Mt Marum - The unwanted Volcano. Ambrym

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Sun 27 Oct 2013 06:06


Legend has it that the volcano of Mount Marum started life on the island of Ambae 60nm further North from here. He made too much noise and the population booted him off to Pentecost where he also made a nuisance of himself.  He was moved on from there and ended up in the North of Ambrym where he stays today marking the sky downwind with a tail of smoke and ash.  Our guide up the hill told us that the locals today are happy to have him, despite the noise, as he brings them lots of cash (not ash). 
Mt Marum from the Sea
Marom is a live volcano that last erupted 100 years ago in 1913 killing many people, since then he and hislittle brother Benbow have been bubbling away much to the excitement of volcanologists and thrill seekers. He is one of only three volcanoes in the world in this state that can be visited.  So, in Tanna we saw a spitting volcano and here we were to see a bubbling cauldron.
Access to the mountain from the North, which is about 1300m high (abou the same as Ben Nevis), is owned by the village of Ramvetlem on the NW coast. We organised a guide in the village, Edwin bought along his 9yr old son.  Our aim is to spend the night up the mountain in a hut so we are weighed down with hammocks, sleeping bags, thermals, food and water.  Edwin arrives with a small bag, holding a couple of towel like blankets and ‘one’ all important breathing apparatus, not sure what these guys intend to live off but at least Edwin will be able to breath up the top of the volcano once the dangerous volcanic smoke engulfs us at the top of the mountain!  
We hire a truck to take us the first bumpy 30 minutes up the hill through the gardens till the road ran out.  This appears to be a big hit with all the villagers as they take the opportunity  hitch a lift on our expensive ride, it seems it’s just the given.  There after it’s back on to our own feet and we trekked up for the next 3 hours through changing vegetation.  Then it’s the rather surreal trek  across the lava plains and crossing redundant lava rivers.  Thankfully the sky is cloud covered, it must be unbearably  hot  under blue and sunny skies.  Finally to the hut where we’re able to off load our baggage and ready ourselves for the cold night ahead.
After lunch, more evidence that our guide and his son only have a packet of dry crackers between them.  After a wee break we’re on our final hike up to the mouth of the volcano.  It’s an extraordinary leg. up through cold spring water outlets and then on to the slippy, slidy precipice.  Whilst Cosmo and his buddy Tycon skip and scamper up to the top, Z and I are a little more prudent. Thankfully Edwin has the boys under his watchful hands once their up the top.  If we knew what was up awaiting for us.  We would have been had Cosmo glued to our sides.
Barren Volcanic landscape
Hanging on to Cosmo as we look tentatively over the edge – straight down 500m into the volcano
Looking into the jaws of hell itself – or so it seemed.  The volcano gurgled, and burped.  We’re all agog only able to muster utterences of wonder and awe.
Zinnia  is delighted having been a little disappointed at Tanna this hits the mark Big time,  the 4 hour walk was well worth it.
IMG_2637 Real live Lava at the bottom of an immense crater IMG_2641
Bubbling caldron of lava 500m below our feet, shooting huge globs of lava what must have been 100s of feet in the air and then back into the endless eruption below us. The noise was different to Tanna, we could here the waves of lava swooshing back and forward, and the rumble of gases being expelled.  From another vent on the other side of the crater there was more sound of vicious venting and clouds of sulphurous gas, which, if the wind turned, we would have to avoid very rapidly.  Luckily for our guide he had a gas mask – unluckily for us, he only had one.  We hoped he was not going to need it.
We retreated from the rim before it got too dark as it would have been considerably difficult to tackle the decent in the dark, perhaps another time we’d have stayed but not a place to hangout with kids. Half an hour later we’re back at our hut.  First job is to gather dry wood, no easy feet due to the current down pour.  Then off to collect water from the stream, not sure of the health properties of this water but with enough boiling at the very least it won’t carry any emibic pests, just the concentrated levels of sulphuric acids deposited from the volcano .   Much to the kids delight they are treated to 3-minute noodles cooked over a fire then we all turn in early for a very cold, uncomfortable and sleepless night.  The kids hardly slept a wink but hardly utter a squeak due to feeling totally satisfied by their second volcanic experience, especially all night the sky is awash with a red volcanic hugh and hearing the rumbles of mount Marum.
under the glow of Marum’s endless fury  IMG_2671
IMG_2679 Tired in the morning but excited to have been here
IMG_2806 Liz in an Island Dress given to her by our guide’s wife. 
Ambrym sunset