In the shadow of a volcano

Trip Start Aug 03, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Camped in Rover

Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lake District was gorgeous when we were there earlier this month, so we looked forward to driving back through the lush green area to see some of the lakes that we missed the first time.

Lake Panguipulli has a nice little beach, since it was Saturday, we thought the beach might get busy, so we sought a more remote spot to camp. We drove a steep, rough road heading up and around the lake, but we ended up turning back and camping right on the public beach (there were tire tracks, so we knew driving was OK). No one else showed up the whole time we were there. We had a busy afternoon listening to the loud sharp honks of ibis flying overhead and the mournful cry of grebe out on the lake and watching swallows swoop around, eating bugs (drawback of warm weather is that it brings out the mosquitoes). Bird watching isn't something we did much at home, but we’ve developed an appreciation here since there isn’t a lot of other wildlife.

Another day, another lake. We wound our way through massive bushes of yellow flowers toward Lake Calafquen and found a pretty little beach with small red and black volcanic rock. Since we were close to the town of Conaripe, we shared it with quite a few fishermen (more like they shared it with us). Most people left when the clouds came in and wind picked up. One little boy (about 8-years-old), casting his line then laying flat on the shore to get out of the wind, over and over again until about 8 pm. We guessed that he was assigned to bring home dinner.

A lot of towns around here have old steam engines in their parks and some houses have them in their yards. There are public works signs announcing rural electrification as recently as 2005, we assume the steam engines were used until a few years ago.

Next we headed to Villarrica National Park, where we found out all the trails on Villarrica Volcano (one of Chile’s most active) have snow and ice and can’t be climbed without cramp-ons, ice axes and/or a guide. There are trips to the summit where you can look down into the crater to see bubbling molten lava, they provide all necessary gear, including gas masks for the sulfur fumes. We (and our wallets) decided it was enough to see the puffing volcano from a distance.

Near the park, is a lake and city of the same name, and the city of Pucon (also on the lake) has every type of tourist activity imaginable – canopy tours, white water rafting, even paint ball - all gearing up for the season.

We marveled at the fact that everyone in these cities (and many smaller towns) live in the shadow of this volcano that has erupted at least 65 times since the conquest in the 1500s. I guess it’s not much different than living in California’s earthquake territory.

We went around to the less populated side of the lake and found a spot to camp on Rio Plata (Silver River) where we hoped we’d have a nice view of the volcano when (and if) the clouds cleared. The morning provided about an hour with perfect views (clear enough to see tiny puffs of smoke coming from the crater), then it clouded over again. We counted ourselves lucky and headed north for more adventure.

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