Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mt Yasur, and Ceremony

It was good for me that the ICA Rally arrived because they had organized the Mt Yasur trip and I was able to join in. Otherwise I might have needed to organise it myself and it would have been a lot more expensive. It was really good talking to all the other yachites, mostly Kiwis who didnt take themselves too seriously and weren't all that prone as others that I have run into seem to be, to talk and brag about their sailing exploits and nothing else. So we all piled into the back of two sturdy Utes, squashed together like sardines and set off along the very dodgy dirt main road between here and the main town, Lenakel, to a turn off where we paid the Park Entry Fee of 3500 Vatu ( about $40 AUD) The journey only took about 45 minutes all up and we got out on the ash covered moonscape slopes of the volcano in the late afternoon, and followed a steep concrete path some of the way then a crunchy ash track right up to the very edge of the crater. It was really quite a terrifying place with not one signpost about the dangers, not a single rail or rope or barrier to inhibit the curious, and a sickening feeling that anyone could put a foot wrong at any second and plunge over the edge, sliding and tumbling down the impossibly steep inside of the crater to another ledge and then a drop into the steam and lava and smoke and ash and rumbling inferno hundreds of feet below. Inevitably there were a few individuals who had to advance closer to the edge than anyone else, and who walked along closer and with less care and more quickly than anyone else, ignoring the possibility that a stumble, or a crumbling piece of rock could either lead to them or a person they might fall against or grab in panic plunging to a horrible death. The sounds emerging from way down there were ground moving crashing and banging and roaring that at times was interrupted by a sound like a huge explosion, a sound that was muffled thumps till you got to the rim. Then the thumps became gut wrenching crashes that seemed to shake your lungs and make you flinch and duck as a huge mushroom of black and brown ash billowed up along with a spray of flaming lava rocks, some of which went well above the level of the crater rim but then fell vertically like rain, slamming into the sloping crater walls, and then tumbling like a fiery stream back into the hidden depths. Wind gusts carried a strong smell of sulphur, and volcanic ash blew into our faces as we followed the track in single file along half of the crater rim, the sun slowly setting and the glow and the fiery trails of lava becoming more vivid as night fell. It really was an amazing and awe-inspiring sight, seeing the inside of the planet, realising that it is a seething molten furnace, a place with so much violent utterly uncontrollable energy only a matter of a greater or lesser number of meters beneath our feet no matter where we are. Wrecking the planet by Burning coal, and making nuclear reactors seems somehow ridiculous in this context.

The strong wind became quite cold in the dark and eventually we turned back down the mountain with torch light, back to the Utes and another fun discussion on the way back to the Yacht Club where a dozen of us sat at the table and had a meal of vegetables and omelette, and a most unexpected but very enjoyable Tusker Beer, the beer of Vanuatu.

I slept well and in the morning, fried my three fish for breakfast and they were lovely. By ten, every single yacht, but one, had left Port Resolution. They had been great company but I was glad I wasnt part of the rally and feeling the pressure to move on because apart from the Volcano, there was much more that I wanted to explore on Tanna, in particular the local village and customs. Later, David came by with his net, and I asked him what some of the vegetables were that he had given me - one was a massive raddish the size of a huge marrow, there were eggplants tomatoes and a green leafy thing as well. He was keen to have all the old pots pans plates and cups that I had retrieved from storage, and then he told me about a Circumcision Ceremony they were having later today, and asked if I would like to come...

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