(Day 50 – 57)
10.01.2010 - 17.01.2010 25 °C
The road to Pucon was long, but as we reached the Patagonian Andes the scenery changed to beautiful mountain vews. In the distance we could see the Villarica Volcano covered in snow - not guessing how hard the climb would be – more about that further down!. What a lovely picturesque town with a black sand beach at the edge of the dazzling blue lake. The first 2 days were rainy and miserable, but when it cleared we managed a few trips to the centre of town to explore. Pucon reminded us of a french alpine village: Log cabins everywhere with the smells of burning woodfires that filled the air, beautiful tall pine trees bordering the houses and roads and this all set around a large lake called Villarica too. Gorgeous place.
On day 3, the 13th Jan, it was Martin´s 30th birthday and as it was just the 2 of us to celebrate this important one, it had to be an extremely good day..So after a nice cooked breakfast we headed out to our first activity of the day: River Rafting! It was the first time for both of us, so we started with class 3 rapids. Well that was enough to give me a good old adrenaline rush, and so did Martin but on the way home he was already saying he was definitely ready for a class 4 next..
After lunch we headed out again for our next activity which was Canopy zip-lining. I sadly had a serious panic attack when I reached the tree top and came right down..with the ladder.. Martin went ahead though and had a great time. They went over the river twice (rapids beneath) and a few more inside the forest. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
In the afternoon Martin blew his candles and we had tea and supermarket-cake (we are backpackers after all!). And at night we had a delightful cheese fondue which made us forget for a night that we were travelling on the cheap since nearly 2 months.
What a treat. Anyway this was the end of the birthday celebrations but I had made one more promise.. Climb the Villarica Volcano the next day..ouch!!
The next morning, we headed out at 05h55. We actually almost missed our pick up at the hostal as some clever guest had locked us in and taken the key with them (we were in a separate little log cabin with 3 rooms and only one front door key.. I know..). Anyway the owner rescued us in time! We were taken to the base of the Volcano by car and then we took a chairlift up a level (which saved us 1 hour walk apparently).
The volcano is the 2nd most active volcano in Chile and in the top 10 in the world, it stands 2847m above sea level. Team Köstlin (and the other 15 in our group) conquered it in 4 hours which was a good time apparently; although I’m sure they tell everyone that!! The climb itself was intense to say the least, we started out walking on snow and using an ice-pic, then a bit further up we had to put crampons on our shoes to be able to carry on climbing on ice. That’s when the hard work really started. Each step was an effort and the one word that kept ringing in my ears was “gruelling”! As we got closer to the top, the wind got stronger and the whiffs of sulphur started getting more intense to the point where you couldn’t breathe anymore but they never lasted very long, thank goodness.
Anyway we finally made it to the top! After high-fiving each other for 10 minutes, Martin and I took a peak down the Volcano – which sadly had no lava for us to see but it was still a great feeling of accomplishment! The Lava level changes each day and sometimes if you are lucky, you can see it bubbling away. The way down was great fun – you get to slide all the way back down the steep slopes on your bum (with a nappy type cloth) and break with your ice-pic. It took us about an hour to get down, quite a contrast to the difficult 4 hours up
What a day! Anyway, we had conquered a Volcano so we were pleased with ourselves!!! That night we took a night bus to Santiago where we arrived the next morning.
Our stay in Santiago has been pretty mellow. The city itself is not very exciting so we used up this time to relax and recover as our muscles were really feeling the results of the climb. Our hostel is quite fun, its an Ecological little place, where there is a recycling bin in every corner and reminders to switch lights off everywhere etc. They had a nice braai on our second night (to celebrate their elections the following day) which allowed us to get to meet the other backpackers and it was good fun.
Tomorrow we head off to Mendoza in Argentina.
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