Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tanna - Our arrival and journey to Mt. Yasur

As I stated in the previous post, my main desire for visiting Vanuatu was to see the volcano.  But first, we had to get there.  Now, I'm not an anxious flier typically, but I am not a huge fan of propeller planes.  I knew this was going to be one, but I didn't stop to think about how small it was going to be - until I noticed that they were weighing the passengers at check in!  At this point I was having a mild panic attack - trouble getting a deep breath and shaking, but trying not to make it so bad that the kids would notice.  Plus, I can handle most anything for 45 minutes, I reckon.  Since my prayers were answered with a no to the "bigger" plane, I changed the request to a smooth ride, which was thankfully answered with a yes!  I was sad that I didn't have my camera our for the flight - the views were stunning.  I did have to get it out upon arrival to get a picture of the airport.

The, ahem, baggage carousel

Our plane - how cute!

Getting on the plane was a bit easier here - no metal detectors, no long speech by the flight attendants.  Although, in fairness, there were no flight attendants.  The pilot told us where the life jackets were and we were off for Tanna.  There was no door in between the cabin and the cockpit, and you could sit wherever.  I relaxed and was able to enjoy it after about 10 minutes.  I knew I'd be fine heading back to Port Vila.

Our hotel from the plane
We stayed at the White Grass Oceans Resort - and they were fantastic.  We were driven from the airport to the resort by one of their drivers.  We were greeted at the resort with lime juice and a reassurance that they had their own water source, which was safe to drink.  There are no restaurants on Tanna, so we ate all of our meals in their dining room.  They would make special meals not on the menu for the kids, which were more to their liking typically.  They also arranged and drove us on all of our excursions.

The boys loved the mosquito nets.  Truth be known, I've always wanted to sleep in one.  I read way to much as a kid and had some romanticised version of it.  I will say, it felt very snuggly.

Melanesian statue outside our bungalow.  Nathan is wearing
a chief's necklace from the cultural village we visited.

View from the dining room

Now for the volcano trip.  It was scheduled to be a six hour trip - leaving at 2:30 pm with a stop to hear a children's choir sing.  I had decided to get a massage on the beach earlier in the day and was glad I had.  The road was rough, to say the very least.  I would've liked to have gotten a picture of what we were travelling on, but there was no way it wouldn't have been blurry because of all the bouncing we were doing.  There are very few paved parts of roads on Tanna.  The travel time was about an hour and a half.  I have no idea how far it was.  The dirt roads were the easiest part, as ash doesn't hold up well during rain, leaving massive holes to navigate around and, occasionally, through.  Technically you drive on the right side of the road.  Realistically, you take the path of least resistance!

Sweet voices

About an hour into the trip, we were on the ash plains.  It was a bit like driving on the sand near our beaches, just a different colour.  It was beautiful, but I'm not sure how we made it out of these on the way back.  Clearly our driver knew exactly where he was going because it was dark, ash was flying, and the landmarks were few and far between!

You can see which way the wind was blowing

We had to drive around the long way, as the wind was blowing towards this side.  So, off we went into the jungle.  It was quite a climb and I was glad we had a Land Rover - it was absolutely necessary!  After 30 minutes, we met our guide and were in the parking lot for the climb up the volcano.  Not as tough as it sounds - there were steps carved, but they weren't very even!

Hearing the first eruption.  Also, it was very windy, hence the closed eyes.

Our new family portrait!

We stayed at below the crater for a little bit until our guide could see which way the lava was blowing, ensuring that we were (mostly) safe.  Of course, they can't predict when lava is going to go it's own way, so you're told to keep a watch on things.  After a few pictures and deciding things were fairly safe, we were asked if we wanted to head to the top.  Of course Brian, Wills, and I did, but Nathan is our cautious one.  He was scared, but decided it would be worth it to view the volcano from the top.  Bri and I were very proud of him - he's grown so much since we've moved to Australia.

This was a harder climb, as there were no steps.  We just slogged through ash up and up so we could see down into the crater.  Everyone agreed that it was worth it.  We didn't stay super long up there, as it was much noisier with the sound bouncing all around.  Fantastic views, though!

Words can't even describe - nor can pictures

We climbed back to the lower level to stay through sunset and into night.  It was truly incredible.  Nath described it as awesome, but scary.  I told him he now understood what awesome actually means, not the trite way we use it today.  I think everybody in our family lists this as their favourite part of the holiday - I think Brian thought it tied with the snorkeling on Hideaway Island.

"Look mum, God likes fireworks!"

We eventually climbed back down Mt. Yasur and headed back to the resort.  We were tired and very, very dirty, but in awe of God's creation.  I think He had a lot of fun thinking things to make!  We got back around 9:30 and had a quick wash off of all the ash covering us.  We were glad to have been told to order dinner before we left.  We ate fairly quickly and, after showering, fell happily into bed.  What an incredible day!

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