Sailing Around The World

Hikng the Rim Of A Exploding Volcano

Cary and I began our 8 km hike to the Tanna Island, Vanuatu volcano locally named Yasur. When my dad dropped us off on shore a French family that had been to the volcano yesterday gave us some hiking directions to get there. So off we went through the local Port Resolution village that was made up of several palm thatched roof and walled huts. As always the people are very kind, always have big smiles and always introduce themselves as we walked by their homes. The road was a two track for trucks to drive on, the hiking was easy but long. It was Sunday and as we walked by the villages, people were at church under a tarp like shelter worshipping and children sang. As we continued you could hear a rumble ever so often telling us that we were getting close to the volcano. Our path continued to have cows blocking it eating grass and slapping the millions of flys that surrounded everything. No matter how fast we hiked the fly’s would not leave us alone. We also ran across paths with some boars and babies that were not too happy to have us bother there day, made lots of noise and charged across our path into the jungle.

We finally made it to the main gate witch is a grass hut archway but had no sign indicating that it was the path to the volcano. Actually they had no signs anywhere to indicate where the volcano was but following the sound and mountain we found it. I offered two pouches of tobacco and the women just looked at me, said we need money and we don’t smoke tobacco. Ok well I tired, Cary and I had to pay the $3350 each and then we hiked up the volcano. As we hiked up through the jungle to the volcano you could hear large explosions every 10 or 20 minutes. We broke through the jungle terrain into a dessert area leading up to the rim of the volcano and hiked up the soft sand. We could see all the fresh magma rock that had blown out of the volcano all over the ground and smoke blowing out of the volcano. The smell of sulfur was very strong and the smoke was yellow in color. Half way up our 20 minute climb the volcano made a loud pumping sound like an old steam engine train chugging out of the train station. The sound then went quiet and the ground started to shake a little bit, then boooooom and the sound of 747 jet airplane taking off. The concussion of the explosion was so violent you could feel it in your chest and our hearts raced. We looked up and could see magma flying 1000s of feet up into the sky. What a rush and we climbed faster to get to the edge of the volcano to see inside it. We made it to the top as a huge cloud of gas blow by us choking on the sulfur smell we hiked further along the volcano ridge to the windward side and watched the volcano blow and rumble.

At the volcano there was no warning signs or information on what you should do or not do. When we got to the volcano path that went up the side of the mountain there was one sign and it said “Think Safety” that’s it. So looking, feeling, and experiencing the raw power of the volcano you had to wonder where it was safe to walk and how close you could get to the fire breathing dragon. We hiked slowly around the entire brim of the volcano experiencing all the different views and explosions. We felt the heat and smell of the volcano smiling the whole time. As we hiked around the brim it would get very steep to the point if you fell into the crater you would roll all the way down into the magma so we stepped very carefully. At one point in a not so good location the crater exploded sending rock 1000’s of feet up and blew my hair straight back. Cary jogged down the back side of crater and I watched from the edge with my hear t pounding out of my chest laughing at the power. Then loud streams of gas blowing out of rock faces around the magma. We spent 5 hours watching and eating our lunch with our legs hanging into the crater enjoying the day. But every time that volcano erupted my heart raced and I wondered if I should take pictures, or run for my life. I always took the pictures and Cary did to well screaming yahooooo!

At one location on the brim there was a long dip that got you very close to the crater edge but you had to climb down 300 feet to get to the inside crater edge so we discussed our path down and went for it. As we climb down I got about of the way down and my foot broke through the honey combed surface up to my mid-calf muscle. I realized the danger I was putting ourselves in hiking down into the crater so I told Cary to stop and go back. I turned around planted another foot and it broke through again. My heart was racing but I I stepped carefully and didn’t break through again. I made it out of the crater struggling up the sand step edge and looked back to see smoke coming out of the foot holes I made. Man, that was a dumb idea, I realized that the crater inside could be honey combed and you could easily break through to hot steam canvases or even lava. Cary and I both laughed and just shock our heads at our stupidity. So we kept hiking around the rim and never thought to get any closer than that.

As night fell upon us the glow of the boiling mage was very bright and beautiful. The sun set and now you could see jets of fire scream out of the rocks and lava slashing up into the air. Then there would be a huge explosion and send lave 1000’s of feet up into the air and it would be like a million flashes of light bright red. Now we set up our observation point on the far side of the volcano so we could look right done into the crater. Being in this location also amplified the sound and concussion of the blast. After ever eruption we would get a shower of fine pepper rock and ash that covered us from head to toe. By the time we packed our gear up we were black with rock, sand, ash, and smelled of sulfur. With the glow and eruptions of the volcano on our left side we hiked in the darkness along the crest to the path leading off the volcano. It was the best short hike off of a mountain I ever experienced in my life. The volcano would erupt and you would jump a few feet down the ridge away from the crater and then get a ash rain that would fog your head lamp shining your path. We made it off the volcano in hour.

We still had to hike 8 km back in the pitch black dark of the jungle. The stars were very bright and you could see the Milky Way but there was no moon. It gets really dark in the jungle that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. As we hiked we would scare animals that would go running off crashing through the trees and brush making your heart thump when they did. The cows we passed during that day were still in the same spot eating still. It rained a few times as we hiked and cooled us down. After 3 hours of hiking we made it to the beach were I flashed my head lamp to signal my dad to come pick us up. After a while my dad made it to us but got soaked landing the dingy in the surf as the waves broke. We made it off the beach through the surf and onto Dragonsbane. Finally took a sea bath hoping there was no sharks and washed up. Had a bit to eat, drink, and went to bed. Told my dad he had to go up to the volcano but to take the truck instead of hike so that’s what he will do today with another cruiser friend of ours who is Dutch man named Matt. Matt also informed us that last week two people died up on the volcano which no one mentioned to us. Good thing I guess because we never would have taken the chances we did.

I cant wait to post the pictures.


Jacques Henry

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