Where are we

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Tanna Part 1 - Mount Vasur and Lenekel

It took a number days to figure out how life is lived by those living around Port Resolution on the southeast corner of the island of  Tanna.

There should be pots of gold all over the bay.

We arrived shortly after the arrival of over a dozen World ARC Rally boats.  

ARC Rallies are a big deal for islands they visit. They are a well organised events and, it seemed to me, that they work to the same formula everywhere they visit. Clearance into the country is organised as well as tours and cultural events. They bring a lot of money into often very poor countries.  Another aspect of the ARC is giving gifts to the local communities, which Tim saw the day we cleared in and I mentioned previously, so kudos to them.

Tanna is the most underdeveloped and possibly most underfunded place we have visited ever.

As Customs and Immigration took almost all the Vatu (Vanuatan currency) Tim had been able to borrow from Burmese Breeze before leaving Fiji, a trip to the main town of Lenekel was needed to top up the coffers.

Transportation from Port Resolution anywhere is by privately owned 4x4’s. When a trip is necessary it is arranged to benefit the maximum number of people.  No space is wasted.

Few people have cars and petrol/gas is very expensive. When a trip is requested by a visitor, word goes out amongst the local population and the remaining seats are filled. Tim was a bit blindsided to discover that, though the locals were charged 200 VT for the journey, he and the other visitors were charged 2000. 

One get used to being overcharged, if not ripped-off as a tourist, but I don’t think that way of thinking applies here.  The people here are really poor and have even less this year due to the destruction caused by direct hits by 2 cyclones last year. Banana and papaya/pawpaw trees, main staples, were almost totally destroyed across this island and the island of Erromango, Tanna’s northern neighbour. This is a terrible loss to the their sustainability and the local economy. Mango trees survived but they are the ‘Christmas’ fruit as they ripen in December.

I’m sure 200 VT for them and 2000 VT for us is fair.

Much of the island has no electricity, though Lenekel has some lighting thanks to some sort of generator. There is no electricity in the area around Port Resolution. They have mobile phones and these are charged by running the engine of the few vehicles in the area. I expect there is a fee to help cover the cost of the petrol.

Using your phone entails a walk to the top of a cliff over looking the bay for the best reception. Not everyone has a phone.

One has to laugh sometimes. Stanley, a local contact and ‘go to guy, for the ARC, seldom answered his hand-held VHF radio, so they gave him was given a brand new one.  Problem solved?  Not really. It could be that they now have 2 radios they aren’t able to charge rather than 1. Stanley asked Tim if he would charge the new radio on Larus, which we did, but will there be a boat around when next it needs charging? I expect the first boat into the anchorage will be asked to help out.

Wouldn’t this be a great place for a solar array? At the very least some Luci Lights. As it is dark for, give or take, 12 hours a day one could cook, read, sew, repair, play games or study after 6 in the evening. 

Honestly, I wish I’d done more research on Vanuatu before leaving NZ. Friends on Capall Mara brought a chainsaw for Stanley that he had requested on their previous visit last year.

Where were we? Ah yes, Tim going to Lenekel for cash. 

I didn’t go to Lenekel as there was some confusion over what I was being asked to do. I thought I was being asked as per an earlier conversation if I wanted to go on the tour to the most accessible active volcano in the world to which I replied firmly, ‘No.’  By the time I got the right end of the stick and said, ‘Yes, please,’ the car was full.

Most of the journey was on dirt roads often eroded to odd angles and shapes that only a 4x4 could manage. 

Not far the from Port Resolution, the dirt road turned into a wind ruffled black sand plain. Tim said, ‘The road just vanished,’ and that he had no idea how they knew where to go to meet up with the road on the other side.  The wind quickly swept away the vehicle’s tracks.

A close up of a past lava flow.

Not far from Port Resolution is Mount Yasur - tourism link, the world’s most accessible active volcano. The Volcanism nerds amongst us might want to check out this site on  Mount Yasur - scientific report at the Smithsonian Institute, Global Volcanism Program.

Mount Yasur has been at Activity Level 2 for quite a long time. Interestingly, or suspiciously depending on how you look at this sort of thing, the local scale goes from 0 to 6, while the Global Volcanism Program scale goes from 0 to 4.  

It took about 2 and a half hours over rough roads with only the last few miles being paved.

What a gorgeous market in the shade of a Banyan tree. Look at those lettuces! And a way I have never seen of displaying carrots in little teepees.

Banyan trees are impressive.

A market garden outside the town.

Tim arrived back to Port Resolution about 5 hours later than expected with a pocket full of cash and a bag of sugar, which is exactly what I had asked for.


  1. Great blog, wonderful rainbow,ta for email Love Elaine

  2. Yikes!!! From your scientific link re: Yasur : “Active tectonism along the Yenkahe horst accompanying eruptions has raised Port Resolution harbor more than 20 m during the past century”. This blog of yours is definitely worth reading! I loved the lobster sleeting story.