Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Throat of Fire

It’s about a four hour bus ride from Quito to Ambato. We roll south on the Pan-American Highway, also called the avenue of the volcanoes.

About 45 minutes from our destination, one of the neurosurgeons spots Tungurahua, which means Throat of Fire in Ecuador’s indigenous language. It’s an active volcano that’s been rumbling recently. Villages were evacuated last week, and local experts are predicting that it’ll blow very soon. Even from that distance, it dominates the horizon. A cloud of dark gray ash continually plumes up and out. When the bus windows are opened, we smell the low burn.

Ambato sits about 35 miles due east of the volcano, and if it does erupt, the lava is predicted to flow in the opposite direction. Toward a town called Banos (baths), which is named for its natural hot springs heated by the volcano.

We are going to try to catch a ride up to an overlook later in the week to see it glowing at night.

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