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Impressions of the continuously Active Mount Yasur on stunning Tanna

Have you ever dreamed of standing on the summit of a fire-spitting volcano? Not many have until asked this question. Standing at the edge of a lava lake, eye to eye with a permanently roaring volcano, just meters from a dangerously erupting volcano with boulders flying everywhere.

We spent four days on Tanna island, one of Vanuatu’s outer islands, far south. Here we found “Jungle Oasis,” a guest house run by locals and directly located at the foot of Mount Yasur. We stayed in a treehouse, which offered an unrestricted view of the volcano.

We went up the volcano at sunset and again at sunrise the next day. This gave us two different experiences of the fantastic landscape. The volcano seems dipped in blood red at night, and starry heaven intensifies this scenery. As the sun rises, a magical mixture of morning light and shimmering ash fills the air.

Then there is a somewhat uncomfortable side of this volcano adventure. Standing on the volcano’s edge and experiencing its mighty power, every eruption is followed by an ash cloud that you can be sure will hit you. Initially, this is not comfortable. It gets bloody cold. A mix of sulfur ash hinders your breathing while you have to close your eyes to avoid all that ash. But we survived it 😉

Mount Yasur - The Active Volcano on Tanna

Life On Tanna

Besides the incredible volcano Mount Yasur, Tanna is home to beautiful remote beaches and traditional tribes.

There is a tiny little village called Port Resolution in southern Tanna, named after James Cook’s sailing ship „Resolution” when he docked there 1774. At Port Resolution’s southern end, there is a dreamy white sandy beach where you are entirely on your own to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, or simply chill in the sun.

And in total contrast, on the northern end, there is a black sandy beach where you’ll find the locals fishing, chilling, and their children playing in the shallow water. When observing this scenery, one gets the feeling of how carefree life really could be.

All locals still live in their villages and according to ancient customs that have been preserved through centuries. 

There are strong relationships between villages and tribes celebrated by inter-tribe marriages. When talking to the people, you immediately get the impression that everyone is related to everyone else.

The villages openly welcome visitors. The people share insights into their daily life and customs. They love performing their traditional dances. Every dance and song has a completely different melody and meaning. One dance we enjoyed was about the Chinese people that came to Tanna to build new roads, but the locals don’t like their heavy and noisy vehicles.

Language is also an exciting topic…. There are six different languages on Tanna (out of 82 across complete Vanuatu). If you think you can communicate with the locals a little bit with your newly learned Bislama vocabulary – mmmh – no. Not even the word for „Thank you“ is the same in all these various languages.

The Yakel Tribe on Tanna

On one of our evenings on Tanna Island, our host Kelson showed us the movie „Tannair?t=island0bb 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B07D26T79F“ (you won’t believe it, on a giant TV screen ;-). This film was awarded several international prizes, among others, at the film festival in Venice 2015. It tells the true and tragic story of a forbidden Romeo and Juliet-love in the 1880s on Tanna.

All ancient customs presented in the film are still alive today, and only the rule of arranged marriages has been changed because of the suicide of the two lovers. A great movie – which was filmed exclusively in Vanuatu – and with the village Yakel people as actors.

Yakel has 186 inhabitants. It has a central meeting place called Nakamal. Tribes have extensive garden areas, which quite frankly look like a jungle to us but are filled with fruits, roots, and wild vegetables. Pigs and piglets are to be seen all around the village.

Homes are made of branches and twigs, and they even bost a guest treehouse. Be warned; it has no electricity nor running water. Your toilet is in the bushes somewhere.  

Clothes worn by tribal members are mainly made of tree barks. Various places in the village are tabu for women, even female tourists.

Even the movie, Tanna, has not changed Yakel. It is simply too remote. Some visitors come by from time to time, who receive a friendly welcome and can buy traditional clothes and pig tusks-necklaces. Pietro liked the Namba, the penis sheath, which is, in principle, the only male garment. 😉



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