Aboard the Norwegian Star
I woke up early enough to hear the Captain on the P.A. system. The harbor pilot was coming on for our entry into the harbor at Manzanillo. I moved to the balcony.
It certainly was the warmest we’ve felt so far. The humidity was way up too. That’s the way it should be, nearly 1,500 miles south of Los Angeles.
The ship slowed as it moved into the channel. Along side, two tugs watched our every move (though we weren’t using the tugs for guidance).
A small boat with a handful of soldiers moved up and down alongside the ship. This boat was loaded for bear. It looked like everyone onboard was holding an automatic weapon.
After a shower and quick breakfast, I was off to meet Gilles. He would be my guide for Colima Volcano.
Two gangways led of the ship. I went down one, looked, didn’t see Gilles and moved on. I went to the second. He wasn’t there either!
I paced the quay for 20 minutes, looking for a tall, thin man with a volcano t-shirt. Nothing. I asked a guard. Still no positive response.
I borrowed a phone from one of the ship’s officers and called Helaine and Stef. They were gone.
Panic was starting to set in. Stood up, I’d be alone in the ‘crying lane’ on the ship.
Back up in the cabin, I re-read Gilles email. He would meet me at the gate. I hadn’t seen a gate. Oops. I’d stopped too soon.
Long story short, it wasn’t long before I was in Gilles SUV and we were heading out of Manzanillo.
Gilles is around 6′ 2″, thin and looks like the college teacher he is. Though from France, via Canada, he is married to a woman he met here (also at the university). They have a four year old daughter.
After a few minutes of city streets we were on a divided highway heading out-of-town. The ocean was on our right, though not for long.
You’ll be glad to know there are toll roads in Mexico. This was one. Gilles fished out a 100 peso note for the 85 peso toll and we continued.
We began seeing the volcano over 25 miles away. Even then it was a large presence.
As we approached Colima, we left the highway for a more traditional road, then cobblestones through a town and finally onto a winding rutted dirt road running along the edge of a cliff.
It wasn’t long before we came to a substantial gate blocking our progress. There was no lock. We opened it and continued, closing the gate behind us.
There was another gate farther up the path and we repeated the process.
A few minutes later, the path opened up and we were in a meadow. Cows were lazily grazing the short grass on this open space, about 5,000 feet above sea level. East of us, dominating the sky was Colima. It is magnificent.
Even if you’d never seen a volcano, it is immediately obvious. The sides are steep and a light gray, courtesy of the ash which accompanies eruptions.
Gilles took some cloth chairs from the back of the SUV and placed them under a banyon tree. We sat and watched, hoping there would be some activity. The volcano does ‘go off’ a few times a day – though not in a cataclysmic fashion.
As we watched super heated steam escape from the top, another truck pulled up. Inside were three Mexican men, in the forties. They sat down and watched too.
I asked if I could take a photo and then spoke with them. Though from Colima, one admitted he had never been to this spot. But, even with the volcano an ever present part of their lives, they wanted to come and watch. They sat and drank wine.
Even without major activity, Colima was active. The plume’s steam intensity varied with time. Every once in a while a different plume of steam or smoke would rise from one of the mountain’s faces. Gilles said, at night you would often see the glow of molten lava.
After a while we turned to leave. After all, I had a ship to catch.
I think the altitude, or maybe just the excitement and early angst got to me. I became very tired and began to yawn. It was uncontrollable – almost comic, as I kept taking down those huge swigs of air.
I’m back on the ship now. It was quite a day.
This is one of those things you remember forever.