Jim's Jungle Adventure
Trip Start May 11, 2012
16Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Turtle Bay Inn
What I did
Cook's Hat, Mount Yasur, Port Resolution, hot springs, Shark bay
Fred George, the owner of Tree Tops, had agreed to drive us to Port Resolution. Pretty soon we came to a stop when a group of people came towards us. Two men were carrying a long pole. Lashed upside down to the pole was a pig. Its four legs were bound together and its mouth was tied shut
We wanted to stay at Turtle Bay Inn, but when we reached the turning down to the bay, Fred was suddenly quite vehement in trying to dissuade us from visiting. He said we would get bored and it was too isolated with nobody around there, and we would be much happier and more comfortable at the Port Resolution Yacht Club. Giving in to local knowledge, we agreed to go with his recommendation. The Club was perched high on a cliff, and the views from the little house they gave us were stunning. Lunch was less impressive, and there didn't seem to be any running water, but we decided to give try the place for a night.
Near the yacht club is a large and pleasant village, with neat huts. There is a little restaurant- open by prior appointment- and a large football field with bamboo goal posts. Football seems to be the sport of choice here, and the local teams take it pretty seriously, with regular training sessions. At Yasur, we met the local team, whose exercise regime includes running up and down the volcano. After strolling through the village we followed a path down on to the black volcanic beach
We were assigned a guide, who led us along a trail through the bush. Eventually the trail descended to a rocky shore. A hot spring was bubbling and gushing at the bottom of the cliff face. The first pool was scalding, so we cautiously picked our way through a series of rock pools until we found one that was cool enough to sit in. Hot water flowed from the spring, and also rose up from the gravel beneath us, which was very hot to the touch. Arranging rounded rocks beneath us, we created a comfy seating area and lay back, listening to the waves and watching crabs feeding on the algae that covered some of the rocks. The tide was rising, and occasionally a big wave would pour into our pool, bringing a flood of cool salt water, just like a plunge pool. As the tide got higher, the temperature in the pool dropped, and we moved closer to the gushing spring. A fisherman hauled his outrigger onto the rocks and joined us, sticking his feet in the water. He bemoaned the day's fishing; wind and light had been all wrong and he hadn't caught anything. We left him to bathe, and returned along the beach to the Yacht Club. We met another fisherman carrying a brightly painted wooden oar and some small silver fish- the day's catch. seafood was clearly not going to be on our dinner menu
The Yacht Club's generator insisted on breaking down repeatedly, so we spent most of the night in the dark. Luckily the lack of power did not deter Esther- her curried chicken with plantain and a cucumber-like vegetable was very good. We drank a couple of Tusker beers and traded stories with the owner, Werry, before finding out that now the water was off again too.
Awakening the next morning, we packed and headed to breakfast. We had met James the day before; he was the proud owner of a shiney white truck and had promised to take us to Turtle Bay at 9 am. We sat down, and were told that there would be no breakfast that morning. Things weren't quite going to plan. Jim had already eaten my orange and began slicing up a pawpaw from our supplies. I think pawpaw is rather bland, but if it was our only option, then it was better than nothing. The yacht club's ginger tom cat had been very interested in the unsliced fruit, and kept trying to get hold of it. When Jim began cutting it up, he became very excited, and tried to insist on getting up onto the table. Repeatedly, Jim or I would pluck him off, only to have him hop up again. Eventually we we had won. Then a small orange head popped up from the chair next to me, with eyes full of cunning plans. I gave him my best teacher stare with a firm 'no'. He understood the tone- his ears went back and he gave a short hiss, but slunk off anyway. Later on Jim gave him some of the seeds from the middle of the pawpaw; he and the rooster thoroughly enjoyed munching the orange flesh
Meanwhile, good news- Esther had appeared, and there was going to be breakfast! It was worth waiting for- a large plate of fried bread, which tasted just like sliced doughnuts and came with a big pot of jam. Delicious! We brewed up some Tanna coffee in a tea pot, which washed everything down nicely. Then we went outside to wait for the truck. We waited. And waited. Then we waited some more. It became clear that no truck was forthcoming. We picked up our bags, and were preparing to walk, when the redoubtable Esther came to our rescue again. She didn't have a shiney white truck, but she did know all the shortcuts to get to Turtle Bay and would gladly show us. She shouldered my small day pack and we followed her down a faint and narrow trail into the bush.
It was a great walk. Esther told us about all the plants that we passed. We found villages tucked away in the bush, with free range chickens and pigs in pens formed by thick logs knocked into the ground. A man worked at a bush sawmill, consisting of trestle tables and a chain saw, which somehow produced long straight beams of wood. Piglets dashed through the bush in front of us- Esther explained that their owners would mark their ears. Unmarked pigs are wild, and are hunted with bow and arrow by the men
The track wound down, past coconuts, tapioca and banana plants. Jim expressed delight at our walk in the jungle, which drew peals of laughter from Esther. Soon we could hear the sea, and arrived at Turtle Bay. It turned out to be my favourite accommodation on Tanna. It is run by a French couple, Maurice and Gillian, who were very friendly and welcoming, and surrounded by a ranbunctious and exhuberant pack of dogs, who greeted us with glee. Our bungalow was large and airy, and our en suite shower had warm water piped from a hot spring. As you would expect from a French establishment, the food was excellent- European influenced with a Vanuatu twist. Gillian and her cook Marie Pauline can do incredible things with a papaya...
We discovered the reason for Fred's reluctance to bring us down here- apparently his truck cannot handle the steep and windy dirt road down. It is a poor road- even by Tanna standards. People here are very reluctant to let you down. They are also unwilling to show you that they do not understand or are unable to do something
We walked along the beach, finding large cowries and giant clamshells. We spent the day relaxing and exploring, and in the evening gave in to the lure of the volcano, taking a third and final drive out there. The mood was different once again- the vents were less active than on our previous visits, but there was a stunning sunset, and with no clouds our view was extremely clear. Once again we were the last people to leave.
Our final full day on Tanna was spent walking and snorkeling. Some areas of the reef were quite battered by the surf, but in other spots we found clear waters with lovely corals and gardens of anenomes with clownfish peering out. Jim found a large yellow sea horse, longer than my hand, which was almost indistinguishable from a piece of seaweed when it wrapped its tail around a rock and sat still. In the shallows, hot water bubbled up from beneath the sand, and the water temperature was as warm as a bath. After lunch we went to visit Shark Bay. Rosemarie led us along the beach and up a ladder to the clifftop. We passed round a headland and looked down to a blue bay with black sands
We walked through the forest, through a large banyan with archways through its roots. Rosemarie showed us a plant which had a fragrance like petrol when its leaves were crushed. Before the days of mozzie coils, it was used as an insect repellant. We passed through the village where we met Marie Pauline and her dog, Pinky. Rosemarie then pointed us to the trail back to the beach. We made it down the ladder and back along the length of the beach to our hut, where we had a bottle of wine waiting for us. The following morning we were rousted out of bed early by Gillian et ses cheins. We needed the early start so we could finish our breakfast of Tanna coffee, lemonade, passionfruit and toast (with 5 choices of jam) before returning along the bouncy road to White Grass Airport and our flight back to Port Vila.