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Rabaul is buried in deep, black volcanic ash and looks like a movie set for an apocalyptic film or a Papuan version of Pompeii. Mt Tavurvur, which looms ominously to the east. On 19 September 1994 it erupted, spewing huge amounts of ash over Rabaul, and the Simpson Harbour and Karavia Bay area. It reduced the landscape to an alien prehistoric desert. It’s still active; you can see it belch huge plumes of smoke into the sky. Rabaul is not completely dead, though. There’s now a bit of life that’s evident a block or so inland along the whole road. East of here, Rabaul is still mostly abandoned, bar a few hotels that survived the Tavurvur eruption in 1994. Thanks to the deep water (and Kokopo’s shallow water), Rabaul’s port facilities keep the town alive. It’s definitely worth staying a few days in Rabaul to soak up the surreal atmosphere and let your imagination try to recreate the dramatic events that occurred here.
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