Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 30, 2011

Tanna island – Vanuatu

Pictures may be hard to upload, internet is slow here!

23.5.11 – Monday – We motored in and anchored in the companyof two other catamarans from Noumea, New Caledonia. We dropped anchor in 1250 and I set immediately to prepare lunch. Shakshouka was on the menu. For the uninitiated – Shakshouka is eggs broken and cooked in hot tomato and onionsauce. I also added some red bell peppers. No, this is not going to be one ofthose sailing plus cooking guide blogs!

While toiling in the kitchen, a local canoe came by.

Stanly comes

This was Stanly, who turns out to be the man to talk to about going to the town of Lenakel, where the customs and immigration are and also about trip to Yasur volcano. “Look for me in the village, we will arrange everything”. Later we go ashore and walk the in the village. We meet Stanly and the people of the other yachts who are looking to do the same trip. So a price was set and we agreed toconvene the next morning at 0800. Back on the boat feeling the fatigue accumulated in the last six days take hold of us. That night I slept like a log for ten hours!

24.5.11 – Tuesday – The events of that day were really a show with two acts; the drive to Lenakel and the volcano, so here they are!

Act One: Lenakel

At 0800 we were ready on shore. The French (New Cal guys) brought a huge amount of stuff, donation for a school near Lenakel. Our
vehicles were two open back Toyota pickups with 20 cm wide planks for seats. We squeezed in there and were soon on our way. Most of the people elected to do the trip standing up, holding the metal structure of the missing fabric cover.Let’s hope it doesn’t rain!

Our truck

Before we set out I asked Stanly how long the trip to Lenakel will take. “Two hours, if the condition of the roads is good” In our world when somebody says a thing like that you are thinking of traffic congestion, but not here. The true meaning became apparent immediately. The road was simply a dirt – no, a mud track in the jungle, full by potholes and gullies, slowing us down at times to no more than 5 kph. But everybody was in great spirits, looking at it as an exciting adventure.

On the way we stopped at a village to fill fuel from plastic gallon bottles. The scenery reminded us of Fiji. The coconut fronds covered huts, people sitting around, women weaving palm leaves and many, many children.

The Kids

On to Lenakel we went, passing the volcano, getting a glimpse as well as a booming preview of it, crossing a river and driving on packed
black volcanic sand with only tire marks to show the way. We arrived two and a half hours after departing port resolution. It’s only about 50 km but the roads…

Mt. Yasur

First we went to the bank to change money. The U.S dollar, 100 Vatu not so long ago, is only 85 now. Oh, well, we also pay less for it so no
complaining. Custom procedure went smoothly and then we went for lunch in Jena’s restaurant. The signs at the bank as well as those in the restaurant were in Bislama, the national language, which in my opinion has a lot of charm. Look at the following signs. Can you figure out the meaning of the second one?


Bislama 2

You can find the translation at the end of this post.

Act Two: the Volcano Roulette

At 1500 we boarded our transport and drove to the volcano. Crossing the river again we climbed on a steep, bumpy mud road and reached the
volcano at five pm.

river crossing

Stanly pointed the trail to the crater. “Aren’t you coming with us?” “No, I’ll stay here”. I suppose he saw it quite a few times and was bored by it. I was to find later that there was another explanation.  You walk up the trail to reach the crater’s rim along which the trail continues on and on. As we stood there the volcano did what it was supposed to do. Thundered loudly, belched up smoke and ejected
stones that landed inside the rim’s perimeter. People were walking further and further on the trail. As the sun went down the red-yellowish color of the flying rocks became more pronounced.

 Suddenly there was a big explosion. The number of projectiles increased considerably. Stanly was suddenly there trying to call the people who were up the rim to come back down. Nobody really listened. Then an even stronger explosion was heard, with rocks flying over our heads, and the guides shouting:”Don’t run! Look up!” Meaning “Stop, try and judge the trajectory of the rocks and avoid being hit” People were running down the rim, I saw a young girl and a boy of about 12 crying in panic. Smoldering rocks fell too close for comfort. It was a weird and frightening experience following the flying objects with your eyes as they rose to about 300 feet and then fell down, hitting the ground with a loud thud. All this was fantastically impressive yet obviously highly dangerous. Right at that time my camera started a mutiny and would not take pictures, so the only ones I have are this.

Volcano in action

 This wild show continued on and on and we found it prudent to regroup down by the cars. Checking our numbers we were missing two French guys. One of them was supposed to be the “responsible adult” and bring the group back after about half an hour. Some people thought he said he will come back in an hour and a half. In any case, there was a bit of apprehension there. It was now becoming dark and nobody had a torch to go on a search, which was perilous undertaking in itself. Stanly decided to wait until 1830 and fifteen minutes before this “deadline” we were relieved to see lights going down the trail. The missing couple returned safely. “Didn’t you say return in half an hour?” “Yes, but it didn’t go that way”. So far for the responsible adult.

 Stanly told me later that the reason he was not coming up in the first place was that he suddenly remembered how in 1995, as a 15 years old kid he was present as a local guide was killed by a horizontally flying rock and a Japanese lady was hit on the head with the same, gruesome result. “The volcano got wild today just as it was then”.

We got back to the village and the boat at 1930. We spent about five and a half hours on the bum and back breaking drive and then the astounding sound and light (and stones) show – a long, tiring day.

25.5.11 – Wednesday – In contrast today we took things easy. We had a visit by Stanly, who came over for a coffee, chocolates and a chat.


The grasp of world affairs he has with what little information that is available to him is very interesting. He told us interesting stories about how magic people from Tanna helped the Americans to defeat the Japanese in Port Vila, by sending a cloud that annihilated all their “computers and electronics” so they could not hit the American airplanes. We spoke of God and the Devil as well as local politics. After he left, we did a few jobs on the boat and then simply relaxed, had lunch a nap and then a visit to the village.

The weather, by and by, was nice and dry, wind now coming from the NE at 15-17 knots, which according to the guides could cause bad waves in
the bay making it necessary to leave. In reality the small wavelets did nothing to disturb our life on board and knowing that the wind will decrease shortly we saw no need for any action at all. Even an Amel Super Maramou who came in the day before with Nicolas and Pascal on board stayed put.

On shore we met this couple as they chatted with some local guys who were in the middle of preparing the Kava. In difference to Fiji, where
the Kava is made from dried, pounded roots, here they make it out of live ones. The guy below was masticating roots, spitting them onto a banana leaf for further processing. Ugh…


It seems that the custom is for the men, and men only, to gather everyday for a Kava session. As we wandered the village, looking for Stanly, we came upon another Kava group and there found our man. After some small talk he sent us to his home. “I prepared some taro for you. My wife and
sister know about it”. In addition to the taro we also got two drinking coconut! It is the custom in Vanuatu that once you get a present from a yachtie you must reciprocate and there is a delicate balance one must keep so as not to force the local man to have to give above his means. We gave him some tuna fish on the first day and now he was returning the favor.

And now for the restaurant sign; the translation is mine so it’s absolutely unreliable!

“Please place them order belong to you (your order) with the payment (at) the same time. Thank you too (very) much”


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