Tag Archives: Volcano

Volcanoes – where passion meets reality

What is it that attracts me in a volcano? After a long thought I think it is the fact that it makes me feel insignificant as a human being. Just one hiccup will be able to delete me from this beautiful planet. I think they show how powerful the earth is. At some point I decided to visit, admire, climb volcanoes in my holidays, together with a similar crazy friend of mine.

Oldoinyo Lengai – Tanzania

In 1998 my first trip with my friend. 3 Months backpacking through eastern Africa. Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania. A very memorable trip which made sure our friendship will last forever, in good and bad times, but mostly in travelling! This is also where the volcano passion really took off. Oldoinyo Lengai. Huh? Which one? A nice cone in the middle of nowhere. And we climbed it. For the sunrise, well, we Dutchies were too late of course, but what we did see at the top was simply astonishing! A splendid view over lake Natron but this was nothing compared to inside the crater. Amazing. I had never seen a volcano from the inside. Hardened lava, still warm, with kind of pinnacles with boiling mud. At least that was what we thought. Now I am older I think we were crazy, certainly now I realize this is a very unpredictable, active volcano. But hey, we did it, we seen it.

I travelled to Iceland for the first time in 2000. An adventure for me, hiking, camping and touring per public transportation. The Geysir and Strokkur were impressive, as was the 3-day Landmannalaugar hike. The country was desolate, rough, cold and wet but so beautiful! Especially the gigantic lava fields and incredible row of volcanoes at Lakagigar were very impressive. Of course this trip was way before the memorable explosion of Eyafjallajökull in 2010 left an impression in all our minds.

In 2015 we decided to go back to Iceland. This time for the full circle trip (see my Iceland blog).  Again many, many impressions. Now more focused on volcanoes like the Snaefellsjökull, Krafla, Katla, Eyafjallajökull, Heimey and again the Lakagigar. All different, all beautiful in a way. Mostly dormant, but hot fumes can be felt and seen in many places. New land, created during my life at Heimey, and also one of the few lava flows in the world actually stopped by man in the 70s. I find it surreal to see that a planet so beautiful can be so destructive, but yet creative.

New Zealand
Another adventure takes shape in my mind. Cycling through New Zealand (a blog about this trip will follow later). And when there, why not hike the Tongariro Circuit as well. Lord of the Rings was not filmed, I did not even know about Middle Earth yet. But hiking in this National Park made me feel small, again. The first day (basically the Tongariro Crossing) was very misty. We did not see much of the Ngauruhoe volcano. It maybe felt threatening in a way. If I would have known about LotR, I am sure Orcs must have been watching us. The next day the sky was clearer and we had to hike back a bit. We decided to climb on a nice ridge and got a splendid view on the Mount Ngauruhoe and the Emerald lakes. Time to sit and let it sink in. Just the two of us and nature. Inside Ngauruhoe something rumbled, sounding like a heavy steel door being closed with brute force. Realizing fleeing would not be an option we decided that if you need to go, then just let it be with a big bang! And nothing happened of course.

Spain, volcanoes? Well, yes. On the Canary Islands. They are volcanic, thus interesting also for the not sun, sea, sand lovers. Gran Canaria (2005) is a large dormant shield volcano. La Palma (2006) consists of two large volcanic centers. On is a stunning shield volcano Taburiente with nice hikes around, in and on top of the crater. Most recent eruption took place in the Cumbre Vieja, a volcanic ridge with numerous volcanic cones, and dates back to 1971, so not that long ago. And then there is Tenerife (2008) with the impressive Pico de Teide inside the huge Las Cañadas caldera. Barren, rocky, impressive and after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa the largest volcano (measured from the bottom of the oceans).

The next step in my volcanic experience should be lava. I wanted to see lava. The closest to my home is Stromboli, just north of Sicily. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, with relatively small explosions occurring almost every day. In 2010 we arrived on the volcano, on a nice shore, in a nice little town, it flanks nice green with flowers. It all looked so friendly. Little did we know. In the late afternoon we hiked up. A steep walk, but worth every penny and drop of sweat. Standing on top of the rim, yes it is a bit touristic with 80 others, we were the spectators of a spectacular show. The mountain did not hold back for us. From 3 craters explosions occurred, spitting red lava in the air. The sound of crackling fire, the smell of sulfur, the sunset in the background. Wow, simply wow. A-ma-zing!

Back on Sicily we drive on the take a view of Etna. Huge, impressive, devastating, but quiet at that time. Yes, I need to get back to this one someday.

In 2011 the next impressive and historically seen very destructive volcano needed to be climbed. Vesuvius, towering above Napoli and standing like a dark memory in the background of Pompeii. Yes, we were disappointed when climbing this one. The top is not very impressive, the crated a bit dull. But… looking out over the millions of people living at its foot and knowing it is possibly the most dangerous volcano in the world makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. We visit Pompeii and Herculaneum and realize what this mountain did in the year 79 (for some nice reading I recommend Robert Harris – Pompeii).

Later in 2011 we decided to take our volcanic passion to the next level. Indonesia, volcano Walhalla with 147 mostly active volcanoes. Java, first Island to visit, Bromo the first volcano. Yes! This is it. The ashes of 6 months before is still clearly visible on the streets of the road up to the crater rim of the Tengger Volcano. The view is stunning, and the cone of Bromo is clearly visible. We climbed it in the evening, being the only ones on top for a moment. Nothing to see, but we hear the activity in the silence of the moment.

The trip proceeds east, showing us many cones along the route, Semeru with a plume, Merapi, and many more. Next stop is Kawah Ijen, with the world’s largest acidic crater lake. Well, we could smell. Sulphuric fumes everywhere. Very impressive, if not only for the local miners carrying up baskets of sulfur multiple times a day, challenging the highly toxic fumes and mostly dying before the age of 45. Yes, we stood in the crater, next to the miners and yes we got sulfurized. Stupid us, with burning eyes and throats we hiked back up. My earrings where black, the lunch tasted like rotten eggs, but we did it again. An experience to remember forever.

What next… in 2013 we decide to visit the mother of all volcanoes, or at least what is left of it. After reading Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa we of course needed to see it with our own eyes: Krakatau. The volcano possibly responsible for more than 30,000 deaths in 1883, again, not that long ago. We take a small boat, cross the Sunda Strait, arrive on this uninhabited Island called Anak Krakatau (the child of Krakatau). A new volcano arising from the depth of the sea, within the old crater of Krakatau. As soon as we put foot on the volcano a huge thunderstorm takes us by surprise. Nowhere to hide, we just sit it out, hoping for the best. Later that afternoon, after the skies cleared again, we climb the very active volcano. Sulfuric fumes vent from holes everywhere on the mountain. We see a lot of volcanic bombs everywhere along the flanks, and again we realize cannot run or hide if necessary. During the hike we notice some small islands around Anak Krakatau. These are the remains of the old crater. What an impressive mountain that must have been, blown away in just a few days and basically changing temperatures, climate, possibly economies in the whole world.

We presume our trip in West Java to interesting Papandayan volcano and the Tangkuban Perahu, which we descent per mountain bike, on a moment the volcano is officially closed due to activity. We did not know, until we reached the sign. Ah well, the back road was still open, obviously.

And more…?
Was this it? No, the story is still being written. My next trip is to Hawaii in 2016. Of course, as a volcano chaser kind of heaven on earth. Well, let’s see.

See some more pictures on http://www.scubajo.nl/pictures.htm.


Land of fire and ice

WOW Air – they bring us to Iceland. And wow, that is nice! The start is great. First we are traveling to Reykjavik and the UNESCO WHS Þingvellir on the edge of the Eurasian and North American Continental plates. A very nice, Troll-like place with an intersting history. On we proceed over unpaved roads to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Beautifull, empty country with some farms, spectacular waterfalls and volcanoes. We visit small towns, huge granite cliffs, a white sand beach ‘Skarðsvik’ and climb our first volcanoe of this trip ‘Saxhóll’.

Iceland-2The trip proceeds with a spectacular drive in the north of Iceland, climbing some more volcanoes at ‘Grábrók’ in the direction of Akureyri, a large city with many shops and a huge cruise ship in the harbour. We visit Húsavík, take a bath in the nature baths in Mývatn and indulge ourselves in the geological and geothermal wonders of Iceland Hverir and Krafla. We climb the impressive crater of Hverfjall and think we are ‘Leppaludi’ in Dimmuborgir.

Iceland-7One of the most impressive areas in Iceland is by all means Ásbyrgi (shelter of the gods) and the beautiful basalt formations at Hljóðaklettar. Walking along these imense walls make me feel small.

A few gloomy days followed. Driving through misty, rainy and cold weather along the north-eastern coast, passing many, many sheep, little hauses and hardly any towns. Highlight were the large numbers of Puffins in Borgarfjörður Eystri. They are sweet!

The beautfull fjord of Seyðisfjörður and the little town of Breiðdalsvík will remain mysteries, as they were covered in mist. A reason to come back some day!

Iceland-3But then we finally got to one of the places high on my bucket list: Jökulsárlón. A lagoon at the end of the  glacier, filled with large chuncks of glacier. The stunning blue blocks are slowly floating to the sea. Incredibly beautiful.

The road proceeds to waterfall country. Svartifoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, all impressive in their own way.

More craters, more volcanoes are visited. Lakagígar is a volcanic fissure errupting in 1783 leaving a 14 sqkm lavafield. Only accesible per 4×4, as few rivers needs to be crossed and the road… well… is not a road at all. Along the way on the south coast we pass some areas of geothermal activity at Geysir, Krýsuvík and Gunnuhver and we crossed the bridge between continents (North American and Eurasian tectonic plates).

Iceland-5On our to do list were 2 more items: the Vestmannaeyjar island of Heimaey and the Thrihnukagigur volcano. The first because of the impressive volcano and eruption history of 1973, where humans were able to stop the lava flow to protect their lives. The latter for the unique experience to descent 120m into a crater of an extinct volcano.

Conclusion: a very nice trip and a great song to remember Sálin Hans Jóns Míns.

See some more pictures on http://www.scubajo.nl/pictures.htm.

Krakatau and more…

“Don’t dance on a volcano” – French proverb 

Oktober 2013, Jakarta Indonesia. Plan… visit one of the biggest volcanic eruption sites in redent (100 years ago, in 1883 to be exact) history: Krakatau. Followed by a tour along some more volcanoes and fantastic places on West Java.


But first… Krakatau. I have read the book of Simon Winchester, watched some documentaries on Discovery and NatGeo and realize this was one monster volcano explosion in 1883. Officially more than 36,000 people died according to the Dutch authorities, but un-officially it is said over 120,000 people died. The blast was heard almost 5,000 (!) kilometer away and the whole world experienced strange sunsets because of the ash particles in the sky. And there are many more superlatives which can be found on the internet. I simply have to see this.

On the way to the harbour where we board a small boat, we pass Anyer. The location where in 1883 a lighthouse was washed away by the 30m high tsunami caused by the eruption. The little motorboat leaves from the harbour in Carita. It is a very small boat and we have no clue if the radio is actually working. Ah well, we only have to go halfway the Sunda strait, one of the busiest sea routes in eastern Asia. We are on the way to Anak Krakatau, the highly active child of Krakatau. It takes 1,5 hours before we finally see smoke. Some rocks loom out of the sea. We realize they were part of the former volcano Krakatau. When mountain exploded, this was all that remained. It shows how big it was, and how destructive the eruption must have been. In the middle there is a new cone shaped, smoking island, the child of Krakatau or Anak Krakatau. We go ashore, survive a large thunderstorm and start climbing after the storm is gone. We see some impressive monitor lizards along the way. Slowly we climb up. There is no real path. Just ash, rock and lava bombs. Some as big as a fist, some even larger than my car. We keep on climbing until it is not possible anymore. The lave rock is very unstable and sharp. We have to turn around and return. It is amazing to stand here, realizing how insignificant human life is in an environment like this. A few days later we make a stop at the geological centre on the mainland Java, showing us in real time the seismic activity of the mountain. Knowing the ‘child’ grows on average 7m per year, I do not want to think of what can and will happen one day in the future…

Ujung Kulon

The captain brings us to Ujung Kulon National Park. We pass many floating fishing huts in the sea before we reach this very beautiful park, totally not touristic and with a lot of wildlife. There is a small but nice reef we snorkel on, we kayak through a tropical rainforest on an island nearby and there are many animals living on our ‘home’ island Pulau Peucang. Javan Rusa deer, wild pigs, monkeys and monitor lizards share the beach with us. It is a funny thing to see, however we need to protect our food before it gets stolen! In the evening we cross the water to visit Ujung Kulon and see the grazing Banteng cattle. Nice!

The next day we decide to hike in the National Park. An area with some Dutch history, until the eruption of 1883. Here nature showed its most fierce face to its visitors. First of course with the eruption and the subsequent tsunami which also here, miles and miles away, caused the death of the population. Remains like volcanic bombs and ruines of the settlement can still be found in the forrest and on the pristine beaches. Secondly there was (and still is) Malaria. In the 1800’s the Dutch erected a settlement called Tanjung Layar with a prison for Sundanese pirates. Lots of people died from tropical diseases in this humid area. The hike is really nice and interesting. Ujung Kulon is also known for the very rare Javan rhino species, which we unfortunately do not spot. Many senses get excited again by the sights and sounds, and not to forget, the warmth.


Next stop, the Baduy tribe. A Sundanese tribe, living relatively remote in the Kendeng Mountains on Java. The people resist a modern and western way of life, and keep their own traditions alive. The first night we stay with an Outer Baduy Luar family. Their bamboo hut is very basic, there is not much more than an empty floor to lie down and sleep on. Communication is difficult. We do not speak Sunda, our hosts no English, but we manage. The next day we hike deeper into Baduy country. We realize how little people need to survive (and how spoilt we are). There is no electricity, no cell phone reception, no appliances, no toilet, no bathroom. Beautiful scenery opens before our eyes again and again. I love it here! The second night we stay in a village. We are the only guests and people show they rather keep to themselves. We feel a bit like intruders, until we meet a friendly gentleman from the Inner Baduy Dalam. No visitors are allowed in the area where they live, but they can still walk out to sell for example honey. Even though it is more basic than basic, we learn to relax. There is simply not much more to do but chat and observe the local population.

More volcanoes

Few stops remain on this trip. The botanical gardens of Bogor. Beautiful, but a shock to be back in the hectic world after the quiet Baduy life. We pass the amazing tea plantations at Puncak pass on our way to our second volcano this trip: Papandayan. A huge, restless stratovolcano with various craters. Due to eruptions in recent history we cannot go up by car. We need mopeds. Scary how these guys race uphil, but we survive. We continue on foot to a viewpoint where the immense crater unfolds itself. Everywhere we look we see smoke and sulphur, we smell it too. A long hike takes us over the rim, in the crater and back to the mopeds.

Via the interesting island Candi Cangkuang, where we visit Budi and his mum for a cup of tea, we go to Kawah Putih (meaning white crater). A clear blue crater lake, with acidic water coloring the banks whitish. It is a touristic place for Indonesian tourists in their weekends, so it is very busy. We stay in Bandung, where we find quite some Dutch history, like Dutch phrases on buildings and Dutch architecture styles. Nice, ah well. I cannot change history, just can enjoy how things are nowadays.

Last event of the holiday is a downhil mountainbike ride from the Tangkuban Perahu volcano. It was almost cancelled due to volcanic activity. Luckily our guides know a backroad through beautiful tea plantations. We peek into the crater and see some fumes in the distance. Is it dangerous? Well, we are here now, let’s just enjoy it. On a nice mountainbike we go down. Over boulders and small dirt roads, through forrest. It is spectacular, scary at some moments, but also amazing to experience something like this. I just fell 2 times… My heart rate went sky high, especially when at the very end we pass a fence and a sign saying “road to Tangkuban Perahu closed”. Oh yeah, this thing was active. Volcanoes to the max to the galore.