Just after we came back to the UK, there was a feature on the news called "Living in the shadow of the volcano". It told the story of the people living at the foot of Tungurahua and how they lived in perpetual fear of an eruption. The thing is though, having just been there, I knew that this wasn't really true. Sure, there are people living underneath an active and actually erupting volcano, but they aren't exactly living in fear. Just at the foot of the mountain is Banos, Ecuador's most popular holiday town. Even though you drive into the town over the debris left by pyroclastic floes down from the mountain (the road rises about 10m in some places to get over this stuff), business is going on entirely as normal. It's true that they have alarms to warn them of an eruption, but even then, an evacuation would be a rather leisurely affair, as lava from the volcano will take about three days to travel the mile or so down the mountain to the town. To be honest, they probably welcomed an eruption as it was bringing droves of tourists to the town to have a look, and there was a thriving industry geared up around taking people up the volcano and selling them postcards and so on. We went horseriding up the side of the volcano.
Scared? Not really.
Mind you, hearing the explosions, watching the smoke and ash billowing out of the crater and feeling the ground shake is an awesome experience.....
Ecuador is a brilliant place, and that was a fantastic holiday.