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Published: October 16th 2007
It has been a long time since I’ve decided to write. Unfortunately, books, pen and paper all seem to collect dust now that I have music when I want and an endless supply of DVDs (solar panel, car battery and Chinese bootleg DVDs-hey there are no copywriting laws in Vu). Not entirely of course, but the reality of the situation is music and movies keep me sane in quicker time. But today is Sunday (which means the village is quiet with everyone at church) and I’ve just applied enough repellant to keep the mozzies away for a few hours and the pen stuck to my hand (the effects of DEET and plastic) so here goes…
A few weeks ago, I flew into Vila to replenish my stock of food and get some work done for the school. The typical plane you fly on is a ‘twin otter’ which holds I’d say about 30 people (crammed in) but usually there aren’t more than a handful of people. If there are passengers to be picked up or dropped off we might land and take off three more times before reaching Vila, but the flight pattern always takes us over water, no matter. Which is why when I noticed we were taking off straight for the volcanoes I was a bit confused, the flight pattern had changed and we were heading to the center of my island. The center of Ambrym is a desert like, very much like a photo of the Badlands in America. These ash plains some months before had left me in a state of vertigo-looking for something to safely anchor myself.
Back in March, I had two friends from Norway come and visit and they wanted to climb a volcano but none of us really knew what to expect. We walked a road of lava rock, which actually is reddish in color, and watched as all signs of life; vegetation, insects, etc., vanish around us. Gradually, for two hours we climbed to the ash plains. Looking behind us at this point, we could see the ocean and the island of Malekula, which lies west of Ambrym. Pretty amazing considering we were nearly at the center of an island of 680 km. But, as we ascended the first hill of the ash plains, the reality of the situation struck me. To reach either of the volcano's cones, we were to climb through ash-sand but lighter-dirt but looser-and this ash formed ridges that aren’t much wider than our bodies with nothing to grab hold of, and when you look behind there is no visible trail to recognize. After realizing we would continue through the ash plains for an hour or two and climb 3 or 4 more ridges like this before reaching the cones, Kristen and I cut our volcano experience short and turned back.
Since then, I haven’t returned. Sitting comfortably in the seat of an airplane, I realized how lucky I was that we were taking this path. Just then I turned my head to the other side of the plane, where we were right at level with the top of the crater of Benbow.
Ambrym has two volcano cones, both active, named Benbow and Marum. Marum for a while was lighting up the sky with its lava but it seems to have quieted down. Benbow just seems to smoke and cause no real disturbances. Apparently, the pilot of my plane needed to take a photo-I assume to record its’ activity.
Recently, my papa took me on a walk about 10 minutes into the bush from my house. He showed me a hole where you can feel hot air coming out. He explained that this is where the scientists come to take readings. It is in fact a side vent to the volcano. It is in fact why my village is not safe, if there is a volcanic eruption out of a side vent such as this one.
Yet that Saturday flying over the ash plains and parallel to the opening of an active volcano, I didn’t worry about its dangers. I just smiled and thought how beautiful my island is.
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
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