The other day the phone rang, it was my 19 year old nephew, Liam. He was full of it.
“You’ll never guess what’s happened here, we’ve just had a massive earthquake. It was 5 point something on the Richter scale. My bed was shaking, posters were falling off my walls…it was massive.”
“Wow, that’s pretty freaky; were you scared?”
I asked when I could get a word in edgeways.
“Only a bit,” he replied. “When I thought something might fall on my PS3.”
Glad to see he had his priorities right.

The irony is that Liam lives in Stockport, near Manchester. Hardly a place exposed to the extremes of Mother Nature. And he was the one who was most concerned when we announced we were moving to an island with a slumbering volcano.
I pointed out to him at the time that, if the island exploded it would up his coolness quota when he told people (i.e. tottie he fancied) that his aunt and uncle had been blasted into oblivion by a volcanic eruption. That seemed to ease his worries.

The reality is, as far as I know, nobody has been ‘Pompeii-ed’ by an eruption on Tenerife, despite one in 1706 which destroyed the wealthiest port on the island, Garachico.
However, I do feel closer to nature here than I ever did in the UK. Hurricane Delta a couple of years ago was a real eye opener. Watching trees bend double and branches fly through the air as though they were leaves left a lasting impression. Now I get a bit jittery if there’s a slight breeze. Similarly, seeing the night sky turned orange by the forest fires last year left me in no doubt as to who calls the shots here.

Earlier this week we explored the Valle de Santiago; a place that’s no stranger to the forces of nature. During the last eruption, lava flowed right to the doorsteps of two villages; their destruction avoided by the intervention of a couple of saints (so it’s believed locally). One of them, Valle de Arriba, rode its luck again last year when the fires encircled the village like an attacking army, but amazingly it escaped relatively unscathed.

The path disappears beneath a lava fieldNature’s rampaging hand is evident all around the valley. Opposite old stone walls, which have been sucked into obsidian lava fields, are haunting forests of charred pines. It’s a schizophrenic area; part beautiful, part post apocalyptic desolation which brings home how insignificant we are. Despite our progress, nature could still swat us aside like an annoying insect whenever she sees fit.

This time it was Liam’s turn to experience the force of nature whilst our volcano continues to look over us benignly, until it decides it’s time to remind us who’s boss. Thank goodness it only seems to happen every hundred years or so; plenty of time before I need to start worrying.

Wait a minute; the last eruption was in 1909…Ooops.


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