Ambrym, Vanuatu. Surreal looking, but real. Mt. Marum’s volcanic activity colors the night sky.
Ambrym, Vanuatu’s Mt. Marum is one of few places in the world it’s possible (as is Vanuatu’s Mt. Yassur volcano on Tanna – more on that in an upcoming post).
Banana flower on one of Ambrym’s plantations; passed on the way to active volcano, Mt. Marum, Vanuatu.
This butterfly looked like its wings were stolen
from the blue skies of Ambym, Vanuatu.
Jonas leads the way past a bamboo
thicket on the trail to Ambym’s
Mt. Marum volcano, Vanuatu.
Our bush trek took us under – and, in one case, between — the roots of massive banyan trees, eventually giving way to a diverse forest of lush ferns, from creepers, to waist high to towering palm-tree size. Red-violet orchids flourished, dramatically thrusting up through the charcoal-colored volcanic ash plains.
Ambrym, Vanuatu volcano base camp hut; we tent camped nearby.
By early afternoon, we reached the overnight base camp, a thatched-roof hut, complete with wooden floors, and a Georgia-O’Keafe touch, a decorative cow skull. We set up our tent nearby, to privacy and to better screen out prospective malaria or dengue-fever-infected mosquitoes, as the hut, like most structures here, was relatively open.
Base camp kettle for making water potable, as well for the requisite camp coffee or tea.
The sun had set at this point, but we figured we had another 30-45 minutes until dark. When we asked how much further, as what was ahead looked even dicier, we were told “about an hour.”
These weird sausage-like protrusion from this palm’s trunk
are actually new roots, slowly seeking their way
down to the ground.
What we just finished in the last 45 minutes looked far more technical than we wanted to return though darkness. What was ahead looked worse. We’d just reached the end of a knife-edge ridge, not wider than 2 feet, with sphincter-tightening steep drop-offs on each side.
- Pack the night before to make the village start point at 7 am, rather than 8 am-something
- Take the truck as far as we could (we walked about 1/2 hour from the beach to the village (mostly up), then four and a half hours up from the village to the hut; we could’ve cut that in half or more.
- Again use the porter for camping gear and maybe more water
- Either take only a brief rest before continuing us to the caldera -or –
- Spend the next day hiking the caldera back to the hut, then the following day, back.
- Bring better flashlights, in an ideal world, good headlamps (ours weren’t working, or we’d have brought them)
Ambym’s active volcano, Mt. Marum looked deceptively calm the morning we headed back to our boat. Vanuatu.
With some effort, I probably could’ve made the hike in two days, even without the truck lift, but these days I’m in better hiking condition than Wayne. I had no intention of leaving him behind, especially after worrying him on Waya Sewa.
Jonas scaled the coconut tree and is now
harvesting its bounty. Ambrym, Vanuatu.
One of the several methods Jonas used to access
the coconut water. Ambrym, Vanuatu.
A piece of the coconut’s husk doubles as a spoon to enjoy this young coconut meat. Ambrym, Vanuatu.
The next day, on the way back, Wayne finally firsthand discovered the restorative powers of coconut water. Jonas scampered up one of the plantation trees, knocking down a dozen or so, about half of which the three of us greedily sucked down. “Numbah One!” exclaimed Jonas, with beaming satisfaction, indicating the coconuts. We agreed. I mulled over the irony that the food we brought for trail munchies and beverages were processed versions, pale in comparison to what grows naturally in Vanuatu … coconut, chocolate, coffee and vanilla, as well as a plethora of sumptuous fruit. Jonas brought back the remaining coconuts, along with a large soursop. Grocery shopping, Ni-Van style.
Amazingly, we returned to our breached dinghy the next afternoon without a scratch, bruise, or even mosquito bite — far better than we expected. Thanks to some strategically-timed ibuprofen doses, we weren’t even sore.
Our dinghy, still there, right where we left it the morning before, where we first began our hike to Ambrym’s volcano. Whew!
Ambrym volcano hike map; pilfered from Malampa Travel and marked up with our Mt. Marum observations.
Learn from our mistakes, and plan the perfect hike to the rim overlooking Ambrym’s incredible caldera.
- Put catchment tanks to collect rainwater for drinking, at least one small one on the track and a larger one at the base camp, reducing the amount of water that needs to be carried
- Create and maintain at least one un-occluded viewpoint, either via pruning, a tree house platform or simple tower
- Hire guides with a better command of English (the most common language we find spoken among international cruisers and Kiwis and Ozzies make up the bulk of Vanuatu’s tourists)
- Or, better yet, provide an info sheet with hike, volcano, flora and fauna info
- Include a brief stop both ways at the plantation for coconut and ripe fruit for trail consumption, and plant some harvestable crops near the base camp
About the only relatively un-occluded territorial viewpoint on the trail to Mt. Marum. Ambrym, Vanuatu.
Yet, at the same time, much of what makes the Ambrym hike so awesome is its remoteness and simplicity. There are no signs. No souvenir shops. No bloated entry fees. No hordes of tourists too busy taking selfies to appreciate the magnitude of this truly natural wonder.
This is a recent retrospective of our time on Ambrym, Vanuatu, which we sailed to for a cultural festival in Nopul, and missed because they held it earlier! We then re-anchored off black lava beach (S19.09.072 E168.06.433) our hike up Ambrym’s volcano, September 2-3, 2016. This is the first post written since we’ve left Vanuatu. We are now in Noumea, New Caledonia (S22.16.695 E166.25.688). We arrived yesterday, September 21, 2016, after a little over a 3-day 305 mile passage, an overnighter, then another 38.5 miles.
- Our September 2016 sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia was 305 miles.
- Our August 2016 sail from Fiji to Vanuatu was 525 miles.
- We cruised just under 440 miles in Fiji, between late May and early August.
- Our May 2016 sail from New Zealand to Fiji was 1090 miles.
- December 2015 – May 2016 if we weren’t cruising New Zealand or hunkering, we were making massive road trips from New Zealand’s tip to its tail.
- From December 2014 – November 2015 we sailed from Northern Florida’s Atlantic side to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles, with more than a few stops in between.
- Prior to that we sailed from St. Lucia to Florida and also spent a season cruising the Bahamas.
|World view of our just completed passage from Vanuatu to New Caledonia, from Predict Wind.
We’re planning on cruising in New Caledonia until November. After New Caledonia, we head to Australia, by December 2016 (but probably earlier). There, we plan to sell our boat, and go back to work, somewhere.