Thursday, 6 September 2012

Volcano and rain

Still no internet, so still just boring text and no pictures. And this is even a really long post as we have had some really neat experiences.

We made it to Port Resolution last Saturday (1st September), but we arrived in rain and it rained almost solidly for 3 days while we were cooped up on Sophia, passing the time watching Lord of the Rings and baking cakes. Yesterday it finally cleared up, and we have been up at the volcano. It was another most amazing and awe inspiring experience, right up there with swimming with whales in Ha'apai (equal in Phil's opinion, just below it in mine).

After an extremely bumpy drive there in a 4wd, we got to Mt Yasur half an hour or so before the sun was setting. Apparently the volcano's activity level was 2, which is perfect as it is the most active level before it's too dangerous. 5 is full on eruption, 0 is quiet. Another amazing (or crazy) thing is that there is no fence or anything. They built a bit of walkway up to the crater rim and there were a couple of Vanuatu guides (in plain clothes and bare feet) but that's it. We were viewing the volcano right on the rim and could look almost directly down into the volcano's red lava. There was a pretty constant smoke billowing up, but every few minutes it would make a big bang and rumble and lava rocks would be thrown up in the air, some even higher than our level and more smoke would come up. Luckily the strong SE wind blew the smoke away from us, but occasionally you could still smell it. I don't think it would be pleasant to visit it on a windless day!

After initially getting used to each of those 'small' eruptions, suddenly there was an ear-shattering loud bang and simultaneously a massive shock wave and it even felt a bit like an earthquake. It was actually just like explosions in action movies when people are thrown away from the explosion. OK, I don't think anyone fell over, but everyone were kind of pushed backwards, pretty crazy (and a bit scary). The guides even told us to move away from the viewing area that was closest to the rim and we all have to retreat to one that was a little bit further back, as it was too dangerous. That big explosion had thrown one particular big piece of lava rock up towards where we were, and it just kept burning (quite literally) for 10 minutes.

In the dark it got even cooler, because then you could very clearly see all the lava rock pieces as they all glow hot red against the black. It was very impressive and quite a humbling experience to feel the power of the earth and see how little and helpless we are. Total cliche, but it really was.

As soon as we arrived in Port Resolution, actually even before our anchor was down, a local in a dug-out canoe approached us (though he politely waited till anchor was set until he came over). Patrick wanted to see if we were interested in papayas. We were happy to get our first fresh fruit since Tonga. He promised to come back the next day with some kumeras (NZ word for sweet potatoes). The next day was when the rain was the very worst and didn't ease at any time, so it was another day before he came back. This time he brought along an old portable DVD player/screen which was broken. Phil took it apart, although he didn't find anything obviously wrong with it, it was working afterwards, so that was nice. We also fixed the broken zip and strap on his backpack.

The next day in the afternoon when the rain was only drizzling we finally went ashore for a walk. After passing the main village we suddenly found Patrick on the side of the road by another cluster of houses. He had just gotten some more kumera and was about to row out to us but could see our dinghy wasn't by Sophia and then we walked right by. He took us in to meet his three children (2, 5 and 8) and wife and then proceeded to show us his 'garden' which was several large sections with all kinds of crops growing on them. Back by the houses his wife gave us a big slice of some interesting looking (grey!) cake to taste. It was made of tapioca, coconut and other things we didn't understand what was. It was unusual and I won't be trying to copy it, but it was very nice of them to give us some.

The most interesting part was seeing how they lived. There was a whole bunch of small thatched little huts/houses and he said it was all his family living there, obviously a big and extended family. There's no electricity and only a few water (cold obviously) taps were sticking up from the ground, one to maybe 20-30 huts. Patrick pointed to one hut which was their bedroom and another hut which was their kitchen. We had a look inside the kitchen hut. It was maybe 3 by 4 meters big and most of it was made up of a raised bed/floor, in the corner was a fire (on dirt floor) and the other corner held a small table. No shelves, cupboards, chairs or anything. They literally place the pots on the fire, on the floor. Water would have to be carried in containers back from the tap. Sure is a very basic and simple life. The DVD player would have to be charged by someone else who has a generator, but it's definitively was a luxury item. But it was all quite neat and tidy and they had planted flowers around the place.

We left with kumera, basil, spring onion, coconut, arrowroot (it was new to them too, so they didn't' know how to cook it either, just said boil it, we'll have to google it when we get to Port Vila), capsicum, ocra (I think it called, not sure) and I'm sure I'm forgetting something .Oh yes, the DVD player so we could charge it for him. We paid him for the veggies and invited his family to come out to Sophia the next day if they were interested. Only Patrick and one son came, something about the wife having a headache, who knows, she was probably just busy cooking and child minding. We had one empty DVD disk which we copied a movie onto for him which he was very happy for.

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