Tanna, Vanuatu

Tanna Island was named so by James Cook. It was sort of a misunderstanding. He apparently was trying to ask the locals what the name of their island was and pointed to some earth. They responded with “tanna” which means “earth” in the local language. A similar thing happened with the name of the bay we are anchored in. When Cook told them he was from a “boat” called Resolution they thought he meant to call the bay “port” resolution. So we are now anchored in “port” resolution, named after HMS Resolution.

You can see why such misunderstandings happen when you take a look at the national language, Bislama. This English-based pidgin (with a hint of French) is used throughout the entire archipelago of Vanuatu (83 islands). The kids thought some of the phrases were hilarious. For example: “Mi no likim” means “I don’t like it” and the numbers from one to ten are: wan, tu, tri, fo, faef, sikis, seven, eit, naen, ten.

We anchored in Port Resolution, right underneath a very active volcano, on Tuesday morning, after a very comfortable crossing from Lifou. It’s the same one that attracted Cook to enter this bay when he saw it erupting and glowing from a long distance away. I love the thought of Cook entering this sheltered bay and can only imagine what a sight that must have been for the locals.

When we contacted immigration we were told the local officer was unavailable and the next day was a public holiday. We were welcome to go ashore and formalities could be sorted in a few days or when we get to Port Vila, the capital. Happy with this reassuring news, we left the yellow flag up and proceeded ashore. The village was very simple: wooden huts and a dust track for a road, everything very neat and tidy, a very pretty and traditional village with a mysterious atmosphere to it. We were handed papayas, a huge courgette, bananas… People seemed happy to stop us for a chat and the kids played some football with the local children.

Yesterday we visited volcano Yasur. Vanuatu has nine active volcanoes (seven on land and two under the water) and Yasur is the most accessible one. Stanley, from the village, arranged transport to the volcano with a pickup truck (the roads are very bumpy). We weren’t alone (some other yachties and also some tourists on a day trip from Port Vila) but it certainly wasn’t crowded either and everyone got a frontline view on the rim of the volcano. We saw Yasur spout lava and ash and felt it rumble, growl and explode with loud bangs. It was truly spectacular, a once in a lifetime experience. We watched the sun go down and then admired the red lava even more. The volcano didn’t disappoint and kept on puffing and exploding. After dark we returned to Port Resolution and clambered down the track to the beach, rolled our dinghy into the water and headed back to Rehua tired and satisfied.

(more photos to follow when we have decent internet)

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