Wednesday, Frank and Ian went to shore to burn our rubbish - big fun there. Then in the late afternoon the four of us went into the village to meet our driver, David, for the trek to Mt. Yasur.
Mount Yasur is an active volcano which, when it's activity is at level 1 or 2 visitors can hike up to it's rim. When, however it reaches level 3-4 the park closes for obvious safety reasons because it is very dangerous to be anywhere near. Just last month our friends Jim and Martha on "Special Blend" were anchored in Port Resolution when the volcano erupted causing mass evacuations. They were advised to leave the anchorage immediately. Yasur was at level 4 during that time. So, yes there actually is a danger here, but fortunately for us, it is presently downgraded to level 2.
David drove us across the ash field right up to the railed walkway that began the steep ascent to the rim, approx 150 meters. It was still daytime when we arrived. As we were making the walk upward, we could feel rumbling and hear what sounded like a freight train roaring down a track toward us. The hair on my arms stood on end and my heart raced with excitement. I couldn't wait to get up there. I think Frank was just as excited but he contained his emotions a little better than I could. Are we crazy?
We arrived at the top of the pathway and followed the rim around to a fairly high area that was designated as a safe observation point. Frank and I stepped as close to the edge as was permitted and peered over into what I can believe the ancient people thought was a gateway into Hell. The pit below us coughed up whiffs and rolling bellows of black smoke. It rumbled, it roared and it spewed fiery magma high up into the air. Sometimes the belch and roar came so suddenly and so loudly that it startled us and caused us to jolt in surprise. As the sun began to set the fire spewing upward became much more fiercely red and it seemed the eruptions came more frequently and more violently. I just couldn't get enough. I was mesmerized by the beauty and violence of this phenomenon. Frank took a few video clips and we both took loads of snapshots. After a couple of hours our eyes were stinging with ash and our lungs were screaming for fresh air as we breathed in the sooty, sulfuric smoke. I was thinking I could have stayed at least another hour just watching in thrilled horror at this once in a lifetime spectacle, and as I was standing there locked in my musings, Julia announced, "Right then, I'm bored. Can we leave now? It's getting a bit cold up here". That did it. We all agreed it was time to go, and besides we were all beginning to feel pretty well soot-covered anyway.
That is an experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. We feel tremendously fortunate to have had the opportunity to go up that volcano. And to think, Captain Cook was denied this same privilege, some 236 years ago and Old Yasur is still going strong.
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