BootsnAll Travel Network

Climbing the volcano

The weather here has not been great and in fact we were beginning to think that the volcano doesn´t actually exist and is just a con to get people to come to Pucon and spend their money in cafes and bars. However, although the weather on Thursday was not good enough to go up the volcano (they won´t go if it raining or cloudy) we went to the nearby national park called Huerquehue on the bus. There are a couple of hiking trails there and we did one called Los lagos which as the name suggests takes you to some lakes. We went with a girl we had met on the tour bus but we had to split up for the walk because she was very slow and we would never have completed our walk if we had stayed together. The trail was quite muddy and wound up through the forest past two waterfalls until we reached the first lake, Lago Chico. It was rather cold and started to snow and the lake was steaming. Most people just visit three lakes which are all in a cluster but we went further on up into the forest where there were lots of monkey puzzle trees. The forest was lovely and the trees were covered in all sorts of lichens. We saw two woodpeckers as well. It snowed some more and it really was very beautiful. Back down on the main track we met up with our friend again and were lucky enough to be offered a lift back to Pucon rather than having to wait for the bus.
But yesterday we were lucky with the weather and it clear and sunny so we were able to climb the volcano, Volcan Villarrica. We were collected from the hostel at about 7am and went to the guides office to collect our gear. They supplied excellent boots and waterproofs. We drove to the bottom of the mountain which is used for skiing in the winter. It had a sort of Cairngorm feel about it really with lots of people in the car park with ice axes etc. Amazingly they had a dog sniffing our rucksacks for drugs in the car park. Our party was quite large but there were lots of guides so we soon shook down into smaller groups. We walked quite slowly – just as well as the fresh snow made the going quite hard. We had to put on crampons for an icy stretch but then we were into deeper snow again and the crampons were a bit of a nuisance but we had to keep them on. A lot of people in the group had never used ice axes and crampons before so I think they wanted us to keep them on as it took so long to get them on in the first place. It took about 4 hours to get to the crater of the volcano and we got excellent views on the way up of Mount Llaima which erupted last week. As we got near to the crater the smoke was not very pleasant. It burned our eyes and throats but the crater was quite interesting although we didn´t actually see any lava, just lots of smoke. We stayed up there for about half an hour and then got kitted out in salopettes and a strange device rather like a nappy for sliding down in the snow. We slid on our bums most of the way down the hill, about 1400m in all, which was much better than walking down and of course much quicker as well as being great fun.
Back in Pucon we had drinks on the terrace at the guides office to celebate our success, with a great view of the volcano covered in snow with smoke pouring out of the top.
Later we went out for something to eat with another girl (from Devon) who is going to come on the ferry with us from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. Today the weather is a bit grim again so we are having a lazy day before setting off for Valdivia tomorrow where we will spend a couple of days.
Katie is doing well with her Spanish although the Spanish spoken here is not quite the same as in Spain.

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