Lap of lux­ury caps off molten en­counter

Christina Pfeif­fer ex­pe­ri­ences the power of lava while on a Philip­pines vol­cano ad­ven­ture

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FOLLOW THE SUN HOT HOLIDAYS -

A FEW months ago, sci­en­tists were pre­dict­ing that Mt Mayon, the fiery star of the Philip­pines’ Al­bay prov­ince, 330km south­east of the cap­i­tal Manila, would erupt spec­tac­u­larly. The alert warn­ing was raised to level four, the high­est warn­ing level be­fore a full-blown erup­tion, and 40,000 res­i­dents around the vol­cano were evac­u­ated to tem­po­rary shel­ters. Much to the re­lief of lo­cals, it was a false alarm and the volatile in­ferno now seems to be calm­ing down.

Last year, when the erup­tion alert warn­ing was at level two, I was one of the first to go on a new ad­ven­ture tour to Mt Mayon.

Mt Mayon’s his­tory scared me. The vol­cano has erupted 48 times be­fore. In 1814, a ma­jor erup­tion killed more than 1200 peo­ple and dev­as­tated sev­eral towns. Yet I was in­ex­tri­ca­bly drawn to its flaw­less, al­most per­fectly con­i­cal beauty. The first inkling I had of the vol­cano’s power was dur­ing a visit to the Cag­sawa church in the town of Daraga. The lava stream from the 1814 erup­tion had buried the lo­cal church and killed hun­dreds of vil­lagers shel­ter­ing in­side. All that re­mains to­day is the black­ened church tower.

Al­though the vol­cano was of­fi­cially off-lim­its to the pub­lic, lo­cal tour com­pany Mayon Ad­ven­ture­land was able to get our group of five past the 6km check­point guarded by armed sol­diers.

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