After spending one sleepless night with the volcán erupting we ran away to the jungle for two nights and anticipated returning to a more peaceful Baños. Once back and talking to more people we realized this thing could erupt for weeks or months, probably without hurting anyone. We had the opportunity to housesit on the other side of town, in an area “protected” (supposedly) from the volcano. Since we weren’t ready to give up on Baños just yet, we took the offer to stay for 12 more days. Eruption or no eruption, we committed to staying until the 13th. All the work entails is taking care of the crazy German Shepherd and turning the lights on and off. However, we weren’t needed immediately after our return, so that meant two more awful nights in a tent on the slopes of The BEAST. Every night right around dusk, Tungurahua works itself into a frenzy and by the time the sky is dark you can witness the power of nature. BOOM with the bass as the ground shakes and the windows rattle and shake, then seconds or minutes before the next BOOM and the ground shakes again. The sky begins to clear and you see flaming balls of molten rocks as big as your house thrown over 1000 feet in the air. Then you feel the thump as the lava lands on the side of the mountain. Repeat over and over: BOOM rumble BOOM rumble thump thump BOOM thump thump thump rumble rumble. This continues until after midnight when it stays quieter until you are finally asleep, then wakes you before dawn with a CRACK rumble BOOM thump thump and you scream “Why are we here and when can we leave?!?”
Once the sun came up on Friday (5 days into the eruption) I picked some tea and noticed the leaves were covered in ash. Later when we walked to town we noticed that our eyes felt dry and irritated and a general haziness had crept up in the night. Still all the locals went about their day as normal and laughed to hear us talk about how scared we were. That night was more of the same, relentless and stressful. We had to get off the side of the hill!
So we survived our last two nights sleeping out and made our way to our new temporary home. We settled in and it was, as we had hoped, much quieter. The very top of the peak is still visible but the floor hardly ever even shakes here. With the rumbles minimized and the added safety of being out of the lava flow zone (so they say), we began to relax for the first time since returning to Baños. The glow is still there at night, ash still falls from the sky sometimes, and occasionally we are woken by explosions in the night, but we are so much calmer. We were even eventually able to get some sleep!
As of 17:30 Sunday, December 4th, 2011, the Volcán Tungurahua is still erupting as strong as ever with a continuous rumble and several larger reports throughout the day. Recently there has been a small amount of ash rain and the sun has been hidden behind the volcanic cloud. We continue trying to stay calm in our new, safer, house, although we are still vigilantly listening for the evacuation siren and at times wondering why we agreed to stay.
Do you think we’re crazy for staying? Should we abandon the dog and book it out of town?