Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vulcanism - Banos, Ecuador

Local man pulling toffee, it was quite tasty, particularily with dog poops.

Cloud cover billowing upward from the Amazon Basin.

The ravine & river to the right which we followed to the base of the volcano.

Greg and I standing on a lahar, a volcanic mud flow.

Jan.11, 2010

We left the jungle in the pouring rain and accended to 1800 meters through the fog. Along the way we encountered a fallen tree across the road. Luckily we arrived just a man began chainsawing the branches and trunk (under the cover of an umbrella being held for him by a friend) allowing us to pass after only a short wait. The water was cascading down the road and the rain drops were splashing 30cm off the asphalt. We were on our way to Banos, a place Greg visited 5 years ago, and thankfully about 45 minutes away from town the rain stopped. The short dry period did not help much, we arrived at our hostal soaking wet and smelling like a couple of wet dogs.

Christian was the owner of the hostal, and he was very excited to see us roll up on a KLR. Our arrival prompted him to uncover his own KLR which was dormant for the past couple of months. Greg helped him to adjust his doohickey and helped him with some other minor tune up jobs that Christian had on the back burner.

We were exhausted from our ride in the rain so we hit the hay at 8pm knowing that we would be hiking up a steep mountain side in the morning. At approximately 5am the roosters began which was followed by Greg´s alarm clock at 6am which was then followed by a bull horn announcer at 730am who was coordinating group exercises for the school next door. All of this noise did not deter us from sleeping and we rolled out of bed at 830am for real coffee, rolls, and eggs.

Jan.12, 2010

We walked around town gathering snacks for our hike. Armed with 3 liters of water, 2 oranges, 2 rolls, a bag of chips, and some dog poops (beer nuts) we began our ascent. We followed a path and crossed a river which was a tributary to the main river on our right. At this point the path became a trail which followed up a median between the two rivers. Essentially we were hiking up a very big ridge towards the base of the volcano. Immediately the trail jutted upward and we began to sweat. There was a white horse tied to a stick which we considered riding however the point of our journey was to get some excerise while exploring the volcano side (and I´m pretty sure I will not be getting on a horse again in the near future after my last adventure).

Beginning in early January, the volcano became active. This essentially translates to minor tremors followed by spewing smoke and ash which is refered to as pyroclastic flows. On our hike up to the base of the volcano at 3000 meters we were able to see in the daylight billowing plumes of grey expanding volcanic belches. The rumbles at times made us uneasy, the sound was like thunder, and we swear the ground shook.

On the way up we meandered up through a trench which must have been created by years of hoof travel and water erosion. At times this trench was well over 10 feet deep and 7 feet wide. At about 3/4 the way up we found an opening in the barb wire fence paralleling the trail and hiked upward through a field. This was a very good choice which entertained panoramic views of surrounding dormant volcanoes, other fields, farms, valleys, and the town of Banos below.

After four hours of hiking the trail diminished to a cow path and we decided it was time to turn around. On our way down, Greg decided to jump over a small brook and haphazardly stepped onto a 2x4 plank hidden in the grass which caused him to roll his ankle. He wasn´t really hurt, however, it scared him to think that the motorcycle trip could have ended.

We were down the mountain in what seemed no time. We arrived back at our hostal and went for a well deserved dinner. Upon returning to the hostal Christian excitedly prompted us to get our riding gear on and follow him to a view point where we could observe the volcanic activity from an adjacent mountain. After following Christian for only 2 kms we refered to him as CC (Crazy Christian). In the darkness we followed only his tail light through twisting turns and switch backs, making our way to our view point. The road turned from asphalt, to cobblestone and finally to dirt and back to asphalt. We ascended into a thick peasoup fog which was dizzying and disorienting like trying to balance on one foot with your eyes closed. The fog from the Orient was too thick so we headed back down to a point where the volcano was visible in fiery red streaks outlining it´s dark sillouette in the black night sky.

The three of us stopped to watch this magnificent event for some time, and then without warning it seemed as though all activity stopped. We fired up the bikes and headed back home when all of a sudden there was a thunderous crack heard well over the bikes. We looked up to see tumbling red fire balls and streaking red fireworks ejecting from the caldera. It was awesome in all sense of the word.

1 comment:

  1. LMAO! Julie you are so funny.....I didn't realize horses were your nemesis! LMAO! I LOVE the pic of you sitting with the mountains as the back drop!