A Travellerspoint blog

Pucon, Chile

Too hot to handle.....

sunny 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by Loodersatlarge 07:32 Archived in Chile Tagged volcano pucón Comments (1)

Looders get Looted

And the moral of the story is.....

sunny 35 °C

It had to happen sooner of later, or did it?

We were so concerned about arriving in Lima the next day and how dodgy it was that we never really thought about arriving in Santiago, the capital of Chile, one of the safest countries in South America. We got a very comfortable night bus from Pucon with a full bed each so that the double decker bus only carried about 20 people in total. On getting on the bus we were greeted with the usual ´so where are you guys from´ by the man in the next seat. John was an American business man and mining engineer who had set up a geothermal energy company in Chile years ago and had just set up two restaurants in Pucon with his younger Chilean wife. A real doer. We chatted for a long time and opened a bottle of bubbly that we had bought to celebrate Seamus´ successful climb of the Villarica volcano in Pucon.

To make a long story longer, John had asked us if we wanted to get off at his stop and stay in one of his 5 Santiago properties for the day, have a shower etc. On arrival on the outskirts of Lima John again invited us in and us being too polite declined his offer as we didn´t want to put him out and we thought it would be difficult to get our bags out of the hold as we had told the driver we were going to our terminal.

When we arrived at 7am in Santiago bus terminal we took our many bags and found a spot inside to get ourselves organised. We were so distracted sorting out a scabby bag of food which we had been carrying around with us with packets of half used rice, pasta, herbs, biscuits, honey and the like that we weren´t paying attention. I was saying to Seamus to feck the whole bag in the bin but he insisted on sorting through it all and saving what we could. When all was sorted, we went to take our bags to the left luggage. Seamus turned to me and said ¨where´s my bag¨ I thought the usual ¨where you left it¨ but it wasn´t... the bag was gone. And not just any old bag, it was the one with the laptop, the card holding ALL our photos since we started the trip, cashmere sweaters, camera charger, and the Seamus´mega expensive camera lens which he bought in New York. The happy campers were suddenly not so happy. And worst of all it was our own fault!

Hence there are no photos to accompany this blog....

Of course then I had to go and try to explain to the bus depot security who sent us to the police, who sent us to the local police station where we spent half the morning with me trying to explain in pigeon Spanish what happened. It was great fun!

We tried to convince ourselves that worse things could happen, which they could. We got the metro into Santiago and wandered around a bit but our hearts weren´t in it. We got the bus to the airport where we had two yummy pisco sours and made a toast to how lucky we are to be on this fabulous adventure before boarding the plane for Lima and hopefully more positive adventures to come.

And the moral of the story is... never look a gift horse in the mouth. We will say yes to every genuine offer in future.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 06:16 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (0)

El Zorro´s Asado

Cliff fell on his feet with neighbours like these!

sunny 30 °C

After 5 days in the mountains we arrived at Cliff´s house in perfect time for another food fest - Hector (El Zorro) was cooking up a storm in the form of a Cazuelo (stew) in a dutch oven over the wood fire. The perfect pick-me-up for the weary and hungry travellers. Luckily we had managed to bring a few bottles of wine and a crate of beer. And of course a bottle of whiskey (or whikey as they call it here) for El Zorro. Unfortunately his eagle eyed wife Norma managed to hide the whikey before El Zorro could lay his hands on it. It seems women are the same the world over......
Cliff starting the fire for the asado under the watchful eye of Hector.

Cliff starting the fire for the asado under the watchful eye of Hector.

making steady progress!!!!!

making steady progress!!!!!

getting the lamb in position.

getting the lamb in position.

Hector (El Zorro) setting the final touches to the asado.

Hector (El Zorro) setting the final touches to the asado.

After dinner the music was put on and we were asked up to dance by one of the daughters who thought the Irish would be terrible dancers. Seamus surprised everyone by his disco/rave/irish dancing combination! And of course then he serenaded all with a few tunes on the tin whistle. He´s kind of handy to have at a party...

New Years day and another asado of a full sheep and two chickens over the fire outside. The fire has to be tended all the time to ensure the coals are the correct temperature. Wood is constantly added and the small white coals put under the meat. This could really catch on in Ireland. Must try it in Mayo over a peat fire. They also cook whole sheep in the ground - a bit like the fulacht fia in Ireland of days gone by. More meat, more drink and more drink again. Any bit of weight that was lost on our 5 day hike was more than put back on again during these feasts.
Christ this is hard work!!!!!

Christ this is hard work!!!!!

ready at last!!!!!

ready at last!!!!!

will they ever hurry up as i'm starving.

will they ever hurry up as i'm starving.

We stayed in Cliff's new house which he built last year. It's the perfect hideaway on about an acre of land covered with cypress trees and bounded by a little stream. The house is 'upside down' so from the living room upstairs there are fab views to the mountains. There is also a lovely balcony and in the garden Cliff has strategically placed benches and tables in the shade. Perfect for escaping the summer heat and recovering from a night at El Zorro's. Of course they were also perfect locations for Seamus and Cliff to philosophise (talk shite) over a bottle of Jameson! We really enjoyed our time here and will never forget this little haven and the generosity of the people of Mallin Ahogado (Cliff, El Zorro, Norma and family).
IMG_8847.jpgMe and my new man Gino

Me and my new man Gino

The boys chillin'

The boys chillin'

Side view of Cliff's house

Side view of Cliff's house

Áine and the Scarlet Pimpernell aka Cliff Twomey

Áine and the Scarlet Pimpernell aka Cliff Twomey

Posted by Loodersatlarge 15:59 Archived in Argentina Tagged mallin ahogado Comments (0)

Looders in the Wild

Anyone for a little light camping????????

sunny 26 °C

After stuffing our faces for nearly a whole week and being hostelbound due to rain we were chomping at the bit to get out and about. On advice from the hostel owners we decided to go on a 2 day hike into the mountains near El Bolson. At breakfast on the day of departure 2 others said they´d join us - Katy a journalist from California and Rachel an english girl who has been travelling for 14 months. Seamus was delighted! Taking 3 ladies to a quiet retreat'. As it was a 2 day hike and we had to carry everything with us we decided to take the minimalist approach and shedded all bar one change of clothes, our sleeping bags and basic provisions.

We headed off to the foot of the first mountain where we were met by the River Azul over which was erected a very rickety wooden suspension bridge. Aine's smile turned upside down...now that's something to see. Having negotiated the bridge we started the hard slog uphill through the beech and cypress forests. The way is generally marked by red markers on trees. Well most of the time.... We managed to mostly keep to the path. After 8 hours of uphill slog we finally made it to the first refugio (mountain hut) at Hielo Azul, which was a sight for sore and tired eyes. Just like a house from Hanzel and Gretel in a clearing in the forest, with a jawdropping backdrop to the snow covered mountains. Here there are no roads but they manage to provide homemade beer, homemad bread, pizza and stew. All very welcome to the weary travellers. Sleeping quarters in the loft on basic sponge matresses. Heating is provided by the metal chimney pipe from the stove below. Cozy.
this is soo easy!!

this is soo easy!!

ok maybe not that easy !!!!!!!

ok maybe not that easy !!!!!!!

can i take a break, please.........

can i take a break, please.........

Refugio Hielo de Azul

Refugio Hielo de Azul

Homebrew and toasting our feet by the fire

Homebrew and toasting our feet by the fire

The stove at Hielo de Azul

The stove at Hielo de Azul

Next day Seamus and the 2 girls decided to do the 2 hour hike up to the nearby glacier of Hielo de Azul. On starting out we had to climb a small cliff by a waterfall. I thought better of it and decided not to go as I hate heights. I was glad of my decision as the way up was hairy enough having to cross snow and ice patches and negotiate steep scree slopes. I was happy to watch the pace from below but was just as scared watching the others climb up. I even started wondering about Seamus' life insurance!

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When they came back we headed off again on another 7 hour hike to the next refugio. Thank god we did not know what was ahead of us. We had to descend about 700m of sheer torture for small tired legs. It involved scrambling down several steep gullies which were filled with water and so steep I nearly got sick. Thank God the trees hid most of the fall and we only realised the next day what we had survived! And then when we thought all was well, we had to negotiate a set of ladders along the edge of a canyon as there was not enough room for a path. You should have seen the sheer panic on Aine´s face. But she swallowed her fear and so did Seamus (he really is a brave boy..) We arrived at Cajon de Azul refugio to the by now familiar home brewed beer. Not only that but they had the most beautiful garden filled with the freshest of veg which we bought for dinner that night.
270_IMG_8533.jpgIMG_8542.jpg270_IMG_8551.jpgIMG_8782.jpgSleeping arrangements at the refugios

Sleeping arrangements at the refugios


Sleeping arrangements at the refugios

Sleeping arrangements at the refugios

Next morning as we packed to head back down to civilisation someone suggested that perhaps (seeing we were having such fun) that we extend our hike. All Aine was worried about was having brought no shampoo and not being able to wash her hair for another few days.... Vanity.... Having found that the hostel sold sachets of shampoo our fate was decided and off we set, upwards and upwards.

Day 3 and off again to the highest refugio of Los Laguitos. Every time we rounded a corner the cry from us girls was "oh no, not more up". It was all "up" dammit. But Seamus the leader, or should I say, slave driver, kept us on track and lead from the front. Having Katy and Rachel wirh us was great moral support as Seamus and I would most likely have killed each other up there and left a body or two for the pumas! After 9 hours of thigh screaming climbing we reached the little refugio by the lake. Lovely but not as nice as the other two. Aine arrived with 35 bites on her right arm, courtesy of the horrible black horseflies, known as tabanos. Bed was fairly basic in the loft again but fairly cold and with holes in the roof and walls to allow rain and draughts in. Nothing like some fresh air for a good night´s sleep.

another blue lagoon

another blue lagoon


It's a big 'un

It's a big 'un


Clothes drying arrangements at Los Laquitos refugio

Clothes drying arrangements at Los Laquitos refugio


Not a moment too soon

Not a moment too soon

Day four and thankfully the opposite of "up" - down most of the way. Walked through ancient forests with red wood and ancient cypress trees. Met mountain gouchos on their horses, herding small herds of cattle between the upland pastures. Arrived slightly less tired at refugio Retamel, where for dinner we had what tasted like gourmet food - the fresh potatoes and salad bought in the previous refugio. Simple never tasted so good. Next day we headed down and found our way to Cliff´s house. Perfect timing as the neighbour Hector was cooked a Cazuela on the open fire but more of that latr.......
Retamel refugio

Retamel refugio


Cooking  up a storm on a wood burning stove

Cooking up a storm on a wood burning stove

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90_8AAC90292219AC68175A212A24C0BBD8.jpgEl gaucho

El gaucho


The bog.

The bog.


A message from Seamus

A message from Seamus


Where's my oats?

Where's my oats?


The Art of recycling at Retamel refugio

The Art of recycling at Retamel refugio

Posted by Loodersatlarge 13:45 Archived in Argentina Tagged el bolson Comments (1)

Christmas Wonderland

El Bolson - Groundhog Day

overcast

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We really don't know how long we''re staying at the hostel La Casona de Odile. Aine has a friend of a friend living somewhere in the hills around these parts but trying to locate him is proving to be a tad difficult. We thought we might be staying with him for Christmas but if we don't locate him soon we could end up like the holy family. ...looking for a stable to stay in, as the hostel is filling up rapid. We really don't want to be looking for accommodation for Christmas eve and day. A moment please as I pray to St. Jude. (for those pagans among ye St. Jude is for hopeless cases).
People at hostel seem extremely nice and v helpful. One of the fellows running it cooked us a v healthy organic pizza and it was scrumptious. Of course we had to wash it down with their home made beer, or two. Early to bed as we were knackered after 30 hour bus journey.
IMG_8103.jpga homely fire

a homely fire


Got up refreshed and ready to take the day by the scruff of the neck. Breakfast and met all the other in-mates, brekkie v good with home made bread and jams. After talking with Aussie couple, decided to take taxi to 7 miles outside town to climb some of mount Piltriquitron in the Andes. The way there was really as rough a 'road' as ever I travelled on. (Hardcore packing that was years old and potholes every where. On our climb we came across a 'carved forest'. (At 1500 m part of the forest which was destroyed by fire some years ago had been carved upon by various artists from all over Argentina).

help me....

help me....

do you know any irish trad ?????

do you know any irish trad ?????

a woman with a head for heights

a woman with a head for heights

please don't go.....uprooting and leaving me!!!!

please don't go.....uprooting and leaving me!!!!

large_270_IMG_7201.jpgi think aine is a little frightened????

i think aine is a little frightened????

23rd December, Decided to go for moderate 3 hour stroll to a water fall and a rock face shaped like an Indians head after another fine brekkie. Weather was threatening rain but Aine was sure we'd make it back before the worst of it. So much for Aine's forecast. We started in relative sunshine and the walk was steadily uphill. Views obscured due to low lying cloud but that would not deter the dynamic duo. We made it to our destination and it was beautiful nonetheless. We then continued for another while in an attempt to link up with another track that would bring us in a circular route emerging near our accommodation. Alas it was not to be...... all it takes is one wrong turn. 3 hours turned quickly into 5 and then into 7. We were well and truly lost. We steadily went deeper and deeper into no mans land. But we were hopeful we'd emerge at some estancia and reach once again civilization. We eventually came upon a farmstead and met a gaucho and (i must say his spanish was really good) he spoke to us and it must be similar as to the first meeting of christopher columbas with the native americans... i looked at him, i looked at aine, aine looked at me, and she looked at him, he looked at both of us and he looked at the sky (prob asking the Lord, why him...) there was a lot spoken but very very litle understood. We followed his gesturing hands and eventually made it to river which wr had to cross, where St. Christopher came to our rescue and found us a "bridge" to cross over. Of cousre like everything else it was made in a hurry with 'bits of timber planks held together with rope'. Knowing Aine's fear of heights and everything not solid beneath her feet i couldn't help myself and rush over to the other side as i knew i would get some great action photos of Aine trying to cross..... indeed it proved to be a fruitful 'photo shoot'. Its a pity i didn't have video as some of her explatives were choice. (Maybe it is wrong to take entertainment from some else's fears but secretly i enjoyed it). Back to civilisation and delivered safely home. We had even began leaving marker points as we anticipated trying to retrace our steps. But all's well that ends well. ... we had a few bottles of local brew to celebrate.

Not having given up on finding the scarlet pimpernell, (aka Aine's friend, Cliff) we eventually tracked down his neighbors. It appears he really is elusive, as they told us they saw him the first day he arrived over from Ireland, 5 week's ago.......and they haven't seen him since then. Luckily there was 2 beds left in the hostel so we gratefully accepted the hospitality. 37 people joined together from different countries and religious beliefs. It will be very interesting indeed. In argentina Christmas is celebrated on 24th so the tradition is to have Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. The patrons of the hostel made the meal which included 6 starters in a buffet style. Each one was really tasty, and for main course we had lamb stew and/or vegetarian lasagne. Desert was a homemade flan smothered in dulce de leche. I had 2 main courses and 2 deserts.
Not drunk....

Not drunk....

sharing is caring

sharing is caring

happy christmas to all ......

happy christmas to all ......

Dec 25th:
Guess what?! Cliff the Irishman just turned up in a jeep at our door and invited us to a Christmas day grill (Asado) at his neighbour Hectors house. Hector, also known as El Zorro ( the Fox) invited us to join his family´for the day and what a treat it was. A whole sheep cooked over the wood fire and cut up into chunks, served with salad, beer, wine and more beer. Perfect. And Cliff has built a lovely house with fantastic views over to the snow topped mountains. The perfect hideaway for 4 months of the year.

spring lamb for christmas dinner is a must.

spring lamb for christmas dinner is a must.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 17:49 Archived in Argentina Tagged el bolson Comments (1)

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