Epic week end,Vanuatu 2

Tue 26 Aug 2014 09:06
24th August 2014


We made our way up through the islands from Port Vila, calling in at Epi first of all where we searched for the dugong who was resident in the bay. Tim, Andrew and I snorkelled for ages on a fruitless quest only to return to Hebe where Harry and Imo spotted one having a peep at our boat. The water is crystal clear with black sand and some coral with some very nervous turtles swimming rapidly in the other direction.
We had a lovely journey on Friday under sail towards the volcanic island of Ambrym. Not that we could see it at all being shrouded in mist and cloud. Harry had phoned ahead to arrange for us all to climb up the volcano, Mt Marum. Evidently we would meet our guide, Jeffrie, on arrival and have a meal in his auntie Rosalyn's house. It was pretty bleak when we dropped anchor in the bay with the wind howling up to 40 knots and squalls. No way was I climbing any volcano in this I said. Night fell it was black everywhere and we spotted a torch on the beach waving us into where we were met by Jeffrie and his relations. In the hut Rosalyn had laid out an interesting meal on banana leaves. We sat around crossed legs, always a problem for Andrew….and were offered what proved to be a pretty disgusting assortment of cold foods covered in curdled coconut.


Watermelon and paw paw by far the nicest, but taro tasted like candle wax and there were piles of cold stewed greens. We battled for a while and made our thanks and left. Back on board Andrew and Tim made a hash out of cupboard and fridge remains….and we introduced Harry and Imo to the delights of Spam. We packed up our rucksacks ready for the off at dawn.
We were rather hoping our expedition would be partially by truck with a few hours climb to the crater where we would see one of only 5 lava lakes in the world. Wow sounds amazing.

The reality was a climb for 4 hours through sub-tropical jungle with steep gorges down and up, followed by the ash plain and after 6 gruelling hours the climb up the back sand to the crater…4000 ft above sea level. Imagine climbing Table Mt from the beach and not catching the cable car down……


First glimpse of Mt Marum
I must admit when we emerged from the jungle to see the ash plain and volcano on the far horizon we were all privately saying Oh sh*******t.

Jeffrie marched ahead in bare feet and his sister Pauline brought up the rear with me, she had to drag me up the final climb.


Hebe is over the far ridge…. Tim and Andrew on final ascent.

To sit on the rim of an active volcano and peer down the sheer sides to the bubbling red lava below is truly awesome. You could feel the heat yet being high it was really cold, with a strong wind trying to hurl us into hell's teeth. There was cloud swirling but when it cleared you could see the immense sheer sides of this huge chasm with the red bubbling lake below. The lake is in fact the size of a football pitch.


We ate our picnic wondering how on earth we were going to get back down having taken over 6 hours already..
Kate Humble had been there that day doing a film for the BBC, she had climbed up but had the pleasure of a helicopter down….jammy thing.

It didn't bode well as Andrew was clearly limping badly on the descent, even with the two sticks Jeffrie honed for him and the cut up sock Imo fashioned as a knee support.
With only a few hours until dark we had to yomp and Andrew set the pace in the lead until he virtually collapsed with heat exhaustion …. Tim went into survival mode coaxing the patient down inch by inch and we managed to phone ahead to have the truck waiting at the village saving us the final couple of miles.


On the way up we stopped in his village and met more friendly family. The village was fascinating, huts made of woven palm with tin or thatched roofs. Very clean everywhere plenty of fresh water and chickens, piglets, dogs and children everywhere. On our triumphal and limping return at dusk there was great celebration and a bowl of cava was produced. We later heard that Jeffrie continued into the night and got well and truly plastered visiting a German boat in the bay talking gibberish. He couldn't rouse us, we were all out cold.