Feb 012013

From the jungle we continued west through the town of Baños, a touristy spot where the activities are dune buggy rentals and bungee jumping.  Not necessarily the things we go out of our way to pursue but we had half a day to burn and figured the hot springs were reason enough to stop.  If the city had positive attributes, the weather did not help show them off.  There was a heavy set fog that encompassed the entire city and loud gushes of wind ripped up the tiny little streets.  We made the most of our time by dropping off a load of laundry and spending some time at the local baths that give the town its name.  While wandering the streets we noticed most of the locals were wearing surgeon’s masks.  Seeing as Baños is at the base of an active volcano we were able to make the connection that the fog was not water vapor but fine ash.  We had come across active volcanoes in the past that spurted out small plumes of ash so we didn’t think too much of it.  It wasn’t until we were leaving town that we asked a gas station attendant how common it was for the volcano to be this active.  He informed us that twice a year the volcano would spew ash for around 24 hours before returning to sleep.  As I returned to the car I finally realized that the wind sounded a little different than normal, it was fierce and came in short bursts.  The gusts of wind was the volcano erupting.

As we drove out of town and left the cloud of ash, a glance in the rear view finally gave us a view of the culprit.  This was much more significant than the small puffs that we had seen in the past that seemingly leaked from the tops of other volcanoes.  Here in  Baños, Volcan Tungurahua was violently erupting.  About 2 km down the road we found a dirt road that led to a small farm.  We initially parked on its edge in order to take pictures, but not seeing anyone around we decided to spend the night.  Every five minutes the volcano let out a huge ball of ash followed by the slower moving sound of the explosion.  When night fell the ash became invisible allowing us to see the large amounts of lava that were being thrown high up in the air.  We watched the volcano for a while and eventually climbed into the van to sleep but were continually reminded just how close we were.  The bigger explosions were so violent that the van physically shook from the sound waves.  A day that had started out as a wash turned into one of the more memorable experiences of our trip so far.

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