Sunday, 18 September 2011
4 women and a volcano
After a night of rain me and 3 other vso vols decided to go for it and climb our way up Bisoke, the second highest volcano in the Parc Des Volcans in the north of Rwanda. We woke up tired at 5am on a Saturday to undertake this feat. After some confusion over which of the two drivers who came to pick us up was actually the one we booked, we bumped our way down an impossibly rocky road to the place where we were to start our climb.
Now to say it was slippery underfoot was an understatement. The porters and soldiers who accompanied us on our climb frequently had to grab us to stop us from sliding all the way back down the volcano...in fact there were very few parts of my anatomy which my poor porter didn’t have to manically grab at some stage. And unfortunately I was made to pay for all that chip gobbling, chocolate eating and primus drinking as it was damn hard to force my legs to keep going. In fact there was a point near the top where they just decided to stop for a bit. But nonetheless we did all make it to the top, something which our guide says actually happens quite rarely!
The top of the volcano had a crater lake which we were able to just glimpse through the clouds. But by far the most magical thing for me was the all the strange plant foliage that formed these eerie silhouettes against the clouds. It was like being on another planet, one which most of the world hasn’t discovered yet. Rwanda on the whole is surprisingly free of mist for somewhere so high up in my opinion so it was quite amazing to literally be walking inside a cloud. It was so cold though, after 20 minutes of shivering we actually wanted to begin our muddy descent....
And what goes up must come down. And for us this mostly took place on our backsides as we continually fell down in the mud. As I stepped in a particularly large puddle I felt mud ooze into my socks and work its ways through my toes. I guess a bit like a cold mud compress for my feet. As unpleasant as it was at least it eased my aching feet a little after more than 6 hours of stumbling up and sliding down. After a while we all decided that skis or snowboards would have been a far better bet than our hiking boots alone. The thick black volcanic mud coats absolutely everything and gets inside the treads of your shoes. The effect is like walking in slippers on ice going down a very steep hill, and then periodically stepping in quicksand. The whole thing took us around 7 and a half hours and I feel absolutely awful today, the day after. I would do anything for a nice hot bubble bath to sooth the aches and pains instead of a cold bucket shower. But as they say ‘no pain, no gain’ and I had a fantastic experience.
Volcanoes waiting to be climbed by the brave/foolish