From Santo, we took a flight via Port Vila to Ambrym to do some trekking and see the volcanos Mt Marum and Benbow. We didn’t know what kind of adventure we had signed up for! Ambrym is wild, undeveloped and feels very very remote. Already the flight with the tiny aircraft and the landing on grass (a first for both of us!) were an experience. Then we got a pickup truck from the airport to our guesthouse in Lalinda on one of the islands only „roads“… Well it really wasn’t much of a road at all! Wow – we had expected at least gravel, but this really felt like an adventure!!
We spent one day relaxing in Lalinda, going for short walks to the nearby villages. There wasn’t much at all and everyone we met wanted to shake our hand and say hello. The reason for our relaxing day was Mathijs‘ foot which had suddenly swollen up after a wound got badly infected. It seemed ok though for him to do the trek, so we set off together with our guide Joses the next day.
The hike up to base camp at the ash plains took until noon and led through thick rainforest most of the time. Some parts were steep and a bit slippery but for most parts it wasn’t too hard of a trek.
After some crackers and tuna (food on this trek was really really bad!), we set off again to climb up Mt Benbow. Originally we had wanted to see Mt Marum, but the weather over there was too bad – we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. So Benbow it was! The hike led us first across the ash plain and then up the first crater, which was sometimes a little steep. What we didn’t know was that inside that crater is the actually interesting smaller crater – so we had to climb down a very steep and slippery trail first, then shortly up the smaller crater… and then we were there!! Joses made us close our eyes while he led us up the last steps – when we opened them, we were staring at a bobbling lava lake! Wow!! It just looked like a boiling soup, but then bright orange of course… It was amazing!
Pictures can’t quite capture it, as it is the case so often. We had to wear gas masks since there’s quite some smoke coming up at times which makes it hard to breathe. After enjoying the lava lake and taking hundreds of photos, we had to make our tough way back, this time steeply up the outer crater, which was exhausting but a little easier than the way down. On the way back, the views over the ash plain and the volcanic landscape were really cool and dramatic in the low light created by smoke and clouds.
We slept very well after a rather disgusting dinner. The breakfast was cookies with peanut butter. Have I mentioned food was the worst part about our Ambrym adventure!? Anyways, we then packed up and headed down the same way we had come up the day before…
A pickup truck then brought us to the main „town“ Craig Cove, where we wanted to book our flight to Port Vila for the next day… We had just looked at it an hour or so ago, but suddenly it was fully booked. There also didn’t seem to be any option to get out of Ambrym for the next couple of days – I started feeling a bit panicky since it seemed like there was no way for us to get back to Port Vila in time to make our (already booked) flight to Tanna… shit. It seemed like we were stuck, in a very remote place where no-one was able to help us, with no way out. By that time I was also very sick of the canned food, dry rice, cookies and peanut butter, so in all honesty: I just wanted to get out of Ambrym. After loads of research and back and forth, we found a way: Next morning, we were going to take a boat across to neighbouring Malekula and fly out of Lamap the day after. Phewww! It wasn’t cheap, since we had to charter a boat to get to Lamap – even though it’s just 1.5h there is no public boat going this route.
Anyways, we were happy to have a way out and to catch a short glimpse of Malekula along the way. The boat ride was smooth and rather boring, but in Lamap we found a really nice accommodation at Ocean View Guesthouse with sweet Agnès who straight away invited us for family lunch (it was Sunday) which was delicious and loads of fresh food – exactly what we needed after our time in Ambrym. Anyways, we really liked the people on Malekula – they were all just super sweet and welcoming!
We didn’t have too much time to do and see anything on Malekula – we just walked around the village for a bit and then took a tour to try and see dugongs in the nearby bay. Apparently there are 20-30 and it’s super easy to see them. Well… we didn’t see any. I know, this is nature, but it sucked! Best and easiest place in the world to see them and we’re unlucky. Apparently there had been a cruise ship in the area the day before and the motor boat engines chased the dugongs away. Disappointing. Would have been the perfect ending to a perfect day in Malekula…