My fellow bloggers Silken on Places to Go and Milton Ramirez on Global Voices alerted me that Mt Tungurahua in Ecuador has been erupting again. It brought back memories of my visit to Ecuador in October 2007 when I slept on the slopes of this smoking volcano.
I stayed with two friends in the fabulous hotel spa of Luna Runtun perched high on the slopes of Mt Tungurahua. Our night at the spa was our one concession to luxury, on a trip where the typical accomodation was a tent on a sandbank beside the Rio Bobonaza (but that’s another story).
Luna Runtun Spa
From our balcony you could have practically dropped a stone onto the town of Baños below. The view from the window was of the thick plumes of grey smoke issuing from the Tungurahua crater behind us. We took a trek up the mountain through the cloud forest, passing polytunnels growing tomatoes just above the hotel, as far as a marked Mirador, but there the trail ran out. There are paths that take you higher up the mountain but it’s now forbidden to venture up to the mountain refuge due to the very real dangers from the volcanic activity.
Tungurahua is part of Ecuador’s ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ a string eleven peaks of the Andean cordillera, some still active, that cross Ecuador from north to south. In 1999, scientists monitoring the volcanic activity predicted that a major eruption was imminent. The fall-out of ash led to the temporary evacuation of more than 25,000 inhabitants of Baños but after a while the inhabitants returned. The rumblings continue to this day and periodically cause concern for those living on the ‘Throat of Fire’.
Mt Tungurahua erupts
Don’t let the rumblings put you off a trip to this lovely spot – for the more adventurous it may even be a good reason to visit. The town authorities monitor the activity closely and give residents plenty of warning if there’s any cause for concern, so take local advice. The town of Baños relies heavily on the tourist dollars and is well worth a visit for its hot springs, waterfalls and holiday atmosphere. But I’ll keep that for another post.