Too hot to handle.....
07.01.2013 - 09.01.2013 34 °C
How do you describe Pucon, Chile? Imagine a perfect little town on the edge of the most gorgeous lake surrounded by jagged tree covered mountains over which presides the enormous snow topped volcano of Villarica. It really is perfect.
We arrived in Pucon on the early morning bus from Argentina. The border road between the two countries is ripio just a gravel road for about 50km and of course the scenery is stunning. Lots of monkey puzzle trees, giant canes and the tree line leading up to the many snow topped volcanoes which line the route.
At the border we and all of our bags are taken off the bus. We fill some forms, get our passports stamped and then have to get our bags x rayed. Of course us having so much food with us had to declare it and any fresh fruit or veg was taken off us. The Chileans are v careful about what they let into the country as their agriculture is so important to them and the Andes create a natural barrier, but not to tourists, even me(still managed to get bee pollen into the country eventhough the authorities were bemused by it). We arrived in Pucon around lunchtime (after another 6 hours bus ride) and made our way to our family run hostel. It was run by a little lady whom you could only describe as motherly and even though she didn´t look like her, she was the closest thing to Evelyn Ryan, Chilean style, that you could imagine. Nothing was a problem to her and she gave us the run of the kitchen, garden, living room etc. The house was cute with tongue and groove on all the walls, ceilings etc. All it was missing were the holy pictures and the Child of Prague and you could have been in the west of Ireland circa 1973. We felt right at home!
Of course, how could you go to Pucon and not climb the volcano? At least that´s what Seamus thought! As we walked along the main street there were loads of shops offering trips to climb the volcano. So we signed up with a company called Summit Chile which was recommended to us by others in our hostel. The next day was forecast to be windy so we decided that would be a beach day and we would climb the following day.
The next day was our first day on the beach since arriving in South America and we made the most of it. The beach comprises black volcanic sand which is bloody roasting. We balmed out and enjoyed our bit of R&R while Seamus admire the scenery i.e. the local chicas in their scanty bikinis...(he was trying to hide behind mirrored sunglasses but I knew what he was at all the same). On the way back to town the clouds that had shrouded the volcano had lifted and it was then that I realized what I had signed up for. It looked awful steep! After some online research and blogs by some eager and not so eager climbers I began to feel I might be out of my comfort zone and really was not looking forward to the climb. The more i thought about it the more I began to dread the climb the next day so I dragged Seamus along to the mountain guides and cancelled my climb. I decided it was best to all if I didn´t go and that I was happy to admire the beast from afar... the volcano that is... Oh and I forgot to say that the volvano is alive and well with smoke coming out of the top! Seamus can tell the story from her on....
Next morning I was ready for the 6.45am start having prepared lunch and all sorts of small snacks and drinks to fuel me on the climb(chicken sandwiches, wild boar sandwiches, no less and bars and nuts and hot drinks and cold drinks alike). I was like a mobile walking shop.
There were 10 in total climbing in the group with the company, small numbers when you consider there were some companies taking 20 to 30 people up the volcano (one of the reasons why I chose the company). The guides were very friendly and we set out to the base and arrived there at 7.45am. A quarter of an lour later and we were on our way, commencing at 1000m. Volcanic Screed and stones were our company for the first hour or so and thereafter some light snow and ice. At about 10am we had to put on ice crampons in order to traverse the snow as it was getting steeper and more icy. My first time in crampons and it was easy, thank God. After another hour we stopped and had brunch, of course as Gerry will know I usually have something slightly different than them when we go trekking so the wild boar was deffinitely up there, well the guides thought so anyway.
The weather was perfect for our climb, as the previous few days a lot of the companies had to cancel due to high winds or bad visibility. The group of us joined in with all the other groups and I´d say there were around 200 in total climbing that day. So for Aine looking through a pair of binoculars form her sunny spot on the beach she would have seen what might have looked like ants going about their chores. We had to put on the crampons twice more to ease the difficulty in climbing. Eventually, at 2pm we reached the summit and what a spectacular view we had. One could see for over 100km to the horizon. there were numerous other volcanos in the distance in all directions. On top of Villarrica volcano at a height of 2,800m, the steam was steadily rising out and intermittently you could get the odour of the sulpher.
I took lots of photos and indeed they were spectacular. i gathered a few small pieces of volvanic rock from the rim of the crater as a keepsake. At one point i turned around and there was a very pretty young lady standing at the edge with nothing but her tiny bikini on, and inviting people to take her photo so of course she insisted i took a few which i duly obliged (I kept my eyes averted though). Then a bunch of lads got in on the act and stripped down and used their climbing helmets to protect their modesty. I did take a photo to show to Aine lest she be jealous!!!! Then came the exciting part....we put on waterproofs and kitted ourselves out with a small plastic sleigh, time to shoot down the volcano on our backsides using our axes as brakes. It was enormous fun and as I got used to it I wanted to go faster and faster but there were too many people in front of me and i was using them to crash into. We got to within 20 mins of the base doing this and then it was shanks mare for the remainder of the downward hike. All in all it was thoroughly enjoyable day. Got back to Pucon at 5pm and Aine was waiting to take me for a well deserved cold beer or two. AAAAH. Back to the Hostal to shower and then went for a meal in preparation for our 10 hours bus journey to Santiago.
Pucon was not on our itenerary until we bumped into an aussie couple in El Bolson and they said that they really enjoyed it, so thats when we decided to try it out and what a really good recommendation it was. If any of ye ever get the opportunity to visit, then jump at the chance and you will not be dissapointed.
Until nest time, Ciao.
Aine and Seamus.