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The other Side of the Earth: the lava lake in the Nyiragongo volcano


Night. Legs ache, tent gushing downpour. The wind seeps into the cracks under the awning, and walking in a light rain the tent, forcing us to cuddle closer and closer to each other. Involuntarily thought: what are we doing here? But the rain pritchet, and, having come up from under the wet hem of the tent, we do a couple of steps to the edge of the crater of the volcano. A gust of wind blows in the direction coming out of the crater pairs, and we no longer remember anything about the wet tent, nor about the chills. Even my feet are sore, and I want to jump with excitement, but you can’t — boots the fragile pumice, and a few hundred meters below us is boiling orange-red lake of lava. We have already managed to give the Vulcan tripod, luckily, without the camera — it was demolished by the wind, when he was left on the edge for a second. We assume this is a ritual of sacrifice.

The Slope Of Nyiragongo

At the border we met a guide named Emmanuel (the pygmy, although he denies it). After giving him a dollar on visa, we were waiting on a bare piece of land between Rwanda and Congo, not daring to take out the camera and capture photogenic African women, who with amazing agility rushed from border to border, carrying on their heads huge pots watermelons or cabbage. Emmanuel soon returned with a letter from the chief of immigration, and only half an hour later, after our names, age and place of work were manually recorded in three places certificate of vaccination against yellow fever thoroughly examined, and passports are stamped, we are free from bureaucratic ties.

Machine equipment was waiting for us on the other side of the barrier. A year ago, when we first walk, burdened with backpacks, visited the city, Goma seemed ominous post-apocalyptic hole. But now, glancing at her from the window of the jeep, Goma differed little from another big African city. Picking up tickets at the Central office of the national Park and cooks with food from watchtowers partially flooded with lava flow of 2002 eruption of the airport, we rushed to the volcano.

At the foot we were greeted by the Rangers with the AK-47, each of which were attached with duct tape a few extra stores of ammunition. According to the guest book, climbing occur several times a week. The first part of the ascent leads through the rainforest, the trees of which, those who survived from the charcoal burners, though surrounded with solidified lava, which, surprisingly, didn’t burn the tree, but decided to envelop its base. Over the heads nodding orchids. In the bushes lurks the Gabonese Viper — one of the deadliest snakes on the continent, but we notice it and passed it by. On the passes sharp porous rocks digging into her tired buttocks — it reminded of the lava of the eruption of 2002, when at an altitude of 2800 metres in the volcano opened a crack, through which flowed the lake of fire, but the lava never reached the city and stopped here. Lava from different cracks that opened just a few miles from the airport, destroyed half of Goma and stopped only after reaching lake Kivu. From the crack at an altitude of 2800 meters was steaming hot — this, as explained by the guide, rainwater seeping in to hot rocks.

At 3000 meters the landscape changes dramatically — we are suddenly surrounded by a forest of giant Lobelia. At this altitude they are, how fancy the trees, but the higher the slope, the less and less they become, Recalling the planting of cabbage than a tree.

Another one steep climb and we reach the edge of the crater. Still not dark. The crater wall terraces go down, noting past levels of the lava lakes. It rages a few hundred meters below us. In the light of day the lake looks pretty calm, but after dark, the volcano’s activity increases, and it begins to resemble a huge boiling pot of tomato soup. We camp and try cooking of our chef.