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Tens of thousands hike rugged trails to catch a glimpse of Iceland’s volcano

#Tens #thousands #hike #rugged #trails #catch #glimpse #Icelands #volcano

Tens of thousands of people have braved a steep, rugged path in Iceland for a rare glimpse of an active volcano after it erupted last week, spewing glowing lava into the sky.

Tourism officials said Thursday nearly 23,000 people had undertaken the difficult, hour-long trek to discover the volcano in the Meradalir Valley, just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital.

“We’ve been here for three, four hours and we never get bored, it’s always moving,” said Jean-Paul Couturier, a French pensioner on vacation in Iceland.

The hike to the newly formed crater is a 14-kilometer round trip through difficult terrain with a 300-meter (985-foot) climb. From the nearest parking lot, the hike takes about two hours.

Strong winds and rain did little to deter the crowds.

On Wednesday alone – when authorities reopened the site after three days of closure – more than 4,600 people enjoyed the mesmerizing view of the glowing magma.

The volcano is in the Meradalir Valley, an uninhabited area that usually attracts no more than a few visitors.

Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland has 32 volcanic systems that are currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. On average, there was an eruption every five years.

The latest volcano erupted in the Meradalir Valley on August 3 and has continued at a fairly steady rate since then, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said.

– ‘Force of nature’ –

“It would be very easy to last as long as the previous one,” volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson told AFP.

Last year, lava erupted from nearby Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano for six months, the longest eruption in Iceland in more than 50 years.

Hikers who set out on Wednesday were well-equipped with trekking poles, hiking boots and rain gear.

It was a sharp contrast to the shorts and flip-flops worn by some of the first curious onlookers who initially rushed to the scene.

Observers watch from a safe distance as the red-orange lava fountains spurt up to 70 meters high before falling back to the ground, solidifying to form a large magma blanket and volcanic hemicone.

The lava reaches temperatures of 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,192 Fahrenheit), the hottest lava produced on Earth, and has so far flowed nearly two kilometers south through the valley.

“The hot rock that shoots out of the ground is really the most impressive thing you see,” said American tourist James Maniscalco.

For French tourist Clemence Ernoult, that experience was as rare as it gets.

“You really see the power of nature,” she said.

“You probably only see something like this once in a lifetime.”

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#Tens #thousands #hike #rugged #trails #catch #glimpse #Icelands #volcano

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