While in Vanuatu, I went on two jaunts by myself. On both occasions I expected to be thrown in with an existing group of tourists, and instead was alone with a guide. The first was a Saturday rainforest trail ride through some of the prettiest cattle country I have seen. The second time, I went to Tanna to see the volcano.

When I was little, a combination of factors (to wit: living in a wooden house with a wood-burning stove; living on a cattle property in a drought; growing up on novels of the Ash Wednesday fires; a well-read National Geographic with pictures of Mount St Helens; a children’s encyclopaedia which described in sufficiently lively detail the tale of the farmer in Mexico who found hot rocks popping out of his paddock and a week later the farm was covered by a live volcano; and my family’s general inability to get out of the house in a timely fashion) gave me nightmares about fiery pits and infernos for years. And then I read Isabella Bird’s accounts of climbing up and looking into volcanoes on Hawaii, and generally being Victorian and fabulous, and decided that I would quite like to see one. Her descriptions were awe-inspiring.

I did very little research before I went to Vanuatu, partly because I do fly by the seat of my pants and partly because I didn’t expect to be doing anything on any other islands. But then K and B washed in on the tide bearing tales of maritime adventures and videos of the volcano and I realised that I was right there, in Vanuatu, only a few islands away from a Real Live Volcano.

The rest of the group were kind enough to encourage me to go (and then give me a hard time later about skipping out on work), so when I went to the markets to buy cucumbers and pamplemousse, I kept walking to the thatch-roofed tour agencies and found an overnight trip to Tanna, including everything except dinner and the fee to enter the volcano area, for only a few hundred dollars. One of the shiny shop-front agencies offered a trip for over a thousand, but that did not include flights. The next day I collected my tickets, and the next morning I worked, had a quick lunch and caught a bus to the airport.

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