“Why volcanoes?” you may ask. It’s a fair enough question. So why indeed? Or rather, I might say, why not?
For starters, volcanoes fascinate me. The sheer beauty and power they have; that ability to go from gentle sleeping giant to lava-spewing monster and destroyer, all within an instant, makes them both scary and mesmerisingly beautiful at the same time. How can you not feel drawn to them?
At school, I was that kid who, for the science expo, always built a model volcano from used toilet rolls and paper mache, and then made it erupt (sufficiently stinking out the school hall) through the potent and explosive mixing of vinegar and backing soda, tinged red with added food colouring for lava-like effect. It was endless hours of messy fun.
This morbid curiosity about volcanoes even led me to contemplate becoming a volcanologist at one point but I failed to find rocks exciting enough at university to pursue this further. I may have grown up a bit but I now find myself being pulled by something of the child in me to explore this long-lost passion for volcanoes and embrace adventure in the wild.
“But what about mountains?” I hear you say. “Wouldn’t climbing 40 mountains by 40 make more sense?” Yes, but that is the whole point. Volcanoes aren’t mountains, at least not in the Everest sense of the word, with iced tips, jagged edges and a greater demand for technical skill. Sure some volcanoes on my list are over the 5000m mark so I will battle with altitude and walking on ice but, for me, volcanoes just don’t seem so ominous.
But perhaps I’m deluding myself. I’m no spring chicken any more. A trek up Mt Ararat (5,137m) in Turkey(volcano number 10 on my #40by40 quest) isn’t going to be the equivalent of a hop, skip and a jump. And the chance of being swallowed by one of these fire-breathing giants is something my mother would want me to consider. But, you know, that’s what makes it all the more attractive and exciting.
And anyway, why climb mountains that everyone else has already climbed (we all know at least one person who has achieved Everest base camp, if not the summit) when I can do something slightly different? Isn’t that the whole point of a quest? For me, the challenge of putting my body, but also my mind and spirit, to the test of scrambling through wild jungles, cloud forests and over alien rock formations just to look at Satan’s bum hole (40 times) seems like a challenge that’s up for grabs.
Of course, I could just be crazy. But then life would be boring, wouldn’t it?