Waterfalls, lagoons and climbing a volcano…
Seeing as how the joys of essay writing and revision seem to have prevented me from escaping the city life and smog of Santiago this weekend, I thought now would be a perfect opportunity to relive the adventures of last weekend by telling you all about our first trip 780 km South of Santiago to the city and commune of Pucón.
Starting with a 9 hour bus journey Thursday night during which I was unable to get even a mere second of sleep, we arrived in Pucón at approximately 7am slightly disorientated and in search of some breakfast and a cheap hostel. I think it is fair to say that having now spent around two and a half months in Chile, the best part of which we have spent travelling at any given opportunity, we have definitely become appreciative of, let’s just say, the ‘simple’ things in life. Yes, for the first time with not only our own private rooms, private bathrooms, toilet paper (we soon learned never to leave for a trip without being armed with multiple packets of tissues), heating, a functional kitchen, a staple breakfast, and not just hot water, but LOTS of it, we were definitely in for a treat.
It might seem that really the most basic things appear luxurious to us now, but I can assure you that in comparison to the trickle of cold water we were treated to in the only shower available to us during our four day journey through Bolivia; or in fact the toilets whereby on one occasion I actually decided it would be more hygienic to go outside in the dark than to use the toilets indoors; or even the state of our tiny kitchen we share here in Santiago whereby manoeuvring around it with four people requires not only extreme skills, but also a game of human tetras, we consider anything to be luxury now. If any of us were ever slightly fussy, I can tell you we certainly aren’t now.
Anyway back to last weekend. Having refuelled ourselves on a hearty breakfast provided to us on arrival, we set off to see what Pucón had to offer four girls, albeit slightly sleep deprived (you soon learn to get used to this and power through regardless) intent on fitting as much as possible into the three full days we had there.
One thing for sure was that we certainly accomplished that.
Ojos de Caburga y Laguna Azul
With the first afternoon spent exploring Pucón through a tour por la zona ciudad, we finished the day with trip to some local Termas (hot springs).
The region of Pucón is probably best known for Villarrica; one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. It is also one of the world’s most popular stratovolcanoes for climbing with guided hikes to the crater offered from the town of Pucón itself. Naturally this was something we felt we had to do. Having booked ourselves in for the 6 hour guided hike up the volcano the day before for the Sunday (unsurprisingly not cheap I should add), despite being told by the man at the tourist office that it would be impossible to make it to the top or even give ourselves a chance to if we spent the previous day trekking through Huerquehue National park, off to Huerquehue National Park we went!
Huerquehue National Park
Yes, undeterred by the tourist man’s slightly concerning yet also somewhat condescending warnings, after an early start we spent the best part of seven hours hiking through the spectacular mountains, waterfalls, crystalline lakes and lagoons of Huerquehue National Park. Having been trekking through the arid landscape of the driest place on earth just a few weeks previous, to now navigating ourselves through the mountainous terrain, and flourishing flora and fauna which characterises this part of the Valdivian temperate rain forest, once again, the feeling I was overwhelmed with was somewhat surreal to say the least.
View of Villaricca, the volcano we would be climbing the following day…no pressure…
It really did feel like at times we were in the middle of Canada (not that I have ever been, but what I imagine it to be like)
Quote of the day, ‘was that a bear or a stomach?’
Exhausted yet extremely satisfied at our accomplishments for the day, we returned to Pucón, making a quick stop at the supermarket to stock up on food for that evening and a plentiful supply of provisions for our hike up the volcano. Returning to the log burning fire of our cabin style hostel, we cooked ourselves a feast before getting into bed a little nervous yet simultaneously excited for the following day.
After a 5:30 start (despite getting into bed at about midnight the night before- like I said, you get used to this, no pain no gain right?) we hurriedly made our sandwiches, gathered together the numerous bananas, bars of chocolate, nuts and the three litres of water each we were told to bring, and made our way to town. Adrenalin fuelled yet still somewhat anxious particularly as we began to get dressed from head to toe in layers of specialised hiking equipment (I must admit at this point I was seriously beginning to wonder what I had got myself into and whether it was too late to run away) we began to make the drive to Villaricca herself.
After 6 long hours of some serious hiking (and I mean serious) we actually made it to the top (well most of us). We started out as about a group of 15, but only 8 of us made it right to the crater. I can honestly say that it was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life (I was certainly pushed to my limits) but equally the most incredible and rewarding.
Those views though!
We were hiking up at a steady rate throughout only stopping for 5 minute breaks every 50 minutes. In fact, when we were about an hour and a half from the top, one of the guides said that being asthmatic, the gasses the volcano was admitting (after all it was active) which we would really start to sense from that point on, could be very dangerous, making it very hard for me to breath. However there was absolutely no way that I was stopping there, as about three hours in (after debating for a second whether to stop with some of the others who felt they couldn’t go on), I had made the decision that I was not going home without making it to the top…
2,860m later and we made it to the crater
I think the photos speak from themselves
Only went and climbed a volcano didn’t we!
Due to the toxic gasses the volcano was admitting, we were told we should spend no longer than 15 minutes at the top. This gave us just about time to celebrate our accomplishments, photographically document it, and recover a little before making the journey all the way back down. For the most part, this involved us going down via marked out tracks quite literally on our bums, having changed into a special, rather fetching nappy-like protector, and using a special slide attached to us and our pick axe to help us steer and control our speed.
Views from the top
I think we certainly proved, we might be small, but we are definitely not weaklings (of course another huge incentive to make it to the top was also to prove to ourselves that we had made the right decision to go hiking through the national park the day before).
Therefore, having climbed over 4000m in the space of just three days on approximately 9 hours of sleep overall, completely soaked and shaking to the knees, we just about had time to pop back to our hostel, shower, and cook ourselves something to eat, before catching our 7pm bus back to Santiago. Once again unable to sleep during the 11 hour journey back home, having arrived at around 6am, I managed to go home, hop into bed for approximately 2 hours before getting up again and making it to my 11:30am lecture…that is dedication if ever I saw it!