Rafting, climbing and barbecuing!

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Woke up to sunrise over the mist and mountains as we approach Pucon. We arrive on time and try to find our hostel, Donde German. Dave´s sis, Jane, used to work here and hence knows German and Marie Elena, the owners, very well. The hostel is fab, feels just like home. We have our own little cabinlike room each with lovely beds, tv and bathroom complete with mini bath. I am virtually ecstatic, think Tony thinks I am mad and that we are used to such luxury! Hostel has a huge kitchen which is great and v clean too so really does feel like home.

We head into the centre of Pucon which is not very big and all very lowrise and cabin-like. Has a nice feel and fantastic scenery with the lake and Volcano Villarica protruding in the background with intermittent smoke coming out. Stock up at the supermarket (mainly on wine, surprise, surprise) and head back to the hostel for our afternoon trip.

Were going rafting on Trancura river, the lower part, grades 3 and 4 rapids. We all got geared up with our kit and headed off with a guy from Alaska too. Tony and him started at the front, which was very brave.
Weather was absolutely brill which helped as we got covered in icy water and occasionally could only watch as we rose about the river and then descended into a trough. Had to get out and walk around a grade 5 rapid before carrying on with Dave at the front. We all really enjoyed it and managed to stay in the raft until we voluntary jumped out and floated down the bottom bit of the river. It was freezing but good fun until we had to swim for it to get to the shore at the end. Felt we deserved the beer and crisps at the end!

Back home I semi-cook a roast (bought a cooked chicken) which we had before hitting the sack. Woke up in the night to hear howling wind, doesn´t bode well for our volcano ascent tomorrow, or so we thought....

Wind still incredibly strong when the alarm went off and Tony and I both wanted to stay in bed as it was so warm and comfy. Dave had other ideas and went to ask if we could still go up the volcano, German reckoned it might not be windy there so we all plodded on our way. Again got all the kit, boots, waterproofs, ice axes (scary!) etc for our expedition. Must admit I was nervous about going up and whether I would manage it or not. We arrived at the base of the volcano an hour later in blazing sunshine and no wind. Perfect conditions. Started our walk to the ski lift which was further than we all imagined esp in the trudging snow. An hour later we arrived and got the lift up. At this point Tony and I were both having second thoughts as it was further than we thought and quite hard in the snow which was knee deep in parts. Had at least another 3 hours to do after the ski lift too! Tony decided to take it slow and went with our other guide to do the ascent while we headed on up with German. It was a long and slow trudge zigzagging up having to whack your ice axe into the side of the volcano to ascend, fortunately it was not too icy though. We even managed to overtake a few groups which I was very pleased about. The climb wasnt too bad, which is probably due to the weather being very good and not too icy or windy as have also heard it can be horrendously difficult. Stopped a couple of times for suntan cream and snacks (didnt enjoy the cream very much!). Eventually reached the top to fabulous blue-sky views of several volcanoes and lakes. Peered into the volcano crater hoping to see lava but no joy and couldn´t look too much as the gas stinks and is pretty dangerous if you inhale! Didn´t use our gas masks though.

Was looking forward to going back down as heard you basically do it all by sliding on your bum. Had to walk the first bit down which was pretty steep and a bit icy, I really hated going down more than up. Then got to our first ´slide´ which was great fun but I didnt manage to slide as much as everyone else, for some reason. Interspersed with walking and sliding down it was quite hard work and I ended up going behind German to slide down which seemed to work better. Stopped for a picnic on volcanic rock on the way down before reaching the bottom mid afternoon to meet up with Tony again who made it 2/3 of the way up. We were all relieved it was over. I was very pleased to have made it although we were all very sweaty!

Back to town we enjoyed another celebratory beer. Rang home to wish my dad a Happy Birthday 95 today (just checking whether he reads this). Have some champagne to drink to his health. All feeling a bit sunburnt after our adventure.

Friday have a lie in which feel like we have justified, especially as it is rainy outside. Are all sunburnt and my lips have started to inflate on the account of the sun yesterday, I assume. Eventually walk into town to explore other parts of the place with lots of little shops with wooden things in and other useless tourist stuff. We resist the temptation to send Tony home with a majority of stuff . Try some chocolate in the local chocolate shop before chilling a bit. Later on German and M-E take us to a Mappuche Indian museum that has been recently built where we find out about the tribes and way of life. We then have a delicious authentic meal with lots of breads and different dippy sauces and quinoa balls. Also have some wheat beer which looks like milk. Is all lovely and only costs a pound each!

In the evening we take German and Maria Elena for our meal to a local hotel, which allegedly looks over the lake, although it is still drizzling and is dark. Have a lovely meal and pisco sours. Have the most fantastic hot chocolate ´mousse´ all gooey in the middle was horrid. By this time I am shattered so am pleased to go home to bed.

Still sunburnt and tired today plus my lip has inflated to the size of a house and is blistered, great! Weather still drizzling so after a quick walk around town we head back to the hostel where German and Marie Elena are preparing a barbecue for us. Are having what we think is a hog cooked on the spit with loads of salad, sausages etc. Is delicious despite the fact it is now raining hard and there are huge crashes of thunder. We feel very lucky and glad to have done the rafting and volcano climb when we did.

Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and having a bath (heaven esp with my maltesers!). Moulin Rouge on telly one of my fave films too. Could stay here forever!

Feel sad that we are leaving tomorrow.
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