I arrived in South America with the understanding that as an exchange student I would be filled to the brim with memorable experiences. Little did I know at the time that one of my adventures would take me through the disruption of an erupting volcano.
It has been a little over four months since I first arrived at my new home in Osorno, a southern town in Chile. On June 4th, 2011 what began as a day trip to Villa La Angostura with my host mom and best friend ended in a weekend of exciting firsts. After the long drive and time spent going through customs all of our stomachs were rumbling with hunger as we arrived in the small town in Argentina around lunch time.
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As the rumbling in our stomachs subsided as we enjoyed our food sitting in “El Esquiador” another rumbling began. From our seats we watched the plates hanging on the wall shake and felt the table tremble beneath our hands. The small earthquake lasted less than one minute and my best friend and I looked at each other with amazement and understanding; we had both just experienced our first earthquake.
Continuing along the cobblestone sidewalk with rich, warm hot chocolate in hand we overheard that a two hour away volcano near Puyehue, Chile had erupted and the customs office was closed. The next custom office to enter back into Chile was a five hour drive north to the national park Villarrica. As my host mom went to go talk to a police officer, my friend and I sat on a bench where all of the sudden we started feeling drops land on our arms. We looked up expecting to see raindrops but instead saw rocks the size of a finger nail falling from the sky. By the time my host mom came back the little rocks had started to cover the ground. With the police officer’s suggestion to either find a hotel in Villa La Angostura or head north my host mom opted for the latter since we had a fuel tank of gas. As we left the town on route to San Martin de los Andes we passed by a gas station where a line of about twenty cars stretched out along the street. The news of eruption had instilled fear into the town.
The next day after a well needed rest in San Martin we safely made it across the border and were finally back in Chile. The first sight of the volcano took my breath away. The huge cloud rising in the sky looked like an enormous mushroom due to the small circumference at the base growing into a huge circle at the top. With a height of ten kilometers the cloud towered in front of us as we zoomed down the freeway. As the sun set in the horizon the once white, gray cloud changed to beautiful shades of purple and pink. Later as night set in we watched with amazement as flashes of lightning originating inside the cloud lit up the black sky.
Watching the ash from the Cordon Caulle circle around the world on national news was eye opening. Most devastating stories seen on the news are watched with sadness along with relief that your own life had not been affected by the destruction. For the first time I experienced the aftermath of a national news worthy spectacle as I watched the local news share stories and pictures from people in twenty local towns who had to evacuate their homes due to the downfall of ash.
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