Fire and Ice!

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hospedaje Wohlenberg

Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pucon is a touristy, visitor-driven, town that used to cater to rich travelers for outdoor sports, hot springs, massages, and food, but now has expanded its reach to travelers on a budget.  In other words, not a city that was exactly #1 on our travel list, in fact, it wasnt even on our travel list (we have a travel list?).  However, in Calafate we saw a video of other travelers sliding down snowy chutes and then remembered Sam and Sandro's blog entry and thought "oh yeah, we need to do that."  So off to Pucon we went, and we fell in love with the town.  Granted we are here in the off-season so prices can be negotiated and there are far fewer people here than in the summer, so  we quickly found ourselves comfortable here and wondering how long we would be able to stay before we ran out of activities and were just staying here to stay here.

The hospedaje we are staying in has a lot to do with that feeling.  We are being hosted by an amazing family (Eric, Elizabeth, and 9 yr old Elmut) who've used the phrase "mi casa es tu casa" more than we can count. Elmut is incredibly outgoing for a 9 year old and wow, what an experience he must have to meet all these travelers all the time. (And he has his own Facebook page.)

Morning sunrise greeted us with a pink hue on the volcano (which is visible from every street in town), the very same volcano we were about to climb that day. With a >1400m elevation gain in <5 hours, we were a bit nervous, but we figured with 17 people in our group there must be people of all fitness levels, and we certainly wouldn't be the stragglers. We weren't. Apparently all this other trekking has paid off and we made the ascent with no problems! Also crampons are really awesome. The only problem was breathing at the top - not so much from the altitude but from the incredible noxious fumes of the volcano. Sara, unaware of the toxicity of the fumes, actually keeled over the other side of the mountain gasping for air after she first skipped up eagerly to view the bubbling lava. It made us think, how crazy, these noxious fumes are the very same chemicals that make the rich soil of the forests below, and the excellent mineral thermal baths throughout the area. This was a seriously active volcano. We stared deeply into the great hole in the Earth, totally humbled. Lava might be one of the most amazing things to watch, ever.

If that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we then got to slide down little snow paths wearing a black diaper-like thing and a thin plastic circle with a handle, using our ice picks for "speed control" (read: used very infrequently). And once the snow and sliding paths were gone, we were treated to an entirely impact-free descent through the loose volcanic sand. It felt like being on the moon! Each step took us five times further than a normal step. We descended in 1 hour what had taken us over 4 hours to climb. What an incredible day.

The next day we debated between river rafting and a zip line/canopy tour. You can already see from the pictures which was the winner: eleven lines and over 3000 meters of zip lining through the jungle, over the Trancura river, from tree top to tree top. Since the tour group said we needed at least four people to make the trip we brought all three of the girls from our hostel - two from England and one from Switzerland. "Team Wohlenberg" had such a great time! And Jayson took some really kick-ass videos.

We finally figured it was time to move on from Pucon. We really felt like home here! It was a tough decision to finally buy tickets to move on to Santiago, but we knew we had to keep moving. Our tickets were for a night trip, so we spent the day hiking in Parque National Huerquehue, and little Elmut and the neighbor family came with us. It was one of the most beautiful hikes we've been on! (Although, how do we compare? Everything has been so beautiful beyond belief.) We saw some waterfalls over smooth granite rock, three lakes with perfectly clear reflections, and lots of incredible views of the volcano. Given that it was in a jungle-type environment, there were lots of tiny things that caught our attention, too, like bugs and mushrooms and flowers and birds.

In the evening we boarded the Pullman bus to Santiago, a 10 hour overnight ride on excellent leather seats with fluffy pillows and blankets and a super attentive staff. Saying goodbye to Pucon, and to Patagonia even, we waved out the window to Eric (our hostel daddy) who was waiting to wave as the bus pulled out of the lot.

P.S. Catch 22 in the grocery store: we wanted to buy a bottle of Cristal (beer) but they only had returnable bottles. They wouldn't let us buy one without returning an old one... How does one ever get the first bottle? Chicken or egg, chicken or egg??

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Emily on

Wow, you take the most amazing pictures!!!! i'm actually saving some to my own photo album for later reference...keep up the good work and keep having fun!

Dr.Dive on

Looks like great fun. Got to see some videos this time.

cannonballs on

Thanks Emily, but we can't take all the credit. It's easy to take amazing pictures when everything around you is just so beautiful. Seriously, it's like: point the camera in any direction and you have an Anzel Adams. :-)

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