Nyiragongo ascent

Trip Start Oct 13, 2006
Trip End Dec 16, 2006

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Flag of Congo - The Dem. Repub.  ,
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It was no bigger problem to cross the border. After a small baksheesh at a checkpoint we started to climb up the crater. The 5 hours ascent to 3456 m.a.s.l. was not too easy, but we had luck with the weather and it remained dry. Passing the lava field our group of 10 friends from Kigali felt like Frodo climbing up the mountain at Mordor to throw the ring into the fire. The Nyiragongo erupted 4 years ago and its lava streams buried parts of the adjacent city of Goma. (Check for more information at: http://volcano.und.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/africa/nyiragongo.html)
Still there are holes in the solidified lava surface where sulphur steam exits and indicates the connection to the inner of the earth. Up on the crater's edge we enjoyed the breathtaking view onto Lake Kivu and the bubbling lava in crater on the other side. It soon got very cold and even the warm blowing stinky steam from the inside could not make it more pleasant. At night the wind rose. Our small camping tents that were mounted onto the short terraces of the edge were not made for these conditions. At 8 PM the outer mantle of our tent was detached. It must have been a funny image to see us standing in our sleeping bags in the rest of our tent. But in contrast to my colleague's tent which was torn down completely we managed to fix ours by placing heavy stones on the sides. Still it was a wake up call for me to take a look into the crater and wait for the occasion of a free view into the reddish glimmering lava emerging from the inside of the earth. I could fix some of the impression on photos, but the atmosphere up on the edge at night is hard to describe. I looked down to the illuminated city of Goma and thought how stupid it is to settle next to Nyiragongo. One second later I thought that it is probably as stupid as sleeping on the summit of the most active volcano of Africa!
Sunday morning we celebrated the fact that we were not blowing in the wind at night. I told Ingrid about her birthday surprise: a visit to the Gorillas on the day after. So we said good-bye to Mordor and climbed down the volcano to take a bath in Lake Kivu. We then headed on to the centre of Gorilla safaris close to Ruhengeri where a meeting was arranged with two other surprised Flemish friends of Ingrid. Thus she could experience my two absolute tourist highlights of the region during 3 days (and she enjoyed it very much).
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