We had been watching the red glow of the volcano from the anchorage at night and were both excited and apprehensive about getting a closer look.
Mount Yasur is one of the most accessible active volcanos in the world and you can get to within 150m of the crater rim by 4×4. The activity level of the volcano is monitored, and visits stopped when it becomes too active. We had heard rumours of tourists being hit by lava a couple of weeks previously, and its current activity level was the maximum allowed for a visit.
Despite this risk and the 9,750 Vatu pp entry fee (by the time you include transport that is around £90 pp, making it the most expensive activity of our 2 year trip so far), we could not travel this far and miss the opportunity to peer into the caldera of an active volcano.
The ticket booth, concrete buildings, and legal disclaimer at the entrance to the volcano access were a stark contrast to the traditional thatch village we had just left.
A brief ‘volcano’ dance was performed and a distant rumble could be heard above the dancers stomping feet.
Piled into the back of a 4×4 pickup truck, we clung on up the steep deeply rutted track up onto the plains. Lush green tree ferns and palms encroached onto the track. Cresting the summit onto the ash plain was like entering a different world. The vegetation had been desolated and the barren black ash fields around the rim were littered with volcanic rock, which had been spat from the mouth of the volcano.
We left the 4×4 and marvelled at our prehistoric looking surroundings. As we made our way on foot up the steep slope to the crater rim, a huge roar and boom shook the ground below our feet and whiffs of sulphur filled the air. We were soon peering into the crater itself.
As the sun dipped below the peak, we climbed further along the rim for a better view of the vents in the darkening sky.
All would be quiet, then a huge rumble would shake the ground before red molten rock and smoke were fired from the mouth of the volcano. It would then fall silent again before the cooled lava would fall, hissing and thudding against the inside of the crater rim.
The constant glow created the most mesmerising fire we have ever seen, but the air retained it’s mountain chill. Over the next hour or so mother nature reminded us she is not only in charge, but capable of putting on a show more captivating than anything created by man. It’s strange how being so close to such a deadly force makes you feel so alive.
Mt Yasur is only the start of our trip through Vanuatu, this land and its people promise to deliver an experience like no other available in the world that we are used to.