The ACTIVE VOLCANO Mt. YASUR on TANNA island was one of the main reasons why we eve considered visiting VANUATU. It is one of the most EASILY ACCESSIBLE active volcanoes in the world. And wouldn´t that be great if I could have this experience watching hot lava exploding from craters with Lu next to me? I was convinced. We had to go there during our longer South Pacific trip. And now that we did it, I can only say this really was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of the whole trip.
The active volcano is without a doubt the MAIN ATTRACTION on Tanna island and many visitors only fly in for a day or two, climb up to the top and fly back home or to other islands. We stayed on Tanna for 5 days and loved the WILDERNESS. I mean, ERUPTING VOLCANOES, TREEHOUSES, LOCAL VILLAGES, TRIBES, JUNGLE. Everything still very much unspoiled by mass tourism. You should give it more days than just a quick volcano tour.
Mt. Yasur volcano is a SACRED AREA for the local people and all visitors have to go through a SPECIAL CEREMONY in order to enter the grounds. Besides getting a go from the LOCAL CHIEF, you absolutely have to obey all the rules explained to you once you start going up there. We were each given a flower for good luck and after a RITUAL OF SINGING AND DANCING we were all set to continue.
It was only 10 OF US GOING UP THERE THAT EVENING. That was just amazing. I honestly expected there would be more people. Not that I´m complaining, visiting in small groups makes a much more intimate experience. It is also impossible and illegal to try and go up on your own. So you have to do it on an ORGANISED TOUR. After about a 10 minute drive in 4×4 cars on a pretty bumpy “road” we reached the trail. From here, it was AN EASY HIKE, say about 20 minutes.
The views were just SPECTACULAR. The sky looked like it might rain and around the volcano you really never know where the clouds turn, but we hoped for the best.
Hmmm a POST BOX on the Volcano? Well why not. There seemed to be lots of post poxes in the most strange locations all around South Pacific. Like underwater. Or on the volcano.
On the top. And yes, we were wearing flip flops. We did have our proper shoes in the backpack but there was no need for those. We basically walked the rest of the train BAREFOOT, we had a much better grip on the sand without shoes.
First sight of this 400m WIDE CRATER were already exciting, but we had to walk all the way AROUND TO THE OTHER SIDE to get the best VIEWS ON THE LAVA.
We made it all the way around and I have to say, even though this hike really does not require a high level of fitness, you do have to be careful how you walk. On this 361 high volcano THERE ARE NO SAFETY FENCES and the fall down the crater would be a rather steep one. There have been PEOPLE KILLED BY FLYING PIECES OF LAVA, so do not by any chance wonder off the trail and take care of your steps. We found our spot here, sat down and WAITED FOR THE SUN TO SET.
It is really hard to imagine the SMELLS and the LOUD SOUNDS of the ERUPTIONS if you had not seen this on your own. It is soooo loud. It was like we were in a war zone and there were bombs dropping all around us. I was a bit scared I have to admit. Lu was scared as well. Like, more than me haha. On one side it felt so incredible to see all this but then there were seconds when I wondered, is this REALLY SAFE? Hot rocks and pieces of glowing lava were landing really not far away from where we were. But we were there now, so we trusted the guides, they know what they are doing. They come up here every day probably. So all good.
We were quite lucky to be able to visit the top anyway as sometimes the ACTIVITY IS SO STRONG that this is not possible. Sometimes the whole broader area is closed as well. There is a SCALE, going from LEVEL 0 TO LEVEL 4. Zero being the low activity, 1 being normal activity, 2 moderate to high, 3 severe with loud explosions and 4 major eruption. AT THE TIME OF OUR VISIT we were almost reaching LEVEL 3. At level 3 the top is closed and at level 4 ashes an affect other islands as well. So we had quite an experience!
GOING UP WITH KIDS? The guides did warn me I am taking Lu with me at my own risk. There was a Chinese girl who was even a bit smaller and we all survived without consequences. I would personally not do it with a child younger than lets say 5 years old. And only if they really understand that running around is not an option. Might even taken earplugs for him, if I knew it will be that loud. So expect it to be LOUD and SMELLY.
It was just ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING THINGS WE DID, Lu and me. We felt like winners once the sun set and we were up there in the middle of nowhere, on the top of a volcano. And we felt so damn small. Even if scared, it was totally worth it and unforgettable. THE WALK BACK DOWN was a bit tricky though. It was pitch dark. We had LAMPS but the path was really narrow at times. Good that Lu was scared enough to understand this is no place to make jokes and he held my hand while going back. Even told me he loved me like a thousand times that evening. And that he will behave and be a good boy as long as I don´t let him fall into the lava. So this turned out to be an overall educational experience haha.
So, to sum it up. Was this worth it? Hell yeah. It was one of THE BEST THINGS WE DID ON THIS TRIP. Or ever. And we did it together and we were scared together and then we laughed about it together at dinner. While having a cold beer and ice cream thanking life for giving us such great opportunities.
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