Trip Start Oct 06, 2010
14Trip End Dec 14, 2010
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Where I stayed
As we lazed around in the warm spring sunshine waiting for the bus to arrive, a traveler appeared out of nowhere. He hadn't come from the direction of the town, but instead from the direction of the mountains. He loitered around as if he wanted to talk. I went inside to buy some food. On my return, sure enough he was in full conversation with Carla (this tends to happen a lot in South America, when females are by themselves they attract a lot of attention from males). He was a 6’5’’Dutch guy called Geronimo, who had been on the road for a year and a half. He had very little money left, which showed, and had been trying to reduce his spending whenever he could, such as by camping
The drive across the Andes was beautiful. We passed through emerald green forests, deep blue lakes and stunning snow-capped mountains. The bright sun sparkled off the meandering Andean rivers and waterfalls, broken only by sleepy alpine villages, where locals sat outside their homes smoking pipes and watching the world go by, in this case us. Some of the road was still undeveloped and made for a bumpy ride. As we approached Pucon there was an air of excitement that passed through the bus. The assistant bus driver hurriedly walked up the aisle tapping passengers on the shoulder and pointing to the smoking, and clearly still active, volcano Villarrica! What a sight! This was the first glimpse of our next adventure.
Carla and I, plus "big Al", were met in Pucon by a horde of touts trying to push their hostel and tours on to us. After managing to beat a path through the crowd, the three of us walked towards the hostel that Carla had pre-booked. Somehow we had agreed that “big Al” would come with us too. En-route he mentioned a number of times his concerns about affording the hostel
Our first impressions of the hostel were great. The hostel had two amazingly beautiful and huge chocolate Newfoundlands that were more like bears than dogs. Their coats were thick brown, they had big bear paws, dopey faces and the most gentle nature. I never thought that I would find a dog better than Blocky from El Calafate, but here I had found two! They lolloped around the huge garden all day, scrapping and rolling around. They would both engulf you whenever we knelt down to pat them. The second great thing about the hostel was the view of the Volcano from the garden! This was where the good points ended.
We were welcomed by the “activities” manager, but as far as we could tell the most active thing she would do all day was play around on Facebook. She certainly didn’t have any advice for any of the many activities available in the town
It was a 7 am start on Monday morning
The group of eight, including two guides, set off on the hike up to the snow-capped smoking crater. Within 30 mins of walking two things became abundantly clear, firstly, this was going to be hard work, and secondly, Carla was not really fit enough to do it. Within 40 mins the rest of the tour group had left us, except for Hector (the assistant guide). He spoke little English, but was far and away a much better guide than the lead. One other thing became clear to me very quickly…Carla was not going to make this fun for me either. For at least the first 2-3 hours hiking Carla moaned and complained her way up the volcano…like a stubborn old mule! It was too cold; too hot; too high; too steep; too far; too much snow and ice…and on and on and on!
To her credit though that was the last complaint I heard from her that day
Our descent was quite different. We had each carried a tiny circular sledge to the top, and now we were finally going to get to use them. With sledges strapped to our bums we hurtled down the steep slopes with gusto …all except for Carla that is…she was too scared! While we all waited at the bottom for Carla to descend, in the distance we could hear fits of uncontrollable giggling that carried across the whole Andean mountain range, as Carla came hurtling down the slopes strapped to Hector the guide, with mouth open , eyes wide, and hair and snow flying everywhere…it was hilarious!!
We finished off the day with a walk to the beach to watch the most visually stunning sunset over Lake Villarrica
On the day of our check-out we took a local bus out of Pucon to a national park to visit one of the many waterfalls – Ojos del Carburgua. It was great being so far out of town, away from the other tourists, and taking public transport with the locals. It was such a peaceful and relaxing day. On our return back into town we had an early dinner, before catching the overnight bus for the 11 hour journey ahead to Santiago. We booked ourselves a couple of “Premium” seats, which meant we had a full-length bed, were served champagne and meals, and watched movies. It was like flying business class. Needless to say, we arrived into Santiago feeling very refreshed and ready to be in a big city again!