volcano. The road is bumpy and washed out in places and most the time you are in first gear bouncing through the ruts, I can only imagine what it is like during the wet season….

It took a little over an hour to get to the base of Mount Yasur which looked like we had made a trip to the moon. The landscape was bare grey rocks and ash and you could hear the grumbling of the volcano from the parking lot at the base of the mountain. A 15 minute hike brought you to the rim of the caldera.

Standing on the edge you look a few hundred feet down into two giant cones that are spewing smoke and ash. The far cone would shoot up huge rumbling clouds of burning ash and the cone closest to us I could look right down into the bowels of the earth. The area surrounding the vent looked like a huge bar b q with glowing chunks of magma surrounding it. The air was bitter with the stench of sulfur that spewed out of cracks along the caldera walls. The vent would make raspy gurgling sounds, the sound of molten lava boiling way, way down in the earth and then the pressure would start building and things started rumbling under foot. And then BANG! Like a huge bomb went off !! The ground shook and chunks of molten lava the size of pickup trucks and washing machines blasted hundreds of feet in the air. Luckily they all seemed to be flying downwind and hitting the far side of the caldera. They landed with a eerie thud and started rolling back down the hill to the bottom of the vent cone and the process started all over again.

I got to tell you that this is one of the most amazing and powerful things I have ever seen in this great big beautiful world of ours and most the time I just stood there in awe knowing that in any moment it all could be over….

Our next adventure will be in New Caledonia!

Until then live your dreams! Pete and Daria