Published: March 30th 2005March 30th 2005
relaxing in the hot springs "Termas Coñaripe" in the middle of nowhere at the base of a huge mountian range, feels kind of like I'm in the swiss alps
Climbed a volcano, sat in some natural hot springs, went fly fishing and went to the beach...all within the little town of Pucon. I took a 10 hour bus ride "full cama" which means you sit in a chair that reclines almost 180...pretty comfortable for a bus. I arrived in the little town at 6am and it looked a lot like a smaller version of Vail, and had the feel of North Conway, New Hampshire. The main strip was only a few blocks long, with adventure tours and guides everywhere and little restaurants, bars and stores filling in the gaps. I arrived with a girl I had met in Valparaiso and we met up with some of her friends who were already in town. After waking up some people and getting chased by a few dogs, we stumbled across the hostel where they were staying. Everyone had bunk beds in this little house near town, only $6/night which was good, and they even had hot water which was nice.
Five of us piled into a little Fiat Punto rental car and I drove us to find some of the natural hot springs. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains,
sunset over Lago Villarica on the way back from the hot springs
but at certain points I thought for sure the wheels were going to fall off the car and the engine would drop out. After going over some bridges that I didn´t think would hold us, and up hills I didn't think the car would make, we ended up at a natural springs park. You can see the hot water coming out of streams, it is then sent through some man made and natural pools in the little park. Very relaxing and clean. It's so nice to be in an outdoor pool when it's cold out too. See picture...
The next day it was off to conquer the mightly "Volcan Villarica". I got up at 7am and was at the base of the volcano by 9am. They outfitted us with all sorts of gear to include ice picks, crampons, jackets, helmets, and hard hiking boots...not quite the easy hike the guides say it is. The volcano is actually a ski area in the winter, but was only snow capped this time of year. We took a lift up one part, then began a 2 hour hike through dirt and volcanic rocks. We then hit the snow and suited up with
posing in front of the mighty Fiat Punto during a pee break, and to check that the rear tire was actually still attached from the off-roading...gotta love rentals
ice pick, helmet, and warmer clothes. It was another 3 hours to the top from there, with a few short rests along the way. At some points it was straight up climbing with ice picks, etc. The scariest part was that if someone above you fell they would take everyone out below, and there were definitely some inexperienced hikers. Since the rocks were so loose at the top, we also had to watch for falling rocks on our heads...hence the stupid red helmet you see me wearing. At the top you could actually look into the lava of the volcano. I spent most of my camera battery waiting for it to errupt..with no luck, and then caught it on video (which I don't think I can post). Just imagine about 10 times more lava spurting out than you can see in the attached picture...it was amazing. It felt like I was sitting right in front of a fireplace it was so warm from the lava.
The trip down was a little more entertaining, wet, and tiring. Everyone slid down the part of the mountian with snow, making almost like a luge using the ice pick as the brake. Some picked
base of the volcano
looking up at the chairlift and smoking summit of the volcano
it up faster than others, another guy and I saved one girl from flying over a cliff into some rocks...made me wonder how many people die going down this thing. Anyway, made it past the snow pretty quickly, with snow completely filling my pants from sliding down. Then it was another 1 1/2 hours running down in the sand until reaching the van at the bottom. A great day, great view, and really cool to see the lava!
There were rafting trips and every other kind of outdoor activity in town, but I decided it was too cold to be tossed from a raft, so I went to learn how to fly fish with this other Israeli guy staying in the hostel. Of course they convinced us that the fish would be jumping into the boat..just not our boat apparently, we didn't even get a bite. I did learn how to fly fish though, which was a little easier than I thought it would be, and peaceful.
I do have to say, not meant to offend anyone, but traveling with Israeli's is great, they always seem to find the best deals in town and are great for keeping
in the snow
on the way up the snow with ice pick in hand
on a budget. South America is a popular place with Israeli's just out of the military and traveling around, they're all ove rthe place, so much so that some of the store signs are in hebrew.
My last day in Pucon I spent walking on the lake beach and checking out the other parts of town. The lake was beautiful, with black sand, clear cold lake water, and mountins shooting up everywhere. I never knew a places like this existed in South America...but I guess this is why we travel. I'm now back in Santiago and making the decision of where to go next....
There are more photos below