Adventure Capital of Chile

Trip Start Jan 24, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

This place is awesome, its a tourist town at the foot of the 3rd highest Volcano in Chile, called Volcan Villarrisa, Its 2840 metres high and towers over the small town. Nearby is Lago Villarrica, a huge lake at the foot of the town. There are tourists galore, the beaches, especially on weekends, are swarming, and the chicks here are much better than in Santiago, but still as pretentious.

So we, Murray (who speaks fluent spanish, a huge help), Jag and I (An Aussie and Kiwi i met at the bus station in Temuco) arrived here Sat arvo and checked into a hostel called ecole, a bit of a local hippy joint. On Sat night went to a club called Deep after consuming a fair few $1 each Coronas at the hostel. The club was a fair distance outside town, which seems to be th norm in South America. But in the end it turned out to be pretty ordinary. The place looked good from the outside but inside it was really just a massive metal garage, a bus station we thought, maybe an old barn, with concrete floors and next to nothing in the way of decor or anything behind the bar. However we still managed to make idiots of ourselves and finished the night as the only three people on the massive dance floor showing off our dance routine, with a crowd of people staring on in amazement. Once the music stopped we got a few cheers from the bar staff before we ran out with our heads in our hands. Very very amusing for 5am. Got home at 530am and I had to break into my hostel to get to bed, while trying to avoid the "Street Warden" (read: psycho carabinero with machine gun) who was prowling around. The next day we just bummed around conserving energy for the big volcano climb on Monday

So monday morning the 3 of us set off to climb Volcan Villarrica! We set off with a group of rude Israelis and a few guides at 7am, armed to the teeth with snow gear. We drove for 30 minutes to the base of the Volcano where we had a great view of loads of smoke shooting from the top.

The Volcano is covered in glaciers, some are 25 metres deep and on the way up we saw huge cracks and crevases, disapearing into the deep darkness under the glacier. Reminded me very much of my galcier climb experience in Switzerland in 2003. In fact this whole region of Chile reminds me of Interlaaken in Switzerland.

The first part of the hike was hot, dry, dusty and slippery, but after about 90 minutes we arrived at the first rest stop and had a great view of the village of Pucon below and could see across lake Villarrica further along. This is where the snowline started and from here the walk became more bearable.

As a side note;
Israelis are massive problems in sth america. It seems they all come here after their conscription service as kind of a gap year. We had only been on the hike for an hour and they had almost got themselves into a fight with the guide, after they continued to let their rubbish fly into the National Park. The whole way up they were complaining and bitching about anything they could. When they got the the top, they didnt even look into the volcano, they slept, then compained again when we had to go down! They arent very well liked amongst the travelling comunity. Infact, so disliked that the first question you ask when checking into a new hostel is ´áre there any Israelis here?´ Most people go elsewhere if the answer is yes. Sad but true.

Anyways, after short rest at the top of the chairlift which wasnt working, we donned our helmets and ice picks and got underway on the more interesting part of the climb. Basically an ice staircase took us to the top. Not as easy as it seemed, some parts were extremely steep and we had to cut steps with our picks. 5 hours of hiking straight up and we could smell the top! Sulfur, its strong, and burns the eyes, throat and chest. Stuffing your shirt into your mouth so you can breath suddenly becomes the best idea ever!

From the top, the view was unreal, we were way above any of the surrounding mountains and were able to walk 360 degrees around the Volcano! From one point we had an amazing view right into the crater at the molten magma! It sounds like a dodgy bbq and every so often a big shot of lava would shoot out and stick to the walls, glowing a brilliant fluro orange. We threw a few rocks in, as an offering to the Volcano gods but then the wind changed direction and blew thick Sulfurous smoke straight at us. Instantly all 15 odd of us doubled over in coughing fits and were temporarily blinded. We got out of there quick smart, and moved to the Argentinian side, where we threw some more rocks into the lava as payback, this time surviving without any smoke in the eyes. From this side we had a brilliant view of Tierra Del Fuego - Land of Fire and further south into chile and argentina. From the top of villarrica at 2840 metres we could see at least 6 other volcanos in the distance. Most are active but villarrica seems to be the one with the most smoke and the most accessible.

After an hour at the top we woke the sleeping Israelis and started the descent, which took 30 minutes! Sliding on our ass all the way to the bottom in a Slalom course, made from the asses before us! It was superb, we got some serious speed and shot down the mountain, loosing the plot a few times and ending up face first heading for piles of rocks, loosing our ice picks and trying not too die. By the time we reached the bottom we were absolutely soaked, and my ass was seriously numb. Luckily it was around 30 degrees. It was a awesome day, the best adventure of the trip so far.

After the volcano adventure a couple of days of solid beach time was required. Murray and Jag shipped out for Bariloche in Argentina wednesday lunch time leaving me with the day to myself and checked myself into a hotspring that evening to chill out.
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