#VolcanoBound: Hiking For Lava in the DRC

Hey World,

I'm going to switch it up to another travel post, this time from our trip last year to the Democratic Republic of Congo to hike a volcano and see a boiling lava lake!

People, I can't even make this up. I couldn't believe it myself, or how truly spectacular the place was, until I trudged my way to the top. 

This is where our trip started, in a hostel on the Rwanda side. How pretty is this house? 

Getting across the border was fairly painless, although the morning we went was part of the Africa Cup (soccer) and LOTS of DRC residents were headed into Rwanda to watch the match! Think vuvuzelas EVERYWHERE. 

First lesson of the trek: Always be behind the guy with a gun. Always! There are the possibility of guerrillas or gorillas here -- neither of which I wanted to meet. They did a great job keeping the small group together, and safe (and hydrated!).

As we walked the lower portion, the view was just incredible. Birds singing, trees rustling, and flowers abound. We took a lot of pictures. 

Here I am at the first big rest point --  I was cheerful and feeling great. I think I even got a sunburn! We ate through our snacks with reckless abandon, and made delicious sandwiches on fresh baguette for lunch. 

This picture is SO unflattering, but just hours after leaving the bottom, and all of the peaceful rest breaks, the climate changes, it gets cold and steep, and all of a sudden you are BROKEN while trying to climb up the last few hundred meters. The rough lava makes for a tough and unstable climb!

Joyous to be at the top is an understatement. Despite not being able to see a darn thing, we were thrilled to have made it to the top without facing rain or twisting an ankle! 

The highlight of our climb were the people we met at the top: these crazy adventure-seeking scientists! They had gotten (after many attempts and some wild stories) permission from the DRC government & the UN to film for a show, while conducting some research on the lava. Here are two of the group, belaying into the crater where the lava lake is!

The smoke/fog cleared up at night so you could really start to see the lava lake in action. 

Oh, did I mention this is a LIVE LAVA LAKE?! The world is filled with some of the most amazing natural wonders. 

Greetings from the DRC! 

We all got to sleep in these little tents inside cabins to protect us from the cold -- not too shabby!

Y'all, you had to BELAY yourself down to the bathroom. Needless to say, I was pretty glad to be fairly dehydrated and wait until we were more "in the woods" on the way down. This was my one and only visit for the night/morning we were at the top. 

The most wonderful part about this trip was just sitting on the edge of the boiling lava, and thinking about what a wonderful world we live in. Truly, I never thought I'd see something like this in my lifetime, and we could hardly pull ourselves away from the edge of the crater to go to bed.

For most of the mountains I've climbed, the reward of the summit has often been cold temperatures, leg pain, and a sunrise that doesn't quite seem worth all of the effort. Now I know a lava lake, makes every step worth it! 


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