Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mt Ol Doinyo Lengai

Ol Doinyo Lengai: 6/23-24/07

All we can think is '' This is crazy!!!''.

We are on top of Lengai, IN THE CRATER, and it's active. There is lava, warm, inside the crater, and less than 50 meters away we can see black lava shooting in the air every 30 seconds or so.

God is on the summit

Ol Doinyo Lengai is Mountain of God in Masai. When the volcano is errupting, legend has it that god is on the summit. We didn't see god, but certainly felt that we were really close to meeting her.

After Kilimanjaro, we spent the night in Arusha. We had dinner at the L'Oasis Lodge restaurant, after a taxi drive that you only see in movies. The taxi took us through a neighborhood with fires lit up on the street, lots of people mingling, probably pretty safe, but we were still glad we were ın a taxı instead of walking. The atmosphere reminded me of being in Santiago, Chile the night of Pinochet's ousting aniversary. There were people celebrating and mourning the event, and they weren't necessarily frıendly to each other, or anyone else.

Arusha, by the way, is mosquito heaven. Open stangant water everywhere, and as a side note, over 80 % of the people have malaria, sometimes under control, but never cured. Somebody might know the answer, but why doesn't malaria spread thru Europe, where there are a lot of African immigrants, some presumably malaria afflicted?

A day later we were being driven to Lengai, a 4,000 meter active volcano, which errupts once a year or so.

As we turned off the main road onto a dirt one, we saw two teenagers in full Masai dress, WITH spears ın their hands. My immediate thought, loudly spoken, was:
"This is so fake! Look at the lengths the Tanzanians are going to provide a tourist experience!"

Lucky for us, they were the real thing, and over the next two days we saw plenty more, boys and men, all in full dress, and with spears.

Masai Village

It took a little negotiation (it's too eaaarly!!!), but in the end we convinced the guide to leave at 2 AM (instead of the 6 AM originaly proposed by him). So now we are driving on a pretty bad road, driver and guide never having gone to sleep at all after drinking the whole night, and we see Chuck, but taller. (Chuck is our tabby cat).

İt was an African wild cat, from which the domestic cat descends. The wild cats mate with domesticated ones, which makes me wonder how much longer they will survive as a distinct species.

Anyway, we are hiking now, pretty steep, and definitely very loose dirt. After a couple of hours we get to the crux, in this case a 40 degree, 1000 foot stretch of lava covered with salt, which made it preeety slippery, OK for going up, but what goes up must come down!
So at sunrise (yeah for early risers) we are in the Lengai crater. A spectacular view 360 degrees. Twice a minute a booming sound and this black liquid shoots in the air, pretty close to us. Beautiful, then we realize that it's lava, at well over 1000 degrees.

Holly shit, this is real! All around us there are barely cooled down, hardened lava flows that crack and pop as they cool. They spill out of the crater and down the side of the mountain. The whole experience is definitely not OSHA approved.

İn the crater

Rasta man

Lots of pictures later we start down, and we manage to get down the steep salt covered rock without tumbling. Definitely sketchy!
Going down

"So, did you kill a lion?" we asked the Masai guide. Head low, in a scolded dog attitude..."NO, i didn't. And... İ only have two cows. İ can't get married.... "

The Masai tradition, still in force today, requires that a man kills a lion, with a spear, before he can get married. And he needs a bunch of cows as well, to buy his future bride.

Bad for the lions, of course, but in a way self limiting: Lions get killed, Masai men can't marry, Masai population goees down, lions thrive again.

A bit lower we see some quail look-alike birds, and this is where cultural differences are revealed: Shelly and İ: "Oh, look at the pretty birds!" Masai guide breaks into a run and throws his spear to get dinner. Lucky for the birds, which by now were pretty freaked out, his aim was the same as with the lion... off.

Lengai was a beautiful hike, the kind of mountain that nobody would go to Africa specifically to climb, but its erupting crater 4,000 ft above the flat plains make it spectacular. And of course, all the way up İ was thinking: İMAGİNE THİS THİNG WİTH SNOW! İt would make an epic ski run.

Baobab trees

Did İ say how much İ love our Hillebrand tent?

1 comment:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Great photos and I loved the commentary on your trip.

I'm doing research on mountain symbolism and came upon this blog.