Violent Volcanoes

Just as I am about to begin another adventure, I felt I should post the stories from my last trip, not so long ago. So, if you are sitting comfortably, here goes….

‘Cabin crew prepare for landing’ said the voice over the tanoy. I looked out of the window at the clouds below. Surely we were nowhere near landing? The plane continued descending through the opaque mist, touching down in the low cloud that hovered over the ‘Mille collines’ of Kigali. Mountains emerged faintly from the mist and the city swathed in wisps of white appeared as if from a dream.

This was not the final stop on our journey, yet it took several suspicious customs officers to examine our baggage before we were sent on our way, minus one suitcase of equipment.

Our taxi drove us up the winding road across the country towards the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The patchwork fields draped like a blanket across the rolling hills were filled with a variety of crops, from maize to sweet potato and tea plantations spread throughout the countryside.

As we neared the border the clouds descended again and the soil itself became darker as we ascended the volcanic mountainside. The peaks of the still active volcanoes were shielded from sight by the mist,their threat of violence hovering in the air.

The volcanoes in the Ruwenzori mountains dominate the skyline as you cross the border into DRC. Their presence is a reminder of the unpredictable and unspeakable violence that could erupt at any moment either side of the border. The darkness of the soil casts a shadow over the countryside, soil that has absorbed bloodshed and tears.

The border crossing is slow but uneventful, the official looks at every stamp in my passport before adding his own and handing it back to me, making no eye contact as he takes the next passport proffered through the tiny gap in the window that separates him from those passing through the border.

As we enter the town of Goma the paved road disintegrates before us and the remains of the most recent volcanic eruption line the roadside, rocks broken and chipped away to build walls, houses, or left littering the town, their grey-blackness creating shadows in corners and behind buildings.

That this conflict-ridden region is founded on a deeply unstable geological phenomenon is hardly surprising. The very soil threatens violence.

This is my first visit to the DRC and already it has captured my fascination, albeit mixed with a little apprehension.

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