Published: November 27th 2011November 27th 2011
This was a detour that we both were not expecting and to be sleeping on the rim of Africa’s most active volcano, which happens to be in not so safe DR of the Congo, was a chance we grabbed.
How we come to this adventure started a couple of weeks prior to this when we read a blog of another blogger ‘Freespirt’ who has done this earlier and left some contact details at the bottom of the blog. We thought about it, forgot about it and then went to a town called Gisini on the Rwandan border where we could see the glow from the volcano from this town, we were thinking again.
Where we were staying we meet a couple of Americans who were trying to get into DR of the Congo but at the border they charge 285US for a tourist visa so we mentioned this blog we read and got on they got on the phone and a meeting was set up for the next morning.
Firstly, a brief update on the security situation in DR of the Congo, Presentational elections are one week after we think to arrive so it is a major
concern. Also with another volcano currently erupting close to the one we were thinking to hike made the decision a little more worrying.
But this all went out the window when we meet the contact, Emanual. He is professional, knowledgeable and great in English and could answer all our questions no worries. We worked out a price for the four of us, if you hope to get very cheap grab a group of four, which was 200US each including visa (seven day NP visa), NP entry, transport, guide, porter, sleeping bags, coal well everything except food and water. This is meeting at the border at 8am, doing the hike, sleeping and getting dropped back at the border or in the Goma if you choose.
So we were pretty much sold within 30 minutes of discussing the current safety situation of the lake where limiric eruptions which can wipe out the city any day. The Nyiragongo volcano which wiped out half the city in 2002 and of course the elections. We have been told that it will, yes will, get bad after the elections so before is fairly safe. So we choose to believe the locals since others
advised not to enter the country.
So after five days we were back at the border (takes a few days to sort out visas) and are ready to head into DR of the Congo. Emanual is on time which is very rare in Africa and we soon get our passports stamped and are on our way to Nyiragongo Volcano, passing through Goma which does look like another planet. The first thing to notice is that it really is a volcanic city and everything seems to be black around the place showing proof of the massive eruption in 2002. The second is the crazy amount of UN cars and snipers around which gives a big inkling of the trouble ahead. The third is that all the roads in the city are horribly bad and for a city of around one million you would think that some would be sealed, but not in Goma or all but the capital for the DR of the Congo.
We arrive at the NP headquarters and are greeted by a shooting practice NP sign, our guards, guide and porter, we are of into the jungle. Yeah it was pretty much trekking through jungle
for most of the five hours to the top which did surprise us considering we came though Goma where nothing is green because of the volcano. But the trek was very nice and you follow a path that was created by the last eruption. This is quite interesting to see since there are absolutely no trees thirty meters wide and on each side thick forest where the lava didn’t reach. Until the last 1km or so the landscape turns into volcano terrain, it is here a steep climb to the ridge starts. This was made even more difficult by a heavy downpour that seems to happen every day but once reaching the top every step was worth it.
Just peering over the ridge and seeing a lava lake bubbling away was awesome. From the ridge we were still quite some distance but the heat generated from the lava was able to warm our faces, it was a sight we will never forget. All the worries about eruptions, the lake and elections go right out the window once you peer over that ledge.
Sleeping up here was also an experience and hearing the rumble of the volcano all
through the night air was chilling. It does get very very cold at night as we found out so if planning to do this, take a lot of warm clothing with you. Overall, an absolutely amazing experience and one that we think will be very hard to beat. Just all the worrying, organizing, preparing and to have done it and nothing gone wrong just makes it something completely different.
So since it was so easy (or too easy) we decided to stay a little longer and found a family to stay with in Goma up until the trouble, oh we mean the elections…but about that in the next blog.
Contact: Emmanual Rufubya
There are more photos below