I saw two old oilmen loading a truck. I approached them to chat about the volcano. Young man on the back of truck did not pay attention. The other seemed friendly by responding to my inquiry when pointed the volcano to him. He was unaware of it.
Then he gave me a talk more than I needed. I was not interested in anything other than the volcano. But he gave encouragement to walk further up to the hilltop.
Lökbatan Mud Volcano is huge. It is shaped like camel hump. It is massive. It is to-be-a-monument. It changes how you perceive monument and monumentality.
You need hours to explore the area. It takes one’s breath out while climbing up to the crater at the top.
It is the most active among the volcanoes in Absheron and presumably one of the most in the world, too. It erupted 23 times in two centuries. YouTube has footage of flaring during one of these eruptions. The Last one was in 2014 . Yet I could hardly remember it making any news headlines, even this famous BBC coverage I found while researching.
Thankfully, Lökbatan volcano locates in a quite distance from the closest residential settlement, Lökbatan town (lök – camel, batan -sinking translates as the place where camel sink). However, I am not sure if people are still safe, in particular the laborers at the oil fields.
I noticed SOCAR sign in the entry but I walked in straight without attending notices on the entry board. I was overwhelmed with idea of being in the presence of mud volcano.
I recognized some sort of order in the area right away. Bulldozers were operated under supervision, oil derrick pumps nodding like donkey and the sealed oil wells.
The territory of Lökbatan volcano is actually owned by SOCAR. The slop and flat lands are still exploited for oil. The oil derricks are everywhere and their well is connected to pipeline networks so the oil extracted flows directly into the tanks to be collected.
I reluctantly walked into three working oilmen who wore overall covered in oil and mazut (oil waste). They were of different ages. Behind of them is a drill-rig stationed. They were appeared fixing the facility that runs operation in the field.
– I greeted them and asked about the volcano.
– The younger among them were suspicious of me and did not disturb himself away from his duty. But the other two was easygoing.
– Nonetheless, all three noted that it is prohibited to see the volcano.
– Well, how come? I have walked all the way up here and yet no one is prohibiting me [speaking to myself inaudibly].
– The middle aged even tried to frighten me with a possibility of police catching me. Then the young warned me that I could make myself a trouble if I do not go away.
– The older breaks ices telling me I can walk up to hill from other side of the hill which is accessible by road. He also told me to give a visit to the volcano in Gobu, too.
So I did bypass them walking a circle around the foothill.
I am about two hundred metres away from the humps of the camel. I see and slowly walk to it. I was excited. But I do not want to rush. I wanted to enjoy the walk too…
But then I was disturbed by whistle. I had a glance of a young guy jumping off the truck, and waved at me and started moving towards me.
He was an oilman, too, I realized when he approached me. He was a gentleman and politely explained that this is a prohibited area. People need permission from SOCAR governing body of this land in order to visit.
He also complained that it is oilmen like we who are negatively affected my media coverage of this land.
I disappointed, upset and indecisive. I conformed.
To be continued…