Day 13: Aso volcano, eventually!

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
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Trip End May 06, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Japan  , Kyushu-Okinawa,
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

As forecast, the weather was ok this morning: less clouds and even some blue sky over the mountains ! We thus put our hiking gear on, and drove to Mount Aso (again!). This time, when we arrived at the parking lot where both the ropeway and hiking trails start, no more fog but clear sky !

We let the car on the parking lot and did NOT take the ropeway! We walked to the crater (15 minutes) and we could observe that a thick white smoke was coming out of it. Actually, the sky would be entirely blue and cloudless without that smoke!

For the record, it is not always possible to come close to the edge of the crater as there might be strong gas emanations, mainly sulfur oxide which is really toxic. You can find many signs saying that people suffering from breathing issues or asthma should avoid coming near the crater when such gas emanation are strong. And you also have a light on a sign, and its colour indicates you how dangerous the situation is or not (from blue -no danger-, to green, orange and red).

When we arrived, the light was green.
At the beginning, we could not see the lake inside the crater, but after a moment, the wind direction changed and the green-coloured lake appeared. Beautiful! Every japanese people around us were making "Oh!" and "Ah!" each time we could observe the lake :-)
Around the crater, many people were selling sulfur as big yellow stones ; quite impressive.

As the weather was still ok, we decided to make as planned, and went for a hike to Mount Nakadake (1506m), which is just above the crater.

For the record again, this volcano has been quite active in the last few years: the ropeway was closed from august 1989 to march 1990 after lava erupted and flowed, and it had opened only for a few weeks when an other eruption took place in april 1990, covering an entire zone with ashes and dust.

Nothing like that happened during our stay! The trail leading to Mt. Nakadake started on a very large and desert zone near the crater, covered with black sand/dust.

No more tourists on such off-the-tracks paths, just a few hikers like us. After 10 minutes walk, the trails became steeper, and we finally reached the crest of the mountain. We then walked on the crest for 20 more minutes and reached the top of Mt. Nakadake. The view from it over the crater and the whole caldera was stunning ! Towards the east, a "sea of clouds" was covering the valley, and only Mont Kuju, the highest mountain in the region, was above it.

At the top of Mt. Nakadake, we met a vet nice japanese couple with whom we discussed for a while. The man spoke good english ; he majored in biochemistry at University, and had already been to France many years ago. He was thus very happy to meet french people, and he asked us many questions on our trip and our next destinations.

We then walked back to the crater, and we could observe the green lake even better than a few hours before.

We finally made our way back to the parking lot, and drove back to Aso, and then Kumamoto, tired, suntanned, and very happy to eventually defeat Mt Aso ;-)
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