I had a great time.
Best of all was catching up with former students. More about that later (perhaps).
Second best was climbing the volcano, which was "klosap nomo". Well, all distance is relative, and compared with, say, London, it was. It was worth every step.
Ambrym is only a small island but has a pair of active volcanoes in the middle, Mt Benbow and Mt Marum (here's a great photo taken from space, click on it to enlarge it). It has a third peak in the north, Mt Vetlam, which may or may not be volcanic. I can't remember any of the local people calling it a volcano, only the visitors (meaning ni-Vanuatu from other islands).
Actually, technically, Ambrym has a 12 km wide "caldera" which (I think) is what geologists call the site of an old eruption (see here). In this case, the eruption occurred around 50 AD, not long before Mt Vesuvius. Within that caldera are two volcanic "cones" where the molten lava is open at the surface. These cones are called Mt Benbow and Mt Marum. There was also a huge eruption in 1913 which buried the hospital and turned the large harbour into an inland lake!
We climbed Mt. Marum.
Were were accompanied by our friends, Pastors Robert McKean and Sophia Joses and led by a local guide. The landscape was incredible. We were driven 5 km to the end of the road, most of which was steep climb through tropical forest. Then we continued on foot another 3 km south...
...and onto the old, weathered and worn lava crust from the 1913 eruption, with 6.5 km to go (there are some good pictures of the caldera plain here and here). Then it was like walking on a crumbly tarmac road lined with predominantly with wild cane and dotted with pink orchids, the vegetation thinning until there was none.
Then there was the rise of the cone itself. Imagine the ground having been folded into a concertina fan and then the centre pulled upwards to form a point. Except that the folds start at that central point and branch many times as they extend outwards. We walked upon the tops of those folds. The crests were narrow and the sides steep. Hair-raising!
When we were close, it became cold and windy. Our hair and clothes were damp with cloud. No, it wasn't smoke; it was just like being caught in mist on the top of Mt. Victoria.
The photo above shows (from the right) our guide, Glen, myself and our friend, Ps. Sophia Joses, on the last climb before reaching the rim of the crater. (Above photo from Robert McKean)
And here we are, at the top. The crater was filled with cloud. We couldn't see a thing.
But we could hear. It was like listening to the sea in a storm. Or a pot of vigorously boiling water.
And we could feel its heat.
Still disappointed, but not wanting to offend our guide, we sat down (cheerfully) to eat our snacks. Not ten minutes later he called us over. The cloud had lifted.
And there, down... down... down.... (500m down I found out later), was the churning lava. Have a look...
Our return to the village of Ranvetlam was little more than an enforced march as our guide did a brilliant job of getting us back just as the sun set. The truck had been unable to meet us at the end of the road because high tide blocks the road at a certain point and it (the truck) was needed at the Assembly site on the other side. We arrived back onsite well after dark, having walked a very long way. We slept well that night.