I must be downright bonkers. Just after midnight the whole hotel building building started, shaking and moaning. I leapt out of bed - another earthquake! No - one else in took any notice and I tried to get back to sleep but I was sure the bed was moving so it wasn’t a very peaceful Vanuatu night. And now I'm on the way to The Gates of Hell on Tanna. Today, not only have I added two more flights to my itinerary when I was down to only three more, but the consequence of the aforementioned flights is that I am now standing right on the edge of the caldera of a volcano. The journey from Port Vila on Efate is eventful. The plane is tiny and the pilot looks about 18. He's only just got his licence.
More trades descriptions issues. The 'scenic flight' a turns out to be mostly over the sea, though Port Vila, The Prettiest Town in the Pacific does look good from the air, with all its islands and lagoons. The 'delicious lunch' is one egg sandwich, a sour tangerine and a mug of squash.
However, Tanna Island is absorbing. Very wild and much more traditional. There has been a big initiation ceremony on Tanna the night before and crowds of villagers are staggering home. Most are still wearing their finery, feathers and grass skirts and many clearly have whacking hangovers. Some are literally crawling and others have given up and are lying face down on the grass.
We drive through pandanus groves and across vast deserts and canyons made of ash. There are great views across rianfoesrt and fern trees. In the distance the volcano is already rumbling and belching out smoke. The vehicle jolts up most of the mountain and we then clamber up a track to the very top. As I said - bonkers. But hugely spectacular. It really feels like the end of the world.
When we arrive at the top, the volcano is rumbling, growling and chucking up thousands of boulders, lumps of lava glowing red and clouds of sulphur, lightening and steam. Mount Yasur on the island of Tanna is billed as the world's most accessible active volcano.
We stay for an hour or so watching the heaving cauldron below. Every so often more boulders come hurtling past, heralded by great rumbles - very like shouts of despair. Somehow we maintain a distance; the show is being played out on the stage in front. Our guides assure us it’s perfectly safe. This is only Level One activity. Visitors are barred if it gets to a Three. We scramble down again, to the truck, for the' delicious lunch'. I'm still monitoring the rim of the volcano. There's an almighty roar and a cloud of lava and rocks shoots up hundreds of feet into the air, streaming down to land just where we have been standing.
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