A Travellerspoint blog

January 2006

Volcano Odyssey

On Friday 13th we made our epic adventure to one of Ambrym Island’s famous volcanoes, Mt Marum. We made the journey a 1-day training practical for some local tour guides. Each guide was assigned a section of the track to manage and interpret information along the way.

The night before our journey, we stayed at Isaiah’s bungalows in Ranvetlam, as this is the best starting point for the trek. Two AYAD volunteers have being staying with us throughout the week, so decided to join us on our big adventure.

We began our journey at 7am and walked for 3 hours through beautiful lush rainforest. At the edge of the ash plain where the rainforest ended, we were given a home made javelin made from local cane to throw out on to the ash plain. This local custom ensures a safe journey to the volcano. The walk along the dry ash plain was flat but hot. The guides found a few kinds of local berries to give to us to eat and many put flowers in their hair as decorations. After an hour of walking, we ventured up a rocky river channel to the ridge of the volcano. We were blessed with good weather and no sign of the dangerous winds the guides had mentioned on the way to the top.

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(Flower decorations – looking to the East from the Volcano top)

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(Mat making the final ascent)

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(We made it!)

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(Janelle, Phillipa, Pippa, Matt and George on the Volcano edge)

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(Matt with tour guides on the crater edge)

When we reached the top of the volcano crater, we yelled out a cry of amazement. The crater of the volcano was a huge canyon more than 1km across with sheer cliffs all around. Although there was no lava inside we could see jets of steam coming out of the rock and the smell of sulphur was quite strong and made you cough.

We took photos and then hiked around the rim of the volcano for a few hundred metres to see a smaller crater that joins the main one. This had a little more steam coming out but still no lava.

After a little more gawking at the amazing view we grudgingly began the walk home. It took us more than 4 hours with few breaks and we got home just before dark. Over all it was an exhilarating, amazing and exhausting day.

All the villages in our area have been celebrating Bon Anne (New Year). This involves all the people in one village gathering together with instruments and flowers. They head off to a neighbouring village (sometimes walking for more than 4 ours) and sing songs, dance, clap and cheer to welcome in the New Year. The singing is amazing with up to 50 people all singing in a beautiful harmony. Onlookers throw talcum powder, flour and sometimes paint onto the singers, while homemade fireworks go off. At the end of most songs the leader yells ‘hipi’ then everyone else answers with a deep, booming ‘booray’ (of course a local version of hipip hooray). You can hear the singing and cheering from miles around. After the singing flowers are sold and the host villagers also give gifts of food to the visitors. Bon Anne has lasted for 2 weeks and at the end all the money and food that has been collected is used to host a big end of Bon Anne feast.
Our local village came to sing Bon Anne to us. We then joined them and sang to a neighbouring village. It was heaps of fun but really tiring. It’s amazing these guys have been doing it for the last 2 weeks.

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(Pippa pouring talcum powder onto Bon Anne singers)

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(Pippa and Berry on their way to sing Bon Anne at a neighbouring village)

Posted by pippamatt 14:41 Comments (6)

Season greetings

We hope you all had a lovely Xmas and New Years Eve.

We have filled this festive season with family feasts, snorkeling adventures, gardening and relaxing on the hammock. Christmas on Ambrym was certainly a unique one that we will treasure always…

We listened to carols in local language at the church on Xmas Eve and although we didn’t understand the words, the harmonies of the locals were beautiful.

On Christmas morning, we opened up our parcels from Australia including an awesome board game, xmas table cloth, tea towel, calendars, boules, smelly soap, lollies and books – thank you everyone who sent us a little something!!

Pippa put on her colourful Mother Hubbard dress and we ventured down the hill to enjoy pancakes, bread and tea for breakfast with our ‘adopted family’. We gave everyone a small gift including marbles for the kids, family photos, tea towels and cards. We enjoyed a lunch under a big tree together consisting of banana and pumpkin lap lap, delicious roasted pork (a whole piglet cooked in a wood fired oven), pineapple, cucumber and rice. Although we didn’t have mince pies, turkey and a cold glass of wine, we felt pretty spoilt to be enjoying such a delicious feast. It was the most tender and moist pork we have ever tasted.

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(Pippa sitting with her adopted family about to eat the Christmas feast)

We spent the afternoon with the nurse Rosie’s family (next to the bungalow). It was beautiful weather, so we all lazed under the shady trees, played with the kids and their new toys we had given them (including a boomerang, frisbee and bubbles), Matt played the guitar with Stephen (nurse Rosies son) and we ate some more food as we watched the sunset! Overall, it was a lovely day although we did miss you all back home!

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(Kids pram – Vanuatu style)

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(Christmas Day sunset)

The day after Christmas is known as Family Day here. We enjoyed a relaxing day with our adopted family, Rosie’s family and Laan Douglas (our counterpart) playing boules, cards and eating local island food.

Willie, a Canadian friend/CUSO volunteer stayed with us over the Christmas period.
On Tuesday, we all went snorkeling along a massive drop off with incredible fish and coral. From the surface you see a small cliff coming out of the water but when you get in the cliff continues underwater as deep as you can see. Visibility was probably 20m but no sign of the end of the cliff could be seen. We were all a little nervous as we snorkled along the cliff because of how deep the water was. We felt a little exposed on the surface and so kept a close look out for sharks. At one point the cliff wall jutted right out in front of us so we had no idea what was around the corner. After a few deep breaths we worked up the courage and swam around the corner to come face to face with a massive 6ft groper. Not sure who got a bigger fright, him or us, but after the initial shock we watched him for a while and he watched us. We also saw a massive pod of dolphins and our first turtle, unfortunately after we got back out of the water!!
On the way back to the village we passed a bunch of boys swimming in a beautiful fresh water spring. We are told that there are quite a few turtles here! Maybe a place for our next snorkel?

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(Snokelling in the warm tropical waters of Vanuatu)

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(Matt and Willie with boys at the natural spring)

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(Local boys cooling off in the sea splash)

We also spent a day with our adopted family making a traditional meal called tuluk. It took all day and involved grating manioc, scratching coconut, milking coconut, cooking bully beef, onion and garlic, wrapping it up in lap lap leaves and roasting it in the fire. It ended up being delicious! We also planted a mango tree with the family to commemorate our stay here on Ambrym.

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(Kremer, Pippa and Nevin grating manioc)

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(Eta, Nevin and Kremer preparing the tuluk to be roasted in the fire)

The locals have decided they want a constant stream of volunteers to help this community As a result, the bungalow owner has decided to build a house dedicated to volunteers next to the tourist bungalows. We will soon be living local style in a house made from 100% natural materials. The house will be big enough for a small kitchen and bedroom and has a stunning view over the valley to the beach below. It should be complete in a month or two.

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(Our new house)

Posted by pippamatt 20:58 Comments (3)

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