A Travellerspoint blog

March 2006

Watch out for the sand people

Yes for all those dedicated fans that was a Star Wars reference, inspired by the landscape around the Volcanoes in the centre of Ambrym Island.

We decided this time to attempt to camp between Ambryms twin Volcanoes on top of the ash plain and do the trek in 2 days. The weather was quite hot and our packs were much heavier than last time. It took us 5 hours of hard slog to reach the awe-inspiring view at the top of Mt Marum – we were blessed with clear weather again! As we were getting close to Mt Marum we heard a loud rumbling quite like thunder. We thought a storm was coming…but when we reached the top we realised that it was bursts of hot gas roaring out of one of the Volcano vents.

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(Almost there)

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(Inside the crater – the small hole in the centre is the place where the roaring sound was coming from)

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(We made it!)

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(Walking around the edge of the crater of Mt. Marrum)

We continued our journey to the other side of Mt Marum towards Mt Benbow volcano. The ash plain was a scene straight out of star wars…big boulders, stark landscape, no trees, and mountainous backdrops. There was even a small hot vent that was emitting steam, like a scene from an early science fiction movie…or ‘lost in space’. It was really hot when you put your hand up close.

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(Mt. Benbow in the Background)

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(A scene straight out of Star Wars)

As we approached Mt Benbow the billowing clouds of gas and steam rose above us from this very active Volcano. We were planning to walk right up to the crater of Mt. Benbow, a little scary with so much activity….but our guide couldn’t find the path to get to the top. Instead we decided to camp between the two Volcanoes and then head back the way we had come in the morning. We were a little disappointed about having to retrace our steps!

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(Our campsite – total silence accompanied us once we’d settled in for the night)

During the night it began to rain and by morning the whole scene had changed. We were clouded in which made the trip home much cooler, but also gave the landscape a more eerie look.

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(Walking home through the mist)

Unfortunately as we set out for the second days walk, Pippa’s feet were in agony. She had at least 10 blisters by this time. Although it was extremely painful, somehow she managed to walk the 15km back to our bungalows!!!

Posted by pippamatt 21:33 Comments (0)

Women power!

We have had a really rewarding past few weeks here on Ambrym. The highlight was on Monday March 6th – Chief’s Day. We were presented with a salu-salu (i.e lae in Hawaii) and joined all the chiefs and council members up on stage for the official speeches.

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(Pippa about to receive her salu-salu with all the guests of honour)

Chief’s Day is celebrated every year but the annual occasion in Ranon, Ambrym this year was very unique. 600 people throughout the North Ambrym district came together to celebrate the official handing over ceremony of the local area council to women. This is the first time in the history of the Pacific a local council will be run by women.

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(The new Lolihor Development Council)

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(The official handover from the men to the new woman council)

The Lolihor Development Council, which has been managed by men since its inception 12 years ago, is responsible for managing community issues such as health, water, education, transport, tourism, and governance.

The famous super nurse Rosie was appointed the role as Chairwomen. Pippa was asked to give a speech....in Bislama. After a few dull speeches, she stood up and spoke briefly about the work she has been doing, gave a big congratulations to the newly appointed women and then decided to run an interactive activity to demonstrate what happens when the community unites as one…she asked one women to stand up. Pippa yelled out hip hip and asked the women to yell out ”Booray” (locals have embraced hip hip boorays as their celebratory cry during New Years festivities). She then asked all the women present to stand up and do the same thing. To finish off her presentation, she asked all the men and pikininis (kids) that support the women to join in. It was pretty powerful having 600 locals all cheering for the cause for women to have more say in the community. Part of our future work will be to help build the capacity of the newly elected women.

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(Pippa giving her speech)

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(The women cheering their Hip Hip Boorays)

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(Pippa and Matt with the masterminds behind the change of council - Our Supervisor George Bumseng and his cousin John Salong who now resides in Australia)

Another highlight was a return visit to the spectacular Ambrym Island volcanoes. We had another Australian Youth Ambassador (Krista) join us on our adventures. See the next travel blog for piccies and story.

Posted by pippamatt 21:19 Comments (1)

Back on Ambrym

Our last few weeks in Villa were really productive with Matt starting his new job and Pippa getting lots of marketing and grant application work finalised. Matt is working for a non-governmental organisation known as Live and Learn environmental education. His main work will be training teachers to pass onto students the importance of caring for rivers in Vanuatu. Some of this work will be carried out on Ambrym Island, some on a nearby island known as Maewo and the rest when we are in Port Villa. We both had a great time in Villa getting lots of work done, eating a wider variety of food, and yes we’ve said it so many times enjoying lots of icy cold drinks.

We decided to travel back to Ambrym on the cargo boat. We had loads of gear and food to get back and the excess freight on the plane would have been a killer. We also saved around $200 just on our fares as the cargo boat was only $50 each! The trip was as good as it possibly could be. We set out from Port Villa at 9pm (only 2 hours late) and arrived at 3pm the next afternoon. The sea was calm, there were only 11 other passengers on the boat and we even managed to grab an hour of sleep or so on the hard wooden benches. (Sometime the boat can be so full that finding a place to sit down is almost impossible and the sea can get really rough!)

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(The hive of activity when off loading and loading cargo on to the boat)

We were prepared for the hardships of Ambrym and knew that adjusting back to Island life would be hard after the luxury of Villa. We were right to prepare ourselves – the mozzies are thick, mould is starting to grow on everything, the ants are taking over even to the point of finding their way into zip lock bags, rats are waking us up during the night rummaging through our stuff and more to the point, there is no cold beer! Besides all this, it has felt like coming home with our friends and family welcoming us back warmly as we got off the ship. It has been heart warming to wander around and catch up with the locals and we are realizing how difficult it will be to say goodbye at the end of our stay. The hard work we did in Vila has also been well received and they hope it will result in more tourists visiting their island.

Now that we have been back for a week, we have solved the rat and ant problems, we are getting used to the heat again and our daily routine includes applying mozzie repellant three times. We are once again enjoying having lots of quality time together which is much easier to find without the distractions of modern life.

Talking of modern life, we have set up the solar panel that Pippa’s Dad gave us in our bungalow bedroom. This is just a temporary set up until we move into our new place. Last night we used the light for the first time. It felt a little odd laying in bed reading a book without a head torch on but our eyes will be much better off. When we set up the system properly in our new house, it will be awesome to have decent light in the kitchen while we are preparing dinner. Not sure how many bugs we have eaten in the last 6 months from preparing meals in dim kerosene lamp light! We have also rigged up a small bedside fan which will be a welcome relief on the next really hot day. Pippa’s Dad also bought us a small beer cooler that runs on 12 volts. Our quest for a cold drink is coming closer to fruition! We will keep you posted!

Below is a photo showing the progression on our new house. Doors, the verandah and inside furniture are yet to come. We are looking forward to having our own place (especially with the solar system all in place!), but we will have to get used to the small incline from the bedroom to the kitchen. The guys forgot to use a spirit level during construction, so the floorboards have about a 10 degree slope.

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For all those cat lovers out there, we just thought we’d give you a quick update on the kittens. One has been taken to a new family but we are still left with three mischievous playful cute little kittens. There are lots of play fights, random spurts of energy, hungry meowing, adventurous tree climbing and snuggles with Mum.

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There also a few new fruits in season. Our favourite would have to be the pomplemousse – the sweetest and most delicious grapefruit we have ever tasted! We also tried samlong fruits for the first time which taste a bit like pomegranates. The avacado and orange season is just around the corner and we can’t wait!

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Posted by pippamatt 23:24 Comments (3)

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