The first few weeks of us had been active enough. We’d hiked, climbed, caved, canyoned, kayaked and more. It would have been perfectly acceptable to spend a few days lounging on a beach on Tanna Island, soaking up the Pacific sun. However, you don’t go to Tanna without seeing the “Old Man” that is Mount Yasur volcano, and we were no exception.
The imposing volcano dominates the skyline and can be seen from almost everywhere on Tanna. Whether you’re skidding across the ash plains that surround the volcano or watching the smoke plumes drift out to sea, there’s no escaping the commanding influence Mount Yasur volcano has on the island and its people.
We hiked 45 minutes from the dirt tracks below, listening to the rumbles tumbling down the mountainside. Excitedly, we ran ahead to get our first view. Kia switched on her camera to record our approach. She couldn’t even finish her first sentence before an almighty explosion interrupted her introduction. Laughing nervously, she continued onwards.
There are two craters that make up Mount Yasur volcano, each as violent as the other. We paused at the bigger one, watching grey smoke billow into the sky above. Moving onto the smaller one, we realised that it offered a better view. Here, you could see directly into the volcano and watch the molten lava snap viciously at the bottom. We continued onward amid eruption after eruption, each accompanied by an explosive boom that made us shrink from the crater’s edge.
At dusk, the volcano is exhilarating. In the dark, it’s downright terrifying. As the light faded, the colours became more pronounced: the vibrant yellows, deep oranges, hot reds all coming alive against the pitch-black backdrop. With each explosion came a mass of molten lava while rocks spat into the sky above. At times, from the crater rim I watched the downpour above wondering if it would rain down upon us.
“Are we really safe?” I nervously asked myself, recalling the story of a Japanese tourist and two National Geographic photographers who had died at the hands ofMount Yasur volcano a few years ago.
I could understand why they had got so close: The photographer in me was mesmerised, capturing long exposures and wide angles of the action below. At 6pm, all the other visitors began to descend. Luckily, we had asked our driver to meet us later so had more time there in dark. Shortly after sundown, we realised we were completely alone on the mountain. There was not a soul around and not a noise to be heard other than the deafening outbursts beneath.
“Best be getting back, I guess?” Kia asked.
“Maybe just another ten minutes?” I replied as I repositioned my tripod for another shot.
Mount Yasur volcano
Port Vila on Vanuatu’s main island, Efate, has an international airport with regular flights to Australian east coast airports (book via skyscanner.net).