A roar like a mighty dragon ripped through the air booming a shockwave that sent us stumbling backwards. Angry orange, red and yellow comets blasted by force into the night sky creating a sound of crashing waves as they rained back down to earth. Dark black smoke and dust billowed and mushroomed in the air, in a massive display of constantly twisting and shifting shapes. “Cover your eyes” Dailin managed to bellow, before another round of booms like planets exploding rumbled the sooty ground. The wind whipped ash and black sand, pricking our bare skin and forcing us to close our eyes and wait for them to water up and clear.
Perched high on the top of Tana’s live volcano crater as the sun set we were experiencing it when the activity level of the volcano was two out of five. Typically they close it when it reaches level three because lava flies to the top of the crater and can incinerate tourists which is bad for business and your complexion. As the sun disappeared the bubbling magma glowed orange illuminating everything like a moving chandelier as glowing lava bombs blew into the air and dropped.
“Just remember” our friend Michel warned “if you see a lava bomb coming down near you don’t run, look up and watch to see where you need to move”
After a particular monstrous eruption Teyauna would cling to my leg as silence would fall and the anticipation would build waiting for the next blast. Then 3 minutes later when the volcano would start spewing Alyssa would quickly turn around and get people to snap her picture with the glowing rocks shooting up behind her.
For most the time Zack was happy bundled up in mom’s sweater and could grab her every time it would rumble and afterward yell “WOOOOOW”! Mom was content with staying back a little and telling Eli to come back from the ledge as him and Orin would get close to it seeing who could throw rocks the farthest into the crater.
Dad filmed the landscape around us which was desolate black sand for miles pocked with cooled lava bombs. The view from on top of the mountain of soot was breathtaking and not just for the lava but in all directions. Around us in the sky and the hills the steam from the volcano clung to the trees like mist and created an eerie feeling of doom.
On the way back down in the dark our flashlight caravan took probably longer than was needed careful not to trip, even falling one foot to the side and you would crash thousands of feet down through jutting rocks. Passing the “think safety” sign I smirked at the irony of having that posted next to the world’s most accessible and dangerous volcano. As we got into the 4WD truck the sharp rocks reminded me of stories of fleeing tourists who had close calls and split heads in what some call “the most dangerous spectator sport on earth”.