Boom! I woke briefly, sleepily wondered what the noise was, then quickly fell back asleep. After years of being on the road, and living in noisy cities, I am an awesome sleeper. It wasn’t until about an hour later, when I stumbled out of my tent, and saw an unusual mist in the air, did I realize anything of significance had happened. Tungurahua Volcano was erupting!
Located near the city of Baños, Ecuador, Tungurahua is a highly active stratovolcano with a height of 5,023 meters. The current phase of activity began in August 1999, following about 80 years of relative quiet. Since then, volcanic rumblings and eruptions are not an uncommon occurrence.
What seemed like mist was actually volcanic ash settling over the valley after being spewed from the volcano’s top. Luckily, our beautiful campsite is located within the volcano’s “green zone”, so there was no reason to panic. We were able to have a leisurely breakfast while Marc caught us up on the details of the eruption. Marc and Suse, old friends of Tucan Travel who operate the Baños campsite, Pequeño Paradiso, also closely monitor the volcano’s activity. They’ve been known to wake campers up in the middle of the night after an eruption and drive them up to safe viewing point!
Since 1999, the city of Baños has been evacuated twice due to Tungurahua’s activity. There are bright green signs all over the city center advising residents and tourists the evacuation route should a violent and dangerous eruption occur. During an eruption in 1999, all 17,000 residents of the area were forced to evacuate their homes for weeks. However, once news reached displaced citizens that the Ecuadorian army had begun to loot businesses in the abandoned city, residents quickly returned, despite the danger, in hopes of safeguarding their homes. Understandably, residents are now less eager to evacuate unless the eruption is particularly threatening.
In fact, as we drove out of the city everything seemed to be business as usual. I had discussed the possibility of roadblocks and delays with my group, but traffic flowed freely and calmly even as Tungurahua blew out tons of ash and rocks the size of our truck in the distance. Pulling over on the side of the road, we were able to get some truly incredible photographs! Definitely an once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity!
Visit Baños on Tucan Travel’s Overland Tours and Adventure Tours in Ecuador.