February 20, 2013

Climb the Nyiragongo volcano in Democratic Republic of Congo

Why in the world would I like to climb the Nyiragongo volcano in Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.Congo) ?

In 2005 I took a two-years leave from work to participate in a humanitarian mission. The french Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) « Medecins du Monde » sent me to Goma in D.R.Congo.
The Nyiragongo volvano (3.470 meters high) overlooks Goma, the biggest regional capital in the eastern country next to the border with Rwanda. The volcano is still active and its last eruption in January 2002 had damaged significantly the city.

During my mission in 2005-2006, I could see the volcano from the back of our compound. The obvious marks of the lava flow were still there : dark dust and volcano rocks everywhere. Getting closer to the volcano you could observe smoke coming out fissures.

A couple of weeks after I arrived to Goma there was an expedition to climb the volcano. I joined the group : volunteers from other NGO and locals who would escort us to the top. How exiting is that ?

The ascent started slowly but surely on volcano stones, as big as my fists and rolling down under every step I would take. It is like climbing a dune with big grains of sand. Very soon I was out of breath. I must say at this point that I am not an athletic person at all. Unfortunately. 

Soon the weather changed and it was raining buckets ! We get all completely soaked. And now every step was even more difficult to make. It felt like I was carrying the buckets of rain, so much my soaked pants were heavy. So far from the goal, I eventually gave up and came back to our compound breathless and so disappointed…

There were not so many opportunities to go again as you need to get permission from the authorities : the area might not be so safe if rebels are around. As well you need to consult the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO) to make sure there is no forecast of lava, smoke or ash eruption or gas release…

In May 2006, few weeks before I leave D.R.Congo, there was another expedition planned but I could not go… we had to work on the accounting ! I enjoy very much accounting but that day I think I hated it…

Several months after I left D.R.Congo, Nati who was not my husband yet at that time had the chance to climb the volcano and experienced camping on the edge of the crater ! Those are his pictures… isn’t it amazing ?

Missing that golden opportunity to climb the Nyiragongo volcano is my biggest regret in life. I was there. I could have done it but I missed it !

I recall this dream of mine when last November D.R. Congo made the headlines on BBC for its unrest in the province of North Kivu : a new rebel group call the M23, took Goma…

David, our cook was not very optimistic about the situation of his country back then when the first democratic elections in more than four decades were being organized. 

I hope the future will give him reasons to believe again in his country.


  1. Amazing story with amazing photos. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Dena for visiting me and for encouraging me to share more stories and photos.

    2. Yes, just need to get back in shape!