It's Tuesday and Chiara's much better this morning as we live-link to host Ivvet and scientist Epi at the Museum for our first public Nature Live of the trip. Tamales (corn-based-dough steamed in a leaf wrapper) are on the way and we're all delighting in the semi-precious-looking hailstones that scatter the ground at the foot of Popo and it's neighbouring volcano Iztaccihuatl. Let's call it Izta, its less fun but easier.
Jealous of our Popo climb, another team prepare for Izta. The dogs wear neckerchiefs. A nice touch.
Today we explore a canyon and our hire car (no four wheel drives available) can only make it so far. We stop and jump in the jeep for a kidney pounding ride to where our hike will begin. Like the day before the terrain is rough. We follow a river and climb boulders, fallen trees, loose rocks and wet, shoe-swallowing sand.
Tamales. Don't hike for hours without one.
Midway to the end point of the canyon, I hear an almighty splash. A woman down. A hand outstretches toward me as I'm catching up fast. It's clutching a black object which is thrust into my hand. It's Chiara, having taken a tumble, choosing first to save her fieldwork notebook. Next is the smartphone and finally it's Chiara. Laughing, unhurt and undeterred she continues.
Chiara resists the urge to shower a la I'm a Celebrity.
I can see a change in the expressions of Dave and Chiara. These are good rocks. Really good rocks. We stop and the equipment comes out. Hugo and Dave explore the furthest part of what now appears to be a dyke.
You shin up that wet slippery trunk, I'll shoot.
A beautiful outcrop of lava. Chiara examines and collects.
Bright fungi nestle in fallen trunks.
Ever increasing his altitude, Hugo jumps down to join in the rock collecting. He agrees it's a fine bed of rock and grabs an appropriate hammer.
He'd make a mess of your Christmas nutbowl but Hugo can crack you a terrific rock sample.
As I stumble around attempting to look agile I spot our first insect of the trip. Entomologists please assist with this brightly coloured and handsome individual.
The team collect at many points back toward the jeep. A tiring hike but a very fruitful one. Silica-rich Dacite of a lovely quality. Also, on these cliff faces, where the river cuts-in, is a portion that interests them greatly.
Dave tells me it's where volcanic breccia meets andacite. For those of you new to geology what's exciting about these two rocks is how they've met. At some point after the magma has risen the breccia has been thrown out of the top and spilled out over the edge. Once they point this out, it's clear to see. You begin to feel the movement and energy of a now still material and see these different areas within one rock face. It's really very cool.
Breccia and andacite meet (just next to Hugo's foot)
We return to the jeep, picking thistles from our behinds like characters in a Warner Bros cartoon. There's discussion about an even more challenging day tomorrow.
Looming large is the 10 hour hike to our last outcrop on Friday. But tomorrow's not Friday and I put it to the back of my mind. We're a few days in and I'm keen to go through the samples with Chiara and Dave to find out how they are linked and what their first thoughts are of what they've found. How do they tell you about Popo's past? And how long before science can predict eruptions? Stay tuned.