Thursday, 22 January 2015

Photoessay: Flying to Volcán de Colima

Flying to a volcano, flying around one of Mexico's most active volcano,  has been the highlight of my time in Colima. I know I haven't finished my volunteering trip but this combines my childhood love of flying with my obsession with volcanoes. I've been looking forward to this opportunity the minute I was told about it (and I had to postpone twice because of other visitors) but it was worth every single penny and seconds I had to wait. Volcán de Colima is absolutely beautiful, from the ground to the sky. 

Getting ready for LIFT OFF

Nick arranges these flights to happen once a month as a way of monitoring the volcano. He needs two volunteers: one to handle the thermal camera and another to take digital photographs. Other volunteers can go on the flight as "tourists" if they are lucky and enjoy the whole ride while the main two have to panic about making sure the equipment doesn't start misbehaving and taking the images of anything that is relevant. 

We waited eagerly for an email from Nick at 7 AM to check if the flight was happening. If there is a single low cloud, the flight is called off. You need the perfect weather conditions. Around 7:05 AM we got an email simply stating "Great conditions! See you at 7:30" and the rest of the day literally flew by.  

The truck was being repaired at the mechanics (again) so we had to take a taxi to the airport.
Check out our six-seater sweet ride. Possibly the smallest plane I've been on. 

The best part of being in charge of the thermal images is that you get to seat on the co-pilot seat!
All the passengers before lift off!

Coming face to face with the volcano

The whole flight is about an hour but the actual flight around the volcano is about fifteen minutes. You can't help but stare out the window for the whole trip, the landscape around the volcano is beautiful too. The land is so green, splattered with a few small towns and farms, and the sky was blue... it was the most scenic combination. I had a permanent grin on face the whole ride through.

An unknown little town as we were approaching the Colima Complex.
This is one of my favourite photos from the whole trip
An attempt to be artistic - the Comlima Complex with a view of the airplane's nose.  You can see the faint outline of the propeller.
My second favourite photo of the trip - where lush forest meets the hostile land. 
Cutting across the plume
Getting close to the summit. You can see the parasitic volcano twin, Volcancito, on the bottom left corner and the northern lava flow. 
The view of the whole Colima Complex from my window...
... And now the pilot's view 
Nevado de Colima and Volcaán de Colima side by side. Does it remind anyone of an old couple?
Although Volcaán de Colima looks taller in the photos, Nevado de Colima has a higher elevation of 4271 m compared to VdC's height of 3839 m. However, VdC is still active and growing, while NdC is being eroded away, so VdC may reign over the whole complex one day. The current activity of the volcano includes vulcanian eruptions and the growth of a lava dome (which began in 2007, I believe) that overspills to form the active lava flows around the volcano and rockfalls (which are beautifully incandescent!).

 Descending - Heading back home

Of course I was dreading the fly back home... "Couldn't we fly around the volcano for five more minutes" was what I really wanted to ask the pilot. A part of me wished I went on the plane as a "tourist" but I was pretty happy to sacrifice the time to take good digital photos just to sit at the front (I'm obsessed with taking photos of the volcano, I know). Despite me thinking the flight went smoothly, I accidentally left the GPS equipment on the plane (you can see where I left it on one of the photos) and the pilot didn't let us take the photos for Nick early enough, d'oh. I kept thinking on the way home that I would love to go for another flight, maybe I should go for it again. A month later, I think once was enough, I don't want to make the experience less special by going on it again (I think you'll only get the awe you feel for the first time once). Saying that... I can't help but glance back on the photos, it was an amazing trip.  

Aviation sunglasses, check. Gelled back hair, check. Collared shirt, check. I do believe we have a pilot here.
More evidence that I was in the co-pilot seat!
Approaching Colima airport
Couldn't help myself :')

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