Still pretty blown away from our amazing encounters with the gorillas in Virunga National Park we had one more adventure planned during our trip to the DRC. We arranged to climb the eleven thousand foot Mount Nyiragongo; a VERY active volcano near Lake Kivu.
I don’t use ‘very active’ lightly – we live near the Rift Valley and are used to regular earth tremors – but Nyiragongo has erupted no less than 34 times since 1982! We were hoping it would wait one more day before blowing again.
Sorting our gear out in a grassy glade at the foot of the volcano it towered over us – looking like every schoolboys dream of a volcano shape with a wisp of smoke coming out of the crater. The start point was pretty high but we still had a 5000 ft ascent to the rim – no mean feat but on the unrelenting slope – crossing lava flows and across loose murram it was a real challenge. We also realized why they call it tropical rain forest when nature unleashed an absolutely torrential rain and hail storm soaking us all to the skin (note to North Face et al – if you want to REALLY test your kit take it to Nyiragongo!).
The final ascent to the primitive huts is almost a scramble …. But then ….. WOW!!!!!! You are right on the rim looking down a thousand feet or so to a red hot bubbling spitting lava lake the size of two football fields. It is TOTALLY mesmerizing, watching it explode bright yellow and red in one place in a boiling mass and then slowly drift across the surface, cooling and becoming darker before being sucked back down into the depths. Then suddenly another bright hot geyser opening up; fascinating!
The huts themselves are literally 20 feet from the rim on narrow shelves cut out of the rock. They are pretty basic two person A-frames – plastic covered mattress to lay our sleeping bags on and in our case no door! The cook made us a simple but hot and filling meal. We spent half the night just sitting staring into the lava. A truly memorable trip that should go on every adventurers ‘to do’ list.