Having a lava-ly time!

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hostal Victor
What I did

Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Monday, April 1, 2013

Hello everyone!

I'm sorry it’s been such a long time since we’ve posted anything, but we’ve just been having too much fun! We’ve hardly stopped since Bariloche and that means we now have a lot to catch up on, so I’m here to fill you in with the next chapter of our journey as we properly begin our time in Chile.

1st April – Today we caught another bus out of Argentina and over the border to neighbouring Chile. We had the nice surprise of a small breakfast on board the bus, which we had been told we weren’t getting. At the border crossing we had the expected long wait as the Chilean officials inspected the bus and all of our bags for any trace of the extremely forbidden contraband: fruit, dairy and wooden products. We assume that they don’t care so much about hard drugs given the warnings about the previous items slapped over every sign and official immigration control form we fill in. Anywho, the journey continued, and gave us beautiful views as we crossed the Andes and into Chile. As we approached Pucón we saw from a distance the main attraction that had lured us there, the mighty Villaricca Volcano, which stood slightly under cloud cover, but looking spectacular in the evening twilight.

Upon arrival into Pucón we couldn’t have been luckier. We were only planning on staying two nights so needed to do a tour tomorrow, but we had heard from some friends that you had to book on to a volcano trek by 6pm the night before, but our bus had arrived around 8pm. However, as soon as we set foot outside the bus terminal there was a man outside a tour office who asked if we wanted to visit the volcano. We asked if it was possible for the morning and he said yes. We signed up and he promised that tomorrow’s weather was going to be perfect. Happy days! We set off to the supermarket and bought our supplies for the next day before getting an early night as the tour started at 6am.

2nd April – Our alarms went off and we quickly got dressed and gathered our day sacks, which we had prepared the night before. When we got to the hostel next to the tour office we were given a new sack with some extra goodies so had to swap over. We also bumped into a guy we had met briefly in Bariloche, Gavin, who had arrived a few days earlier. He said that this was his third day of trying to do the volcano due to poor weather and extremely high winds the previous two days. We really were very lucky rocking up and going the next day!

We set off and the tour guides drove us to the base camp of the volcano. Our group consisted of myself and Kirsty, Gavin and his friend and then about 10 Israelis. Upon arrival we were given the choice of taking the chair lift to skip the first section as it gave you a better chance to be at the summit for the 13:00 deadline that the park enforces. We opted for the chair lift and then began the ascent. Straight away we noticed the pace was extremely slow and easy and that we weren’t getting out of breath at all. However, the Israeli girls were already complaining and stopped every few feet!

We arrived at the edge of the glacial section and it was time to put the crampons on and get out our ice axes! Again, the Israelis complained and were quite rude to our guide. We weren’t impressed and were getting frustrated with them. We set off again though and the glacier walking was really cool and we crossed over many crevasses that went a long long way down. By now the views were getting pretty spectacular over the valleys and down to Lago Villaricca, the lake that shares the name with the volcano. By this time we had gotten too frustrated and ditched the Israelis for a faster guide who took no nonsense. Near the summit we took the crampons off, but carried on using the ice axes for stability.

We reached the summit and were both really surprised by it. We both know what a volcano is and how they work, but it took us back as to how huge this hole in the top of the volcano was. Smoke was coming out from inside and it stank of rotten eggs and also made us choke. Our guide walked us around the edge of the crater and to the other side where we were greeted with some of the best views we’ve had on this trip. We had an amazing panoramic view over to Argentina and the Andes along with other nearby volcanoes. Back at the crater our guide picked up some large rocks and threw them inside and told us to listen. After a few seconds there was a soft boom as the rock hit the lava at the bottom!

When it was time to head back down we took out another little goodie from our bags, a bum board! Grooves had been calved in the snow and ice to make tracks and we used our bum boards with ice axes for a brake to slide down the volcano! It was amazing fun and you really picked up some speed sliding down through the tracks! We slid down for about 20 mins, a total of about 1.5km down the side of the volcano. The rest of the way we found that the volcanic ash was so soft and supportive that we could basically run down the volcano and we were at the bottom in no time. As we were waiting for the Israelis to return a 4x4 Eco Tour lorry came up the volcano and we watched as it tried to cross a ditch only to nearly roll over! To right itself again all it took was a fat man hanging onto the airborne edge and he was good to go.

The volcano really was one of the best things we’ve done on this trip so far and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. Again, we couldn’t believe how lucky we had been with our timing and with the weather, as the next day the trip got abandoned half way up due to the wind!

3rd April – Today we had nothing really to do as we had booked a bus from Pucón to Santiago for that evening to save a night’s accommodation. We walked through the town and sat on a bench at the shorefront of Lago Villaricca enjoying the sun. Whilst sat there the town’s volcano siren began to sound and our Lonely Planet guide had said to run if you hear it, but no one seemed bothered. We later learnt that it is tested daily at noon. After that we grabbed some lunch and lay on the grass by the lake again and dozed off briefly. We made our way back to the hostel and gathered our things to catch the bus. When we got to the terminal we bumped into Luciano and Chris again who were getting the same bus as they had tickets to the Lollapalooza festival in Santiago. We kicked back on the brand new bus with our blankets and settled down for the night ready to arrive in Santiago where we would meet Kirsty’s school friend, Cat.

There we go peeps! We had such a good time in Pucón and are still telling people about it now when we hear that they’re heading south! It was such an amazing experience and I really think it will be up there with the best things we do on this trip. We’re currently in our second stop in Bolivia so we really do have a lot to catch up on, but hopefully we’re going to chill out here for a while so should get it done.

We hope the snow has finally thawed back home and that you are getting some sign of sunshine!? Don’t take too much of it though as we’ve grown rather fond of it and want it for ourselves!

Take care people and much love!

G x x x x
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