Nyiragongo Part 2

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Goma and Lake Kivu from the top of Mt. Nyiragongo.

In our last installment, I had climbed a volcano only to look at fog.

But then! We were sitting in the kitchen and I was looking out the window when suddenly I got a glimpse of Lake Kivu! It was clearing up! So we rushed out and the other two guys got their gear ready to take some pictures. It was so stunning to see the whole vista of Lake Kivu from thousands of meters up, and to see the city of Goma spread out along its shores with its million inhabitants. But by the time we could get a really good view the fog came again. But then the crater was clearing up! We could see the lava! So we ran over to get a better view of the lava but then it got foggy again. But then the lake cleared up again! It switched back and forth a few times and we kept bouncing back and forth before the fog really socked in again.

By that point we settled into dinner. Dinner was phenomenal. The chef announced each course which I thought was downright grand for being on top of a volcano. It started with soup they had hauled all the way from the bottom and heated, and dinner was rice, vegetables, and a delicious grilled porkchop. Highly recommend hiring a chef. Also thankfully after dinner the fog cleared again for a bit giving us a good long look at Lake Kivu. After hanging out for a bit we all went to bed exhausted.

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I noted on Facebook it was “like a lamp I used to have,” but then my mom helpfully pointed out we still had my lava lamp.

Around midnight they woke us up to get a view of the lava lake. The fog had cleared enough to give us a really good view. Right as we got up there to the crater I bothered to look up and you could also see the stars. Because of the other clouds though it was like we were alone in the world except for the stars and the volcano. It was a really powerful sight. I took some pictures and video but mostly I just stood there staring at the lava. You could hear it, even all the way up on the rim, and it’s amazing to watch it bubble and smoke and steam. I thought it was kinda like a pot on a brazier where the heat isn’t totally even and so the pot doesn’t all boil in the same spot. It’s so amazing.

The next morning started pretty early. When I first woke up it was entirely quiet and calm, and I just sat in my sleeping bag for a while listening to the volcano and the wind. I got up, packed, and then stepped out of my hut. Right when I stepped out of my hut it was phenomenal. At that moment the clouds at my level cleared and I could look out over the landscape and a layer of relatively low, patchy clouds added depth to the whole vista. Breakfast was an amazing omelet (I asked, jokingly, if when they needed to start the fire they just dashed down to the lava lake to grab some lava, but our chef just said “no, it would be too hard.”).

We stepped off at 0700 and again the fog was dense, which again I was in favor of because the first part of the hike, all steep rock face, had me scared shitless. The nice part about the descent is that it gets easier as you go along, and the day kept getting nicer as we lost altitude. The way down was relatively uneventful, as we passed the rest points quickly and when we finally dropped below the cloud layer the sun came out and it was a very pleasant hike. We made it down in a tad over 3 hours. We checked back in, loaded up the land cruiser, and head for the border. The border crossing went fairly smooth, though paying for another Rwanda visa is more complicated than I thought it should be. I took a bus back to Kigali despite the taxi driver that took me to the bus stop offering to drive me to Kigali for $100, then $80, and then $50. The bus is only $4 though and it leaves on a schedule, which utterly amazed me.

When I sat down to write my journal for the day I was in a rather nice hotel in Kigali and I could barely believe I had woken up on a volcano that morning. Soon though all my muscles were desperately sore and I passed out almost directly after I had some dinner. Seeing the volcano and getting to experience the beauty of the DRC and Virunga National Park had never really been on my list until I just happened to see it in an Instagram post (on National Geographic’s feed) so it was so serendipitous that I got to do it. I’m going to be looking for any excuse to go back.

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The crew (minus my French friend who was taking the photo).

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