North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is known for its volcanic activity plus marine life which dazzles the eyes. It’s a riveting place. I needed no further encouragement to get myself there. For my latest world record attempt, centred in informing people about nature, I sketched out a map in my mind of the local wonders I’d visit with my camera and GoPro. Next, I walked out of a house in Manado, never to return the same.
At a geothermal vent, basically a depression in the ground filled with sulphurous mud, much of it boiling as a result of water surfacing from the volcanic activity below, I made a mistake. While taking scores of photos and video clips, my shoes crunched their way over the hard mud crust, very carefully. I’d done this in Tanzania with a guide, and been around boiling geothermal pools in northern Kenya, and was following what procedures I remembered. But this time, the man guiding me in the area void of warning signs had moved away somewhat through the trees on a path leading away from the vent.
My next step ought to have been no different to the one before, but it brought me the closest I’ve been to having both feet amputated – or being boiled alive. The surface gave way. The 3 seconds that followed are ones I’d not remember if I had a choice. My right leg sunk in to just below the knee. Then my left, as I tried to steady my balance. Lifting my left foot, I slammed it onto the mud crust as far forward as I could extend it. That exact spot was hard enough to support my weight and I heard a dull ‘plop’ as my right foot lifted free of the viscous mix. In a state of shock but still attempting to reason, I placed my right shoed foot on the mud surface, half a metre closer to freedom: the nearby trees.