The next morning, finally on our way to the volcano, all kitted up and with our guides we are informed that the large amount of fresh snow means that the skilift is shut. This adds at least an hour to our already long walk. The next slighty daunting sight is the van in front of us on the road sliding backwards and sideways towards us in the snow
. Snowchain time. Eventually the vans can go not further so we start the long, long walk (just over 6 hours) exclusively on snow to the summit of the volcano. A total climb of 1800m. Ouch. I wonīt lie to you, it was hard work. blinding snow, relentless up, unsteady footing all conspiring against you. But the sheer beauty of the mountain itself, and the surrounding lake district, on what was one of the calmest days in ages made it all worth while. Once at the top we were frighteningly close to the crater itself, which was belching out sulphuric acid and other nasties. No magma visible, but frankly that was a relief to me. Volcano = Scary.
The views and climb alone would have been enough for me, but the best was yet to come. You donīt walk down a volcano, you tobogan down, on your bum. Ice axe in hand to control speed, we launched ourselves down the runs (kindly prepared for us by earlier walkers) squeeling with delight and laughing all the way down. Seriously about the most fun a person can have. And suddenly the long distance up didnīt seem far enough, in just an hour and a half we were down, soaking wet, sunburned (factor 50 did not stop my nose from blistering) exhausted but grinning from ear to ear.
Pucon is a small ski resort type town in the middle of the Chilean lake district...sitting right underneath on the the 10 most active volcanos in the world. Evacuation routes signposted everywhere. All nice and calm at the moment though, in fact the most violent natural phenomenon on arrival was the 24hours of pouring rain we encountered on arrival. So after two days of waiting for the sun to come out (some of it sitting nice and warm in the thermal springs) we finally glimpse our first view of Volcano Villarica from the kitchen of the hostal, and are slightly alarmed to see how big it is, how snowy it is, and how much smoke is coming out of it.