Day four of the Bridging Health Tanna Island adventure was V-day and everyone was super-excited.
It was a designated rest day – no clinics were scheduled, and we couldn’t wait to start oohing and aahing at the eruptions of one of the world’s most accessible volcanos.
The day turned into so much more than just a volcano visit. We traversed the island from west to east, in the back of two utes, and even the long initial drive was fun as locals waved and we yahooed back.
There were people regularly along the roadside – some walking, some cutting the grass with machetes. We climbed up steep rises and rough roads, meaning many of my photos were taken with one hand hanging on and the other trying desperately to control the camera.
Below is our first sight of the volcano came as we crested a steep and scary rise. It was still many kilometres away, and first we were headed to a hot spring.
To get to the hot spring, we had to pass through a John Frumm village – a cargo cult with some strange beliefs (Google it, it’s weird). As with all villages, we had to stop and pay respects and ask permission to go through.
The nearby hot spring fed into the ocean, and the beach was busy with groups of locals hanging out. We had our swim and checked out the canoes on the beach before heading towards the purpose of our day, the lava monster.
As we neared the volcano, a group of boys ran out onto the road behind our utes yelling ‘Australia, Australia’! Did they know we were coming, or was it a lucky guess?
It was surprising to pull up at a large commercial centre. After heading across such undeveloped country, a manicured garden and tree fern statues were unexpected. We joined 50 other tourists waiting to be taken up the mountain.
First came a welcome ceremony, a token presentation of kava root to a chief’s representative and dancing, which some of our team joined. One of the guides told how she was recently injured by a lava burst from the volcano, a sobering reminder to be careful and follow instructions.
Finally, we headed to the volcano, with another short car trip and an uphill walk.
Our first stop was still some distance from the crater, and some visitors were not prepared to go any closer.
The next section brought us over the crater. The volcano was in fine form, with lots of rumbling and expulsion of fiery rocks, and the odd disgusting smell. The eruptions became more spectacular as the sun went down and the smoke and steam was less obvious.
As we headed through the dark back across the lava fields toward home, we could still see large chunks of lava being flung across the sky. Tired but satisfied, we hunkered down for the half-and-a-half drive back to Bethel Village.