Thursday, 3 September 2015

Vanuatu - Tanna and Erramango

Vanuatu - 13 August -16 August

The volcano as we approached Tanna
Our biggest fish yet!
On route to Tanna from Aneityum Catherine caught our biggest fish so far - a Mahi Mahi which took some effort. Otherwise an uneventful journey but as we approached Tanna you could see the Volcano which was one of the main attractions to come to Tanna.

Tanna 13-15 August

The attraction of going to Tanna is the active volcano which is one of the few places you can go and

Remains of the guest houses
The Yacht Club
see an active volcano just two hundred metres below the top. There were six boats that sailed with us to Tanna and we all met in the Yacht Club that night for drinks and arrange two 4WD trucks to take us the next day. The yacht Club was a traditionally built structure made from bamboo and leaves and had withstood Cyclone Pam although the three guest houses had nothing but their foundations left. Very friendly people and we had a good evening.

A coffee shop and not bad coffee!
In the morning a number of the boats came ashore to deliver some of the aid we had brought from Fiji – mainly rice, flour and sugar. The plan had been to take it to the school but this was closed so we found the community centre where we could leave it for them to distribute. We were surprised to see a coffee shop in the village which served very good coffee grown in Tanna. There we met a French trio who were staying in the village, on holiday from New Caledonia, who wanted to experience village life. This is something that the village offers to bring in tourists but you would need to be seasoned travellers as it is very basic living with no mod cons just earth toilets and buckets for washing.

In the afternoon we were getting ready to leave for the volcano when we got a call on the VHF to say that we all had to clear immigration before we could go back on the island. Immigration officials happened to be in the bay and they decided that we must clear immigration immediately, despite being told in Aneityum that we did not need to do this until we reached Port Vila which is the capital.  It was clear that the Immigration Officer would not let us on the island until he had gone through the clearance of all the boats with 30 minutes before the trucks were due to leave to go the volcano  and he had 10 boats to clear. Despite his earlier somewhat hard-line approach, he cleared all boats within 30 minutes and we went to get in the trucks.

In the back of the truck
Getting 10 people into each truck which was designed to carry four people was an experience with six of us sitting in the open back of the truck. They did provide some cushions which were needed for the 90 minute ride along pot holed tracks through the jungle. All part of the experience but I was glad when we arrived at the foot of the volcano. 

The final 300 metres was on foot to the rim of the volcano where we were greeted with explosions of magna shot high into the sky as we walked along the rim just feet away from a drop into the volcano. You could see the orange magma boiling in the centre of the volcano with huge explosions every few minutes. It was even more spectacular as it started to get dark with the orange magma showing up clearly as it fell back to earth still molten. The noise of the explosions and the tremor of the ground added to the effect and it was a fantastic sight. Worth a few hours of being shaken to bits on bumpy tracks wondering just how well maintained these vehicles were.

Erromango 15-16 August

In conversation with the other boats we decided to stop off at Erromango – we had cleared immigration now so getting to Port Vila was less pressing.  It was 80 miles so we started off early in the morning to arrive just as it was getting dark.

Children wathcing us come in
Erromango was one of the worst hit islands by Cyclone Pam and is not visited by tourists (unlike Tanna and Aneityum) so we decided that we should take most of the aid there. Food aid from Port Vila had stopped two months ago David was their spokesman (as he spoke very good English) and arranged a trade – they would not accept the aid as a gift but wanted to trade for it. So the next morning we were all invited to the village community centre where we greeted with the children from the village singing traditional songs. The women had got up as 4am to cook us some traditional food so as to be able to offer some hospitality. We were all taken back by this as food was still in short supply as the trees had no fruit and their crops were only just starting to bear fruit, but this is their nature.

In return for the aid, all the villagers brought something from their gardens – tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, taro and kava. We felt bad about taking anything but it would have been very rude not to so most people just took a few things and left the aid that we had brought. We were then taken on a tour of the village and you could see the devastation still with trees still having no leaves where the Cyclone had stripped them bare. Such warm and friendly people and so generous despite everything.

Yacht Club in progress
In the afternoon, David took us to see the Yacht Club he is building to attract more yachts to stop at the island. It is work in progress and he is funding it by donations and buying material from Port Vila when he can. It will help bring in more people to the island and with it some much needed currency for the village to buy staple foods such as rice.

We were taken in the afternoon to the Cave of skulls which is a burial site of the chiefs of the island (until the missionaries stopped this practice along with throwing the dead in the sea). We took a 30 minute boat ride along the coast before negotiation a very tricky reef to get to the beach.  A walk up to the first cave was steep but walkable whereupon we climbed into the cave to see the bones of the bodies placed there.

The second cave was a climb up a sheer wall, using the tree roots
Climbing up to the cave
The Chiefs looking out
and vines to make our way up and along a narrow path to the cave which overlooked the sea. Here the heads of the chiefs were arranged so that they could watch over the sea for any enemies arriving.

The next night we left for Port Vila with the aim of an easy sail overnight so that we would arrive in the early morning and have the day free. One of the yachts took a father and his son to Port Vila from the village to visit the hospital as the son was ill and there is very limited medical care on the island. There is an airstrip on the island (courtesy of the Americans from WWII) but the cost of flying to Port Vila where the hospital is located is prohibitive. The alternative is to wait for the weekly supply ship but again the cost is too much for most of the villagers so it was fortunate that we were there.

1 comment:

  1. This is a brilliant writing and very pleased to find this site. I couldn’t discover to much different information on your blog. I will surely be back again to look at some other important posts that you have in future.