Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tinakula Volcanoe

During my visit to Temotu Province last week, I was able to arrange for a visit an active volcano, Tinakula. A tall plume of steam and smoke streams from the top of a majestic cone rising direct from the sea. When I arrived at Lata Airport in Temotu last Saturday I noticed the volcano, and as Br. Jonas and I were crossing the beautiful bay I pointed it out and said I'd love to go. So for the price of a can of gasoline (Solomon Dollars $400.00--for six gallons. Divide by 13 to get USA equivalent.) First we visited a village on an island across from the volcano, populated by people who have fled the island. There we found two young men to guide us. Wednesday we set off. It was a two hour trip in driving rain. There are only two tiny beaches acccessible by canoe, the rest of the island is impregnable because of cliffs facing the sea. We took aim at the largest, about 100 yards of tumbling black stones. Our guide instructed us to make a tight circle with the canoe to position ourselves for a fully accelerated run at the beach between two huge submerged boulders. We waited for a big wave then with engine roaring at full speed we headed for the beach. He cut the motor when we seemed to hang over the beach, and we all jumped into the waves to catch the canoe and drag it above the water line. A most memorable landing. I was a bit shaky afterwards.

There is an old man, Hubert, who prefers to stay on the island. So his family comes out to visit him. Our guides were family and we were invited to stay for lunch. After an hour, a huge bowl of wild yams, steaming hot, was place on the floor of the hut. A Melanesian treat.

Lunch finished we threaded our way through heavy jungle to the beach and launched the canoe in reverse of our landing procedure: picking it up we dashed into the water, chasing a wave which carried us out beyond the submerged rocks, and we hauled ourselves panting into the canoe. We circled the island, which seemed lush and harmless until we rounded a point and saw the steep black face of stone. Boulders were detaching themselves and bounding down the cliff amid a shower of sparks. I quickly realized the stones were glowing red! No wonder the sensible portion of the population abandoned the island...

Most of my visit was less dangerous. I weeded the potatoe gardens at the friary, celebrated Eucharist, helped out in the kitchen. One night we stayed up late as I told stories in answer to their many questions about my travels. My stories began to sound like a luxury tour, though , when they shared about their recent travels. Four friars live at Holy Martyrs Friary. Their work is mostly pastoral, visiting both people locally on Santa Cruz Island, as well as going "on mission" to remoter places. The brothers undertook one such mission recently, leaving July 6 for a three week tour of some nearby islands. When the tour was complete, however, they had to wait a month for a boat to transport them back to Lata. When one finally arrived it was a cattle boat, and over 200 people camped on the exposed deck for a 10 day trip, suffering rain and sun and no privacy let alone seats or a bed! They arrived home September 17!! They were philosophical about the travel circumstances, rather recounted stories of people they met, the small kindnesses of passengers and crew, and how much they are looking forward to the next mission, and the chance to preach the Gospel.

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