One side of the volcano is an alien landscape of black volcanic sand and brown pillowy lumps of solidified lava flows:
To get to the top you go up the other side, which is strangely much more lushly vegetated, on a very steep and rough trail that requires low-range 4WD most of the way. Again, this is one of the smoothest parts because it was too bumpy to get a photo elsewhere:
To the top, past the “volcano mail” post-box:
But not actually the top. Because the activity level is high, the upper viewing areas are off-limits, and the guides won’t let us go any closer. They even brought “security” staff to stop anyone breaking the rules:
So instead of being able to see directly into the bubbling lava in the bottom of the crater, a lot of frustrated people have to watch from a distance:
Sadly, although the activity level is high enough to prevent us accessing the higher vantage points, it’s not active enough to put on a very dramatic show. Instead of “bus-sized chunks of lava being thrown over your head”, we have the occasional explosion that throws boulder-sized blobs of lava into the air. Everyone seems unimpressed. Especially when it starts raining and we get thoroughly soaked:
There’s an obvious redness to the underside of the steam clouds, lit by the lava out of sight below the crater rim. With the disappointing viewing restrictions, I retain hope that the red light might look a bit more dramatic after sunset.
In daylight, the lava being thrown into the air just looks like big grey rocks. As it gets darker, you start to see the red that you expect lava to be. The pictures don’t convey the scale, but these glowing blobs are somewhere around 50 to 150cm. When you’re there, you can see the bigger ones wobble and deform as they fly through the air, sometimes stretching and splitting into two:
It’s frustrating to not be allowed closer. Never expected over-zealous health and safety on a tiny pacific island. The ride up the mountain in the back of the pick-up was far more risky.
If I’d had my own transport I could have just climbed up the other side, seeing more and avoiding the ludicrous tourist entry fee. At least in the darkness there were a few moments that felt properly volcanic:
In these videos the lava blobs look like small sparks, but they’re big boulder sized pieces, and what you can’t see is the noise and the pressure waves that accompany each burst: