Monday, May 28, 2018

Travel: Mount Yasur in Vanuatu

I never really see myself as adventurous because (1) I just couldn't be bothered with that much physical effort and (2) I have low tolerance for uncertainty. If it's any consolation, I am grace under pressure. Although I try to push myself out of the comfort zone, which made me start looking at things differently. As cliché as this may sound, you only live once or twice in my case. We hiked the cliff of Morne Blanc in Seychelles two years ago. I thought that was my peak experience until I had the opportunity to climb an active volcano in Vanuatu. Mount Yasur was an unforgettable trip that literally lit up my birthday week.

I didn't know it was possible to be on the rim and observe spewing lava up close. It was my husband who searched about other neighboring islands in the Pacific. I even joked about us recreating the scenes of Sam and Frodo at Mount Doom and then poof, flights were booked. The trip to Vanuatu was approximately two hours away from Fiji. We chose Air Taxi Vanuatu for our Mount Yasur tour with an office located at the domestic airport. It's usually close on Sundays but a representative accommodated us when we arrived. Air Taxi Vanuatu offers overnight and day tours (8-9 hours duration) but we picked the latter due to time constraint. Mount Yasur puts on a firework show after sunset so if you have plenty of time, overnight tour is recommended. Day trip costs 50,000 VUV (PHP 24,200++) per person with hotel pick-up and drop off, lunch and a scenic flight over the island. If you have any dietary concerns like us being vegans, it's better to advice them early on.

Mount Yasur is located in Tanna Island, an hour away from Port Vila. After the safety standard procedures conducted by the pilot, we were buckled up at a cramped 6-seater Cessna aircraft. Riding a tiny plane from the start already set the tone on how thrilling this day would be like. You can feel the slightest turbulence but we were blessed with good weather making the entire flight such a breeze. Also, our pilot was being a pro. 10/10 would recommend! Flying over the volcano is without exaggeration an experience of a lifetime!

A pickup truck was waiting for us at White Grass airport en route to Mount Yasur for another one and a half hours of relentless bumby roads. Scenic views made up for it though. Driving along the coast with the windows down as the wind blows wisps of my hair in the face—and in that moment, I swear we were infinite. Heehee! I've always wanted to use that line. Anyway, we passed by small villages with locals waving back but eye you with curiosity. It's also a casual day in the island when some men show up on the road carrying a huge machete so don't freak out.

Lunch was served at a facility near the volcano and we were then transferred to a different off-road truck. The entry path to Mount Yasur is through a lush forest, which felt like a drive into the Amazon where wild animals would suddenly jump out to attack you. After the final stretch, we reached a concrete staircase that leads to the crater. You can already hear rumbles from low to concussive blasts. Mount Yasur has been actively exploding for over 800 years and it's easily one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world. Volcanic Activity Level 2 is still safe for tourists but above that, trips would be cancelled. We were welcomed by a giant plume of volcanic ash. I probably mouthed "WOW!" several times despite the reeking smell of sulfur. There are several vantage points to get a good view of the volcano at its most furious. I tried to keep my distance away from the edge after our guide warned us about shooting lava. However, it was an incredible moment that you'd eventually be pulled by the power of nature's rage. Of course, the nerd in me had to drop several Lord of the Ring references on my IG Stories. "It's gone! It's done!" said Frodo.


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