We arrived in Pucon on 7/10/08 after crossing the Chilean border (again! the passports are filling up nicely!). We approached the town in the evening and the dramatic backdrop of the active, smoking Volcano Villarica was amazing (and somewhat daunting given that one of our wedding gift list presents was to climb to the top!). After having climbed another mountain and completed a 25km bike ride in the previous 3 days we were planning on having a rest day before attempting the volcano.
However whilst checking in to the hostel we were persuaded by one of the girls who worked there and a couple of fellow guests to climb the volcano the next morning as the weather forecast was favourable (it´s not possible to go up there if there´s even a suggestion of bad weather). So straight after checking in we went along to the excursion shop to be fitted up with boots, crampons, windproofs and ice picks! We were asked to return at 6.50am the next morning to make our way up to the base of the volcano. The staff reassured us that it was all totally safe, the volcano had it´s last major eruption in 1984 destroying another local town....!
So bleary eyed the following day we were driven up to the base along with our 2 fellow guests and our guide (and also co-owner of the hostel) Gustavo. Four and a half hours of leg burning negotiation of icy slopes later we were standing right on the edge of the crater at the top of the volcano at an altitude of 2874m with amazing views of surrounding lakes and countryside, as well as a few other distant volcanos. The volcano smoke really gets to the back of the throat, not ideal when the air´s starting to get quite thin and you´ve just been climbing for a few hours!
(Jo didn´t tell me I looked like this......)
We sat right next to the crater edge and had probably the most extreme picnic we´ve ever experienced taking in the views and getting our breath and strength back. The best bit was yet to come - we donned these special big shorts (REALLY flattering!) and trotted to the edge of the slope we´d just climbed. With our guide leading the way, we all plonked ourselves down and proceeded to tobogan on our backsides all the way to the bottom of the volcano! Not quite as cool as the some of the locals who make the climb with skis or snowboards on their backs and carve their way down, but damn good fun and the best sledging ever!
We then rewarded ourselves with the next day relaxing next to the lake that the town sits on, basking in the glorious sunshine and nursing some aching bodyparts, and some really odd sunburn (Jo´s nostrils!!). Pucon is beautiful and we´ve loved it here. The hostel has it´s very own 2 month old black labrador puppy called Jaco and it´s been really difficult to resist the temptation to pop him into our backpacks before checking out. Next stop is Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar and then possibly on to Santiago.
Missing you all.
Jaco, Jo and Al x x x
ps this is a link to a cool video that our guide put together a while back