238. That Time I Survived a Volcanic Eruption

I live in Indiana, where there are no volcanoes. We have woods and cornfields and adorable squirrels, but no volcanic eruptions. I appreciate Indiana’s peaceful predictability. The weather can be nasty and tornadoes blow through occasionally, but ash and brimstone are pretty rare.

A few days ago, I spent a moment of my tranquil Indiana life trying to think of past adventures to write about for this blog. I have previously shared anecdotes of memorable moments in my life: tales of awkward kisses and severed human arms and Giant Mutant Killer Jungle Ants. (All of these anecdotes, I assure my readers, are true.) Heck, my very first post for this blog was the story of That Time I Was Attacked by a Tomato.

I was beginning to worry I had run out of interesting anecdotes for this blog—and then I remembered all the times those freaking volcanoes went off when I was a kid.

Guagua Pichincha

Guagua Pichincha, 1999

The Andes Mountains run right down the middle of Ecuador, dividing my homeland neatly in two. The Andes are full of volcanoes. These have a disquieting tendency to go off like bombs, showering cities in ash.

Pictured above is the Pichincha Volcano, which erupted in 1999 and blanketed Quito, Ecuador’s capital, in ash. My older brother lived in Quito at the time, and he told me all about it when he came home to visit. I lived with my family in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, hours away from Quito, and thus missed all the excitement.

We would later climb one of Pichincha’s peaks, Rucu, on several occasions. Guagua, not Rucu, is the active peak of the volcano; consequently, we never witnessed any volcanic activity during our climbs.

Climbing Rucu, back when I was a pudgy teenager.

Climbing Rucu, back when I was a pudgy teenager.

In later years, when I lived in Quito, I survived two or three volcanic eruptions. We were too far from the volcano to see fire or sprays of lava, but we saw plenty of ash. Dash it all, did we see plenty of ash.

As a kid, I never got snow days. Snow hardly ever falls in Quito, and certainly never enough for school to be canceled. No, I got volcano days: weekdays when mounds of soft, powdery volcanic ash blocked the roads and shut down the schools. During the 1999 eruption, my brother and other Quito residents wore dust masks to keep the ash out of their lungs.

My memory is a sketchy thing at the best of times, and I don’t remember which volcanoes erupted when I lived in Quito. (Full disclosure: It took a bit of research to figure out whether the big eruption I remembered from 1999 came from Guagua Pichincha or Tungurahua.) The last eruption I recall happened when I was in seventh or eighth grade; my high school years were uninterrupted by clouds of volcanic ash.

Now that I live in Indiana, the most exciting disaster to strike is a tornado or a blizzard.

Not that I’m complaining, mind!

1 thought on “238. That Time I Survived a Volcanic Eruption

  1. Adam,

    Good ol’ volcanoes! I wasn’t living in Quito during the Pichincha eruption. That was before we moved here. But I was around for the Reventador eruption when I was in 5th grade and you presumably would’ve been in 6th or 7th. I don’t remember how many days school was cancelled–maybe only a couple? That would be the more recent one you’re referring to. I don’t remember any recent other eruptions that sent any ash to Quito. There’s always Tungurahua. And Cotopaxi is overdue by 20 years or something I think. I don’t remember how many volcano days we had, but we certainly did have a lot of strike days. Always plenty of excitement. 🙂

    I also appreciated your picture and memories of climbing Ruco. That’s one of my favorite mountains. My dad and I have climbed it many times, most recently Friday.


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