As I looked around at the fog and low clouds over Bunia I wondered how it would all end since my day was long and the plan would not work if I didn’t get going soon. I was supposed to pick up a work team in Entebbe from a church in California. They were going to start building a school in Kindu and I would take them there. But it was a long way and time was going quickly. By 9:00 it was obvious I would not be home tonight. The plan was made for the MAF-Uganda pilot to bring the guys over to Bunia since he had room and I would take his flight off to Dungu so we might still recover a bit of the day. The weather only cleared at about 11:30 and I got on my way with a load of motorcycles and batteries and mattresses for the hospital. I picked up the Africa international team from Sudan, Congo and Uganda in Dungu that is working to stop the LRA’s destructive ways and got them back to Bunia just in time to change loads with the other pilot and head down to Goma where we were to pick up the organizer of the work team’s trip to Kindu. We would have to stay overnight there. It was a lovely trip down as we had to be low because of the clouds and we actually saw Elephants, Buffalo, Kob and Hippo along the way. All the lakes and volcanic mountains in the area help to form the rain I was having to work around as we got closer to Goma. A lightening strike quite close got everyone’s attention and we were glad to find a way around and land in Goma before sunset.
We spent the night at the Caritas guest house, more like a little hotel on the banks of Lake Kivu. It was nice but we couldn’t help thinking of all the Methane and Carbon Monoxide that is held in the water at the bottom of the lake some 300 feet below. Held under by the pressure of the water, it is said that an earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption could easily cause the lake to “invert” and release the lethal gas asphyxiating the population and us if it happened tonight! Anyway, where would you find an active volcano around here?
Well, Mount Nyirangongo is only about 10 miles away from Goma and erupted last in 2002, sending large lava flows 200 to 1000 meters wide and up to two meters deep right down through the city. Estimates from 15% to 40 % of the city were destroyed and 250,000 to 400,000 people had to run for their lives.
In the time I have been here it seems like there is more activity. I have noticed more smoke, the Lava Lake inside the crater at the top is growing in size, and it is said seismic swarm activity is increasing. I have also seen smoke and a large hump of yellow sulfuric stuff growing out of the side of Nyamuragira volcano just behind the big volcano that I don’t hear anyone talking about. More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Nyiragongo and I have put up a blog roll link that shows how fast the lava was rolling by.
We carried on to Kindu in the morning in beautiful weather climbing over the Virunga mountain range along Lake Kivu west bank and down in the Congo basin on the other side. Kindu tower has changed their frequency to 118.4 so I didn’t hear them till they heard the plane and went back to their old frequency of 118.7 and told me.
There was a big welcoming party there all lined up in their suits and ties and Americans, being from a more casual culture, were in t-shirts and shorts. The governor had been waiting the day before when we hadn’t come but there was still a camera for the local news. Kindu is an out of the way place so needs local news.
I was empty for the trip back so the airport manager, customs officers, a local pastor’s family, and a couple of other guys who were doing a documentary about abused girls asked to hitchhike along. So an empty plane was then a full one and I got to help some people.
After fueling up and buying 38 rounds of cheese for the mission community in Bunia and Isiro we took off and circled over the top of the volcano on our way back home. It really is getting more intense I think. I continued up to 13,5 and had a bit of oxygen every once in a while till I descended into Bunia after a lovely trip to enjoy the company of my wife at home again.