Volcan Villarrica trek from Pucon.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2007
Trip End May 07, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lovely and warm in Pucon when we arrived which was a nice change from the wind in Bariloche. The town itself is really nice and like all of the towns in the lake district it sits on the shore of a large cold lake surrounded by towering mountains. One particular mountain of interest was the enormous snow capped Volcan Villarrica which shadows the town. It`s an active volcano and was the main reason we came to Pucon. We got checked into the hostel "backpackers" and immediately booked the Volcano trek for the morning. 4am start meaning we would have to be up at 3 for breakfast. Knowing the hardship to come we decided it would be best to spend the day lazing on the shores of the lake eating sambos and soaking up the sun. All of a sudden who comes wadlling along the path but Phil, a bloke from Canada we had met back in El Calafate. So the three of us caught up and soaked up more sun on the black sand beach on the other side of town. Lou had a walk in the water along the shore too.  Oh the pain of it all!!!! He had done the volcano trek that day so he clued us in to the whole thing. It sounded tough so we made an oul shepards pie for dinner met our crew, guides and an Irish lad called Gavin before trying on all our gear for the climb. We booked with the guy who runs our hostel and they give you the works in equipment, trousers, jacket, two pairs of gloves, proper snow boots, hat and helmet, ice pick, crampons, a "nappy" (explain in a minute) and even sunglasses if you needed them. Very professional. The "nappy" was a black piece of fabric with straps to secure it to your legs and waist and the reason for it will all be revealed later in this post.

So off to bed we went and after a miserly hour or two of sleep we arose and got ourselves kitted out for the trek. We arrived at the base of the volcano at about 4.30 and began our ascent after a short briefing. There was eleven of us in total, all giddy and eager and we had three guides to help us along if needed. We had 1400 metres to climb and we were told that 6 hours would get us to the top. The trek was tough, zig zagging the whole way up but the sunrise and the views were amazing. We knew it was gonna be a hot day without a cloud in the sky so our luck was really in as we had heard that a lot of people get turned back for one meteorological reason or another regularly. There was four breaks in total before the summit giving us a chance to drink and eat some choc and sambos but the 3rd and last part of the ascent were a killer. It was really steep and by now the sun was right in our faces and we could feel the heat reflecting off the snow. Everybody had completely white faces from the caked on suncream and we all kept going knowing the summit would be spectacular. And it didn`t let us down. There was smoke belching out of the crater below and the noises were great. It sounded like there was a serious amount of activity below and large plumes of smoke would come bursting out. We got plenty of time at the top to take in the views and there was nobody else up there apart from our group making it even better for listening to the noises coming from the volcano. Some of us had brought beers as a victory drink and we shared them out in celebration.

Then came the fun part - sliding down the mountain in the snow!!! Class. We all strapped on our nappies and walked a short distance to the first of our descent points. A huge slide. What was very had work going up was gonna be so much fun going down. What better way to get down a volcano than to slide down on your arse wearing a thing they call a nappy. At one stage me and Lou were going that fast we had to shout at the guide to get out of our way or he was gonna get two size 45 boots in the ass. On the fastest of the slides the guides asked for a volunteer and up stepped speedy Byrne. I threw myself onto it and before I knew it I couldn`t see a thing as I was covered in snow hurtling down the mountain laughing and choking at the same time. I had to wait a minute when I got to the bottom and over the crest came Lou burning up the track, arms in the air laughing and screaming the whole way. We can`t think of any better way to get down a mountain without a parachute. 6 hours up and 20 minutes down. We had a short walk to the bus before heading back to the Hostel for a shower and a siesta before dinner. The best thing about going so early was that we got home at 2pm and had the rest of the day to enjoy even though we were wrecked. Later that night we headed out with Yvonne, Jurgen and Gavin for drinks and sleepy here fell asleep on a couch in the bar for about a half hour waiting on the rest to finish their drinks.

Pucon was a great way to finish our South America trip before heading to Santiago for our flight to NZ.

Can`t believe we`re leaving this continent. Gutt wrenching. We don`t wanna go......
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