Tanna, the mysterious island under the active Yasur volcano


What a strange feeling! We have slept !! 12 hours straight !! We open our eyes and see two small beds, a very deteriorated bathroom and a small window through which light barely enters. You can hear the waves breaking in the distance and a heavy rain hitting what looks like a porch. Last night we went to bed in a place without knowing how it was or what was around us, now we go outside and the first thing we see is a kind of water vapor leaving the ground (where the island's volcano breathes). At our side there is another cabin very similar to ours and, in front, a building of concrete blocks that seems to be where we were welcomed yesterday. There are many strange insects with which the relec we bring will be a good travel companion today.

Right now We remember the reason that brought us here as the gateway to our adventure for the South Seas. The first is that Port Vila, which we saw yesterday, is one of the most peculiar capitals of the entire Pacific. The second is the spectacular Mt. Yasur and its volcano. But above all of them, get to know one of the purest and most preserved cultures in the world.

It's 8 in the morning, Flora calls us for breakfast. She is Jenny's niece and is the one who runs this pair of bungalows. What do you see in the background? We are in Enhahi or Port Resolution, a formidable bay for any ship (You can even see some anchored sailboat). We are in one of the places that John Cook made famous in his explorations when, lost in the storm, he was guided by the fire and lava that the Yasur Volcano gave off until reaching the shelter of this place. Thus the New Hebrides were born and at this point the first establishment was founded.

Enhahi, a land of mystery thousands of kilometers away

Breakfast is ... let's say ... very simple. An instant coffee, bread from two days ago and some butter. We already knew that we dispensed with certain amenities when we arrived at this location. The water in the shower is "of the weather" (quite hot, everything has to be said) and the electricity shines because of its absence since the generator that gave "something" from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm yesterday remained broken. We live with a group of natives and you can breathe authenticity in abundance

But today It is also a special day since it is Isaac's 34th birthday. !! HAPPINESSEEEEEEES !! in one of the most special places on the planet where we have been on these dates, the Mysterious island of Tanna.

It is a privilege to be able to relive, for a moment, what Cook had to feel seeing this land for the first time. Imagine entering this same bay while we are watched by a large group of indigenous people and being greeted with lots of tropical fruits, small pigs and fish in exchange for fabrics, tools and other objects, it is exciting.

Nowadays you can still see in the bay area the ancient customs of fishing, hunting or gathering even of the smallest.

Although it is possible that neither the photos (and less this story on the march) give rise to being able to be placed in the context, we feel lost where "Christ lost the shoe." Just some natives (and a feeling of isolation and immense loneliness) They invade our journey. We are 3 hours from the nearest airport at the other end of an absolutely mysterious leafy island.

Enhahi is a land of mystery. It is the homeland of Mount Yasur, the most accessible volcano in the world. Also the birthplace of the famous Toka Dance, the area of ​​the famous Port Resolution Bay or home to natural hot springs, geysers, haematittes and steam sites.

We read, not long ago on the internet, of someone who commented on stories of mothers lost in the jungle or canoe by the raging sea to give birth at the nearest hospital, knowing that they had more chances of survival. Sometimes the nearest hospital is 2 or 3 days from hard to reach areas such as Tanna Point

We walked along the volcanic black sand beach full of traces of coconuts, corals and some objects that the sea has brought to this protected place in a privileged way.

In the distance, among the clouds that are respecting us in the morning, the lighthouse that allowed Cook to take refuge in Tanna, the Yasur volcano, can be seen

For a "Vernian" this vision, combined with the legends and traditions of the island, brings us some similarity, mmm ... We are in The mysterious island of Jules Verne!

We are going to start to get into (to see if we do not get lost) towards the interior of the island, trying to reach another famous beach that is at the other end of the bay and thus be able to see the true population of the authentic Melanesia.

The last redoubt of Melanesia

Vanuatu is home to an important redoubt of Melanesian culture that preserves its most ancestral traditions and rituals. It is an exotic country where it seems incredible that we are in full S.XXI.

He Tanna's interior He doesn't let the light in his world. We cross green places, places in gloom… It was really born from that darkness of the earth that the Yasur volcano generated around it.

To find, we observe areas where not even human life has had a place, with huge spider webs on the edge of the road they really remember scenes where Frodo addresses Mordor in The Lord of the Rings

Wherever we go, we are greeted with a pleasant "Allo" that we were told so much yesterday. Again the kindness of a really hospitable population It makes you feel really comfortable and so we reach one of its villages or Kastom where there is also a community school and you can even see houses built in trees or Men wearing the traditional "namba" or loincloth made of pandano leaves. Even his women with traditional straw skirts. Modern inventions are literally prohibited ...

Around here is also the village of John Frum as we read. John Frum's cult story has crumb since it is originally from the 1940s when the worship of a person who left the island began promising that he would return with gifts. It is not known if it really existed although the legend speaks of a man of short stature with white hair and a high tone of voice that, by his description of dress, fits that it was a member of the United States Armed Forces. Other hypotheses maintain that it might be presented as "John from America "and the natives will only keep the first. In any case, they believe that one day they will return with a ship loaded with provisions (including a 25CV engine for the village ship) and celebrate their anniversary every 15 of February Can you imagine being king for a day, Paulita?

He Melanesian, at least the natives of VanuatuThey are dark skinned with hair of different shades from black to golden blond and of a certain degree of miscegenation and a very strong skin smell.

Between legend and legend and populated and populated, we have reached the other end of the bay, the so-called White beach, which says that, in addition to being white sand, it is the best island beach to bathe in the warm (and humid, breeze! breeze!) breeze of the Pacific Ocean. It may be, but today the sea is raging and scary to get into. Well, not everyone ...

It is hard to imagine how this vast expanse of the world called the Pacific Ocean has so little knowledge and everything based on stories and legends, some of former sailors. Some of the evidence to get here told us in his day Jorge Sánchez and Floren and arrive from the exciting time of the navigators of the 16th century, the vast majority of them SpanishBefore Cook would be Pedro Fernández de Quiros who would step on these lands for the first time in 1606 baptizing him as Terra Australis of the Holy Spirit, thinking that he had reached the Antarctica that we already visited on our 2009 trip

We return to our steps by reading that the peoples of Melanesia, like Micronesia, do not show a homogenous historical-cultural past, but rather challenge any attempt to categorize between speakers of Papuans and Melanesian oceanic languages.

As we go along the road we receive "allos" (hellos). People (as we said) are friendly and hospitable, with that smile they always give you. It is also strange (we see that everything is), as we read yesterday, its history is accompanied by foreigners and colonizers whose past speaks of abductions of Melanesians forced to work in the plantations of Australia does not do much.

The day has opened and you can see Port Resolution from above, among the greenery, more beautiful than from anywhere

Back on the beach We remember Tom Hanks movie "Shipwrecked" and his famous coconut with the painted hand, the protagonist's only friend for years. This was filmed on an island in Fiji, it seems to be ...

Returning next to our humble bungalows we see that it comes out a kind of steam from the bottom of the beach, like the one we saw in the morning next to our room. They are only 10 steps away and we didn't see them when they left because now low tide has discovered them. Are the hotsprings that give name to the area. There is the girl from New Zealand who came with us last night and a guide who had to take to tour the area.

They invite us to follow them and the guide takes us on a kind of climb and then down a cliff with small stairs carved in the rock and a wooden walkway. We arrive to another "vent" of the volcano of waters with very high temperatures and steam in the form of geyser

In addition to these hot springs, strange colors are observed in the rocks formed by an iron oreomineral that become the flower of crystals of different colors.

The young vanuatu guide makes a small demonstration of the temperature at which the water comes out by introducing a kind of sweet potatoes and letting them stand for a while. Very delicious!

We say goodbye to them (giving a tip to the 1000 VUV man for discovering these places) and we try to eat something (2000 VUV) in the Tanna Hotspring with the Port Resolution bay in the background.

The cannibals of the South Seas

It is very good temperature. We take the opportunity to arrange a transport with Flora so that in the afternoon we can reach some town and the volcano, while more local families come to wash their clothes in this area of ​​hot springs and greet us effusively

After a good rest Philipe appears in Robert's car, Our driver yesterday.

It will take us to the areas of influence of the Yasur volcano, starting with anotherlocal kastom, on a route similar to the following

Here is a topic that interests us a lot, especially after the disappearance of 2 Germans in French Polynesia recently. Cannibalism.

Though there are records of cannibalism already in Ancient Egypt due to major droughts, in the Crusades or in the World Wars, these rare cases are nothing more than anecdotes when we think of the jungles of Papua New Guinea and any native community isolated from Polynesia and Melanesia.

Among all these, are the Fiji and Vanuatu melanesias, in addition to Solomon, where the most cruel ritual cannibalism was practiced. People say that cannibalism became extinct on the islands in the 70s, although in Vanuatu it is impossible to certify its extinction 100%.

Upon entering the village we see a series of totems and symbols that have some respect ...

If we continue to deepen their culture, there is talk of two types of sorcerers within the tribes, those of "white magic" and those of "black magic". The latter have the power to play with death. The so-called "Klevers" also create magical potions to cure all kinds of diseases.

There are even beliefs that sorcerers can become sharks. Will they need travelers to complete their potions?

What is unquestionable, is that in Tanna dances occur that do not exist in another part of the world, the vast majority of traditional ceremonies, where the most spectacular occurs once a year, the so-called Toka ceremony.

It is a festival that lasts up to 3 days and the people are in charge of the preparations to compete with the other towns in terms of food and gifts. The traditional gifts are pigs, kava (here very famous although we will see it in other places of the trip) or straw carpets. It is like a contest. The tribal chiefs are the ones who make the decisions of judges, they even have the power to expel the foreigners. What we don't know is how they understand each other because in Tanna herself there is up !! 5 different dialects !! Luckily they have the bislama. His dances give some respect, At times they look like ghosts ...

But the most desired moment of the day arrives (and that the day has given for a lot), the island's volcano awaits us.

The active volcano that dominates Tanna, Mount Yasur

Philipe put the car in the deep jungle again. It would be impossible to access here without an experienced driver. There are no signals, there is no GPS and you have to forget about compasses that serve. Only the instinct of a native since not even the volcano itself can be perceived from the lush vegetation. However, in a moment, all kinds of animal and plant life disappear and we begin to be surrounded by huge fields of black earth around the area of ​​a mountain from which a lot of smoke comes out and we intuit that it is our destiny. Right now We remember the Timanfaya park that we saw in Lanzarote not long agoHowever, this is much more gloomy and less prepared.

We had read that Vanuatu was one of the few places in the world where you could send an email underwater but the most amazing thing is you can also do it at the base of Yasur volcano itself. !! What things !!

He Yasur volcano is another active volcano in the world. We say another one because we were the amazing one last year Nyiragongo experience in R.D. Congo with Juve and Ruth that was really shocking. The difference is that while he had an impressive lava lake and a climb to the top of 5 and a half hours, in this we are facing one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world, just by stairs.

The gloomy place becomes really creepy when we start climbing and We heard an explosion and a series of fires coming in the distance. Our bodies are overwhelmed. Philipe tells us that Last week the volcano was in Level 3 and you couldn't climb from the base. Today it is "reasonably" safe since it is at level 2. Paula, do we dare to continue climbing? Claroooo

He Yasur volcano has nothing to do with Nyiragongo Where to sleep on top or be able to quietly observe its lava lake was an unforgettable experience. Here explosions happen that leave you really shocked. Thus, little by little we reach the top and Philipe directs us to one of the two vision points, on the right side.

Everything shudders again. A new eruption raises amazing orange flares again in the dusk. Philipe, who had advanced a few meters, runs towards us. !!Behind!! !!Behind!! The wind has changed and the people who were on this side run away. There seems to be no danger of eruptions, but a toxic cloud is heading towards that side. Philipe takes us to another high point ...

We have arrived. Almost in the middle of the dark of the night, the active volcano looks really spectacular ...

The show that we are witnessing lava and reddish colors well worth spending such exciting momentsbecause the respect we have (I would dare to call it fear) intermingles with something really wonderful.

There is a new explosion, the strongest so far. Everything trembles. This is the closest thing to hell we've ever seen. They occur every 3 or 4 minutes, but this has been really scary.

Legs shake, fear or emotion, we wouldn't know how to say but we can't take much longer up here. It is difficult to explain but just thinking where we are generates some concern. Now we understand that it is not surprising that Mr. Cook saw it from afar ... and if he did not see it, he would hear it for sure. Last photos… !! withdraw!

If he Nyiragongo is one of the 3 most spectacular lava lakes in the world, here in Tanna, on a remote and lost island of Vanuatu, we have been able to observe one of the most impressive active volcanoes in permanent eruption. And we can't help but comment, who hasn't ever played The Secret of Monkey Island? A classic for those of our generation. Although it is inspired by Caribbean adventures when they thought of the Monkey island, we could perfectly have been inspired by the island of Tanna. Beaches with orphaned boats, most picturesque tribes, sacrifices to the volcano and ... caralimón?

We are heading back, remembering the stories of the good traveler Merche which told us that, despite the precariousness, the passage through this island anchored in time is worth it. Everything must be recognized, the Tanna Hotspring, today with the generator running, is certainly gloomy but has its charm.


We have already decided what we will do. It does not stop raining and the whole week it is expected that the rains will go to more and even there will be storms. Staying in Vanuatu is not going to be a good idea so we will take the flight to Honiara It leaves on Tuesday (only day) at 9'00 and there we will try to reach the dreamed Marovoo Lagoon.

The other option is to reach Espiritu Santo or Pentecostes but time takes us back any plan and more seeing the multitude of cancellations of flights that occur.

Today, as much as I tried, I would not have been able to blow enough to blow out the "candles" though Paula always has a surprise reserved for me and the candle I bought yesterday was brought, So, before we get back in the car, made me blow to wish me "happy birthday". Even around the Tanna Hotspring, after dinner (2000 VUV). They had prepared a cupcake in my honor with ... !! 34 matches !! and clapped 34 times when I blew them. These people are wonderful ... and Paula more. What more can you ask for from such a place with such a company?

Paula and Isaac, from the mysterious island of Tanna (Vanuatu)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 5000 VUV (approx 45.4 EUR)