Lagos Volcanic Brilliance...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, October 15, 2006

Volcanoes are sexy. Chile's Lake District is full of them. Sexy volcanoes. Alongside the incredible calm of the glistening lakes, the sexy volcanoes shoot skyward imposingly, with their snow-capped slopes converging on the crater, concealing the burning lava - the hot truth - within. They might look like normal mountains. They might sound like normal mountains - at least outside of eruption periods. But baby - they ain't no mere mountains - they're sexy volcanoes. And they don't smell like mountains either - these active lava machines releasing potent plumes of sulphur at the crater's rim. It don't smell too good. Well... apparently. I'd be able to tell you for sure if I had climbed it. Unfortunately, I came vastly unprepared for volcano climbing - completely ignorant as to what it would entail. Foolishly, when packing my backpack 7 months ago, I neglected to include the crampons and ice axe required to reach the crater of Volcano Villarica. Me? Clearly an idiot. At the same time, there is a part of me that thinks that, if this volcano requires an iceaxe to climb, perhaps better if I don't... What the fuck are crampons anyway?

So, without an ice axe, I was required to experience the magnificence of Volcano Villarica from the shores of the wonderful Lake Villarica. During the day, the panorama from the shores of the Lake is quite spectacular, as well as amusing with the teenagers - god bless them those crazy kids smoking and just generally being cool - but it is at dusk when the Lake District transforms into a sight that is truly breathtaking and memorable - perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes I have witnessed on this trip - as the sky grows slowly towards an impossible palette of vivid and vibrant pinks, purples, blues consuming the entire sky - a dome awash with colour. Incredible. Fuck off incredible. Silly incredible. Fuck off silly incredible. Magnificent dusk scenes by volcanoes? Living the dream.

Sometimes, you forget how much pain something puts you through. Do you know that feeling? Even when you can still feel the physical ramifications aching through your body, sometimes you reflect back and think "it can't have been that bad". So, with my mind firmly in this mindset, on one fine southern Chilean morning in mid-October, I started thinking "Yeah. Mountain biking. Up the slopes of a volcano. Good thinking." What? Me? Idiot. After the ride of the death in Chiloe, I decided to try and up the ante with a ride of the devil of the death in Villarica. Up a volcano.
"What route do you want to do? There are easy, medium and hard ones. If you've biked before, you could do the hard one easily."
"Yeah. I've biked before. Let's do the hard one."
Me? Idiot. To be fair, the ride was beautiful and, despite the ridiculously difficulty and pain experienced on some of the climbs, it is always more than compensated by the long, breezy downhills that can be celebrated in no other way than a 'living the dream air punch'. Brilliant.

The gorgeous lake and volcano aside, Villarica, as a town, is reasonably unremarkable - a small Chilean town with way too many supermarkets - seriously - than a town like this needs, each filled with cheap and decent Chilean wine, shitty bread and, incredible, 3 minute noodles (the technology required for 2 minute noodles not having quite made it to South America yet). But then again, why would you cook if you can get 1/2 chicken and chips for $2.50; a steak, salad and a drink for $4; a burger for $1? Other than to eat noodles of course. One of the most interesting insights in Villarica, however, was passing through a colourful new suburb on the outskirts of the town, apparently typical for new developments in Chile. Strangely artificial. Weird...

I can hear German. Now as always in Chile. But it's a funny German. Strangely, Chile's hotel industry seems to be dominated by Swiss. Swiss everywhere. Random. Villarica is no exception, my hostel being run by a Swiss couple - a man with one of the finest 80's mullet and moustache combinations ever contemplated; the woman one of those people that constantly shouts. The hostel, however, is decent - my dorm room, as they do, features a WA number plate on its door and a bizarre German guy inside. "Marcus? What are you talking about?" And after an evening huddled over a monopoly board, I affirm my view that the game is won and lost with the red and yellow sets. Hotel in Piccadilly? Domination.

Villarica? Quiet, incredibly beautiful, brilliant volcano, quality lake. The last few days have been exceptionally "tranquillo", but, again, I get the feeling, as I did in Chiloe, that this place is a place for coupledom - for a romantic getaway - Chilean wine by a fire overlooking Los Lagos. Perhaps one day. Now, I'll just have to make do with the sexy volcano...

So to the Top 5. There has been much praise of the volcano in this entry. Indeed, it is sexy. But it could be cooler. Here are the Top 5 ways in which it could be so:

5. If it had a football pitch and a bar on the edge of the crater.
4. Lava. More lava. So I can see it. From the lake.
3. If you didn't need a fucking ice axe to climb it.
2. Cannon to get up; flying fox to get down.
1. If a villain had his secret hideout inside.

Fuck CHile is a long country. To Santiago I go to fly to Argentina... Do it.
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