It's not often one gets to experience a volcano. But there I was in Ecuador, a decade or so ago, watching a plume of what looked like smoke--but had to be ash--spewing from Tungurahua, translated as throat of fire.
Obviously, volcanoes can be dangerous but it was far in the distance and an adrenaline rush to witness. Seems Tungurahua, located along Ecuador's Avenue of the Volcanoes has been showing a lot of activity again these days.
You can take that one of two ways, depending on your personal risk meter. Either it's hey, time for me to go see an active volcano for myself-from a safe distance, course. Or heck no, I'm staying away until things settle down-which way to the Galapagos?
Cotopaxi volcano is rumbling
The reason I'm thinking about volcanoes lately is I've been reading about Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Here's how one person described this mountain along the Avenue of the Volcanoes: "A perfectly symmetrical 19,348-foot snow cone, Cotopaxi could well be the world’s most beautiful volcano."
Beautiful or not, Cotopaxi seems to be waking up. Although it has been dormant for 70 years, it has erupted 50 times since 1738. Sounds like it's not done. That doesn't mean you should stay away from Ecuador. But depending on where you're going, stay informed about potential volcanic activity.
Culture near Chimborazo volcano
Because past volcanoes create rich soil in mountainous terrain, local people seem always to return to the base of these volcanic mountains. It's just one of the many interesting cultural aspects of a visit to a country like Ecuador.
During my solo trip, I joined a several-day tour to Cuenca from Quito, traveling down the spine of the country where the volcanic mountains are located. We visited a rural area along the base of Chimborazo, currently inactive.
We watched a local guy carving buttons and little animals to sell, from the nut of the tagua plant. I've heard it called the "vegetable ivory" because of its off-white color. Alpacas roamed outside. Of course I bought some little tagua-nut animals and they remind me of my visit whenever I see them.
Fun mountain fact
Chimborazo's claim to fame is that, even though it's not the highest mountain in the world, its summit is the farthest in the world from the Earth's center. How can that be?
It's located on the equatorial bulge. So measured from the center of Earth outward its summit, rather than Mount Everest's, is the highest point on Earth. That makes reaching the top of Chimborazo the goal of many a mountain climber.
And there you have it. Have other fun facts or stories about Ecuador? Share them here.
Photos: Ellen Perlman
1. Riobamba church 2. Cotopaxi volcano 3. Chimborazo volcano (yes, they DO look a lot alike) 4. Maker of tagua nut items 5. My little tagua collection - buttons in front