Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another Tumultuous Day with Mama T

What a day this has been!

I first started off being utterly bitter at this whole situation, thanks to Mama T's refusal to calm down enough to allow for any kind of sleep last night. Until 2 am we sat staring out the window - the clouds had parted somewhat and we could see the ash plume lit up by the moonlight. The sounds were sometimes deafening and varied - it would be like a string of really loud thunder, or firecrackers, or even waves of rhythmic pounding - who knew an erupting volcano could be so musical?

We finally decided to try and get some sleep, but Mama repeatedly shook our windows and bed, and often woke me up with such a start that I'd have to catch my breath, and take a minute to let my heart rate slow down before trying to fall back asleep.

By morning she had calmed, and we managed to catch some more sleep (by "calm", I mean that explosions were only every 15 minutes or so, not every couple of minutes). We were convinced that the worst was over. Baños had seemed to return to a regular level of activity, and we allowed ourselves to unpack our things a bit.

And then, around noon, She started up again. The "booms" started coming more frequently, and the wind had also changed direction - instead of the ash heading directly south and away from us, we were getting a thin blanket of it in town. While Pete was out on a walk I had decided to head out to find some lunch, but as soon as I opened the door, a wind gust gave me a face-full of the
ceniza (volcanic ash). That was enough to turn me around and keep me indoors for the afternoon. Yesi (an Ecuadorian employee of La BIB) came by, adorned in her breathing mask, and shared her deep concern with the latest events. Yesi claimed that we were on a higher level of alert then the last time the town was evacuated. She reminded us of the evacuation routes, and generally just got me freaked out all over again. By now we had also noticed that there was a huge army presence in town, perhaps readying for an evacuation? Back upstairs to re-pack the bags.

Mama T changed her mind again, and a couple of hours later, She was quiet. There was no more wind, the bustle of the town even seemed to have slowed it's pace. It was all very eerie, but we were also hopeful that this time that the worst had definitely passed.

However, just as we say aloud to ourselves that "it must be over", She contradicts us. Mama definitely still has something to say. Thankfully, this evening her conversation has been steady but not deafening, and is even mixing with the thunder of a rainstorm so that we no longer know the difference.

Before the rain started, we were gratefully taken out of town to a viewpoint by one of the more permanent volunteers that has a vehicle. The lava flow side of the volcano faces almost directly south (Baños is mostly on the other side), and so we hoped to catch a glimpse of some of the action. We had heard the eruptions, had felt their power, but had yet to actually see anything substantial.

We were not disappointed.
As soon as we had stopped the vehicle and took our seats on the tailgate, we were welcomed with a large BOOM and saw the clouds surrounding the crater light up a bright pink. The eruptions continued, not as frequently as the previous night, but enough to allow us to see what all the fuss was about. When the clouds dispersed we saw bright red fireworks - lava rocks flying high into the air and coming down on the side of the volcano with an audible thud. Lightening from behind the volcano lit up it's silhouette and we could clearly see the large plume of ash that hung overhead.

The batteries died in our camera only a few minutes in (d'oh!), but we weren't too disappointed about it. It was amazing just to be able to sit silently and see the power of nature at work like we've never seen before. Mama T has humbled us as humans, while giving us the show of a lifetime.

Some grand experiences in life can never possibly be duplicated, and I am sure that this is one of them.

We didn't get very many good pictures,
click here for some images by newsgroups online.

Picture from Pete's walk in the afternoon.
The grayish cloud in the middle is the ash plume,
the crater is almost constantly covered in clouds.

Our viewing at night - some lava rocks

Karl, Jill, Me and Rob
Our volcano viewing tailgate party!

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