The morning chill was still in the air as I stumbled out of my room. There is just that little something about going to a new volcano that generates an indescribable excitement which makes getting up super early bearable. Everyone was quite quiet in the 4 x 4, so I decided to plug in and listen to some tunes. We left Yanque, passed through Chivay, and after getting to the plateau on the road to Arequipa turned off on a relatively unmarked dirt track. At this point Sabancaya appeared less distant and was producing a nice ashy explosion, a quick stop for some photos and then away we went.
As we continued to drive I was struck by the peace and quiet of the plateau. Two songs then channelled through my earphones: A Distant Discovery by James Horner (from Deep Impact) and Exogenesis Part 3 by Muse. These songs, whilst demonstrating my eclectic music taste, mirrored the calm of the landscape, punctuated by the volcanic activity of Sabancaya. I found myself reflecting on my journey so far and the decisions which I have made to get me to this stage and where I may be in the future. It was that kind of location, hopefully that helps, my contemplations (unfortunately or fortunately?) will remain my own.
At points the landscape felt a little like we were on the Martian surface, just with a little bit more green stuff! Eventually we reached a spot nestled by a stream and what looked like a deserted somewhat luxury farmhouse. Part of the purpose for coming to Peru was to teach others to use our Raspberry Pi ultraviolet cameras. We decided to set up some cameras in the current location whilst others went further up the mountain. An intensive period of instruction and troubleshooting but also managed to get some great data at the same time. Bonus!
The air was so thin up near Sabancaya that it was really nice to start heading down again, the oxygen flooding in makes one feel quite sleepy! The cure - head to the hot pools on other side of Yanque, once you have found where they were of course! See the accompanying video post below.
Up we went again to Ubinas on Day 2 in Peru. This time with significantly more sleep under my belt, about 8.5 hours in total. I felt amazing! A return to Ubinas was debated the night before, but it was decided that a return may as well happen as we have another day for measurements. So through the traffic and erratic driving we went, up the now familiar windy gravelly roads. We seemed to get up to Ubinas much more quickly this time, I even had time to track the altitude at our highest point, maxing out at about 4644 m, definitely the highest I have ever been!
Unfortunately, what greeted us at the summit were extensive clouds, and even some thunder and snow over the summit of Ubinas. We played the waiting game for maybe 2 hours, but the horizon was surrounded with clouds and the clapping of thunder. A little disappointing! Perhaps I have an idea for the data collected on Day 1 but we shall see what pans out.
Back down we decided to go to our favourite little shop, buying them out of Inca Kola in the process. Nommy nommy. Just a short post given the relative lack of volcanic happenings, more from me soon.
Arriving into Arequipa at 6:30 am I was starting to regret the plan of heading straight into the field. I was absolutely shattered, along with Tom Wilkes from Sheffield. Nevertheless, head up we did with some Chilean collaborators (the two Felipes!). A brief stop to have a shower and then off we went in our rented, and as I was about to find out entirely necessary, 4 by 4.
This is my first visit to Peru. A place I have wanted to visit for a long time, so long I forget when I first wanted to travel here, lured by the mix of history, culture, and more recently the geology/volcanology. Travelling through Arequipa I was struck by similarities with Nicaragua, although the driving is by far the worst I have experienced on my various travels. Once through the bustle of Arequipa you start heading into the foothills and gain altitude very quickly, all the time accompanied by the looming Misti volcano which over looks the city. What a setting!
We ascended on winding gravelly roads, quickly reaching altitudes of >4000 metres. A level we would stay at for some time. We passed frequent herds (?) of llama and alpaca (and the other two types whose names escape me) and some very small mountain villages before emerging onto an incredible sight (see photo) a plateau containing, if I recall correctly, a saline shallow lake. All complete with wild flamingos! In the distance was our target volcano, Ubinas. After about 2.5 hours of driving, maybe more, we crested a small mound and there it was, Ubinas. Something immediately concerning for a remote sensor became apparent. There didn’t appear to be any gas coming out. However, on continual hopeful staring at the summit area we did eventually see sporadic emissions of gas from the summit area.
So we set up with our sulphur dioxide measuring ultraviolet cameras to get some data. See the video whilst up at the summit. After an hour(ish) of data, the clouds came in starting to obscure the summit, we decided to head back down. For me this was great as the lack of sleep mixed with lack of oxygen at altitude I think was starting to take its toll.
On the way back, we stopped at a little village where one of the Felipes spotted a random building which appeared to be a shop. In we went to get sustenance as we were ill-prepared and didn’t bring lunch. Here me and Tom discovered Inca Cola, a little like Irn Bru but slightly less sweet and super tasty. This is also where I started to feel a little unwell. It was difficult to tell whether this was a result of exhaustion and lack of sleep or the start of acute mountain sickness or caffeine withdrawal or a mixture of everything. A small amount of nausea and a mild headache. Some coca cola (not the Inca stuff!) started to settle my stomach so the nausea passed quickly, as did the headache. Over the next hour we descended rapidly, the mild symptoms fully passed and I just felt exhausted.
The evening was filled with dinner and an icebreaker to the workshop we are piggy-backing along (more in another post). I was probably not at my most chatty whilst mingling! A quick dinner then asleep by 8:30. And so ends Day number 1, which felt more like 3 days. I wrote this lengthier post than usual on the way up for Day 2 which you will hear about soon! See the accompanying video diary below.