Did you see where that Puma went?

Trip Start Dec 26, 2009
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Trip End Dec 22, 2010


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Where I stayed
Victor Hostel and my Capa

Flag of Chile  , Araucanía,
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Arriving in Pucon, I was thrown back by the strong touristic feel it possessed. To many travel agencies selling tours to climb the active volcano, Vallarrica; white water rafting, kayaking, hot spring escapades and horse riding etc. All fun things to do, but who wants to do such things under control of unneeded guides? everything is controlled here and individual initiative seems to be discouraged.

I spent one rainy day on class four rapids, not quiet class five, but something fun to do for such a day non the less.

I was a tourist in a group of 8, climbing volcano Vallirrica also known as "house of the devil" Despite being under control of the guides, I was enjoying myself and quite excited watching the sulfuric gases rising from its tip, often imagining what wild sporadic display of nature I was about to witness.

"Turn around everyone, its to icy to reach the top today" followed by my unsurprising response "what? thats what our crampons are for!" I felt sick, ripped off. We wasn't going to get our money back, thats for sure. "Yeah its all that rain from the past few days and the strong wind from last night" his voice level raised. I looked at the guide in disgust; maybe I was wrong, but I was positive that they new it would be to icy. I hate being a tourist.

Despite this set back, I decided to carry on and hike through Parque National Vallarrica. An Israeli guy I met named Ilia was doing the same hike as I and once again, I was part of a duo. Harsh unforgiving dark black rocks lay in our path. I couldn't help but smile. making my way through such aggressive terrain. After seeing that magnificent old lava flow in Parque national Peyuhue from afar, it was for filling to finally be hiking over a similar one.

The timid sun paid is respects to the superior clouds and scrambled to its knees. Although promised fine weather from the Internet gods, I was horribly mislead. The sunset into the darkness of the night, we were walking through a unknown condense forest utilising our head lamps to follow the track. We were in need of a camping spot and drinkable agua. Through the beam of our hazy yellow light, thick wet drops slowly lofted down from above. "Snow, shit!" one hour later finding a camp able spot, we erected our temples moi rapido.

I laid their in my sleeping bag, moral was low listening to the snow thudding against my tent. However at least I had the option to walk out of this predicament the following day. Its not like when your in the army and your just told to "harden up" The cold wicked winter was on her way, a decision to move north towards a warmer climate had been made.

Strange trees with curled prickly branches occupied this national park. I was told they were called monkey trees. Asking a park ranger why they were called this, I was met with the response "because they are..."

Waking up to sun shine on day three was refreshing. I lay in the sun enjoying its therapeutic rays, simplicity at its best. After two days of bad weather, my moral  was now soaring. I remember a quote from an officer whilst in the early stages of my training "Pte Sullivan is a well motivated, enthusiastic soldier, until the sun disappears. He is what we call a solar powered soldier" pff! arnt we all?

Ilia had decided to change direction towards some hot springs. Wise choice as he had started with 7 days food and I only four. I was faced with the decision to continue with the traverse or go to the hot springs, then Pucon. The problem, its lunch time and to carry on with the traverse would be a 10 hour hike, giving me five and a half hours light. Risky, but my solar powered spider senses were tingling and I went for it.

The sun sparkled through the gaps of the prickly canopy, the bright blue sky enhancing its warmth. Such a wonderful beautiful day, yet I was walking through condense downpours of water. Thick snow from the night before encompassed by the powerful sun rise, had created this uncanny micro climate.

Treading through the deep snow, I was following the fresh tracks of 3 people. 1 footprint being a womens for sure. Right beside these foot prints a strange cat like one, only bigger..... Puma! wow Puma tracks(Photo to come). It had been utilising this human trail, even weaving back and forward as it descended down the hill. Not just for a few meters, but kilometers. Thees felines are evasive, how I wish to see one in the wild.

The sun laid to rest over volcano Vallarrica, the blanket of clouds its pillow. I was up high on Volcano Quetrupillan, 2000m in altitude, I could almost step on those fluffy soft pillows. Turning around, an unforgettable purple haze fell over volcano Lanin. Amazing scenery. I was caught in the middle of enjoying the moment and trying to get off this volcano before it became dangerous. However no luck, I had to pitch my tent.

The wind howled increasing throughout the night, playing with my three season tent; like a cat and a decapitated mouse. Boots frozen, water frozen and sleeping on the edge of the a ridge line. I was regretting my decision to continue with the hike as the situation dwindled. If the wind picked up to much more, I would be in serious trouble.

Nature called, 3am and hardly any sleep. Unzipping my tent, I snapped my head back in amazement. One of the most incredible moments of my journey thus far. volcano Vallarrica was alive!  A bright red glow emitted from its tip, the smoke from within, carrying the red glow up high wafting it from side to side before dispersing into the black night. I donned all my warm clothes, melted some snow with my cooker, added milk and chocolate powder then sipped on my hot chocolate, enjoying this once in a lifetime moment, what a life I'm living!

The morning sun broke out, I descended down the volcano as soon as possible and reached a beautiful lake. I was only 15 minutes from safety, comfort and fresh water. But if i stayed down here, I would of missed the greatest late night piss ever!

"Where did you come from?" Steve looked at me with a confused expression, not expecting any lunatic to be sleeping up there. I had finally met the couple who's footprints had lead my way. It was cool to put a face to them.

Walking over a saddle, a beautiful Autumn coloured valley of dark reds, yellows, oranges and greens flowed into distance mountain peaks with water falls tricking from the hills. This traverse had a wonderfully diverse environment, so different from my treks in the past.

The afternoon suns heat waves warmed up the picturesque lake. I felt truly relaxed. Motivated by Steve's and Katrijn dip, I was soon in the water basking in its goodness. I was camping with Steve and Katrijn, cool couple from Belgium who had spent 7 months into total, just in Patagonia. Belgium is a unique small country in Europe, its divided into three areas where people speak either Dutch, French or German. Most people speak two or three of these languages plus English... My notebook was out and soon I was receiving some great advice for hikes in Bolivia and Peru, utilising donkeys for support. Oh and I finally got an answer for my Monkey tree question.

That night, I stepped out of my tent for the normal painful midnight nature call, only to be inspired by another beautiful moment. The moons bright white glow light up the still lake like a freshly cleaned mirror. Looking down, you could see the pristine reflection of the stars above. I could even make out the southern cross..... ah there's South! oh North! does a reflection change it? haha.

Fith day, I was a little worried as I only had initially started with four days worth of food. Luckily Steve and Katrijn had shared some of their food with me and refused to eat mine when I offered. Maybe it was Karma for giving so much of my food to others in the past. They would only accept my offer to host them in NZ one day. But no need to worry, after a short time walking down the road, we had hitch hiked a ride to Pucon. From a interesting man who, wait for it; loved Rugby, the All Blacks and is going to NZ next year to watch the world cup. He offered us a place to stay for the next time we were in Patagonia, I gave him my details and offered him the same. Hopefully I will see him, Steve and Katrijn in one day in NZ.


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