Published: November 16th 2005November 11th 2005
My first Volcano
If you choose 100 things to do before you die. I recommend you include climbing one of these.
Today was too be a big day for me. I was going to climb my first active Volcano.
Now most of you don´t know that one of the reasons I like to travel so much is because I am slowly working my way through a list of 100 things I must do before I die which I found in an outdoor magazine in 1998. Climbing an active Volcano was item 68 ... This was a big one for me.
To get things off on the right foot, we´d managed to find a REALLY cheap operator ... All the other groups cost around 40,000 pesos ($US80), but the group we went with only charged 30,000 pesos ... It was a bargain pure and simple.
The only downside I could see was that we had to find our own way to the nearby town of Pucon, but this was easy enough ... jump on a bus, walk five blocks to their office and we were there. We quickly geared up and were out the door.
After a brief drive and walk to the base of the volcano, most of our group elected to pay out an extra 4000 pesos
Ready to go (notice our cheap arse gear)
and catch a ski lift up the first 2 kilometers of the climb. There were three polish guys who decided to do it the hard way. So we got to sit around and enjoy the views whilst they slogged up the hill. I like Pols.
Soon after we actually discovered a big advantage of going with our cheap outfit ... whilst all of the other groups (in their colour coordinated climbing gear) had to practive safety drills like falling down on an icy slope with an ice pick, our guide just said I´ll wait for these Polish guys to catch up, you guys just follow that group leaving there¨. So we were the second group to set off up the hill. Sweet!
The climb up is amazingly scenic (we had perfect weather), but I´d happily pay extra for them to extend that chair lift a few more kilometers up the mountain. Anyways, it takes about four or five hours to climb because you zig zag all the way up and the guide keeps you at a nice slow pace. Two warnings though. Firstly don´t eat all your food like Christie, me and this English guy did after about
Why walk when you can ride I say ...
an hours climbing because we thought we were already just below the summit. It makes for four hours of very hungry climbing. Secondly, there´s no toilet on the mountain, and not a heck of a lot of privacy ... but I´ll let Christie explain the problems that causes. tee hee.
We were one of the first groups to the top (I´ll attach a photo so you can see how many groups there were climbing up there), and again got more bang for our buck because whilst the other groups got safety talks about where to go and not to go, our guide was more in the vein of if you go around to this place it will be really cool. Again we were really lucky with the volcano because the lava was frequently shooting up 10 to 20 meters inside the cone (in fact that night the top of the mountain was glowing red in the dark - very cool).
The final highlight of the day was getting back down the mountain ... they give you these special trousers and you basically sit down on your backside lift you feet and off you go. bugger skiing, this was
The views were spectacular.
awesome. biggest buzz I´ve had in years, hurtling down the mountain at breakneck speeds bouncing along on my backside. :).
This was perhaps the only time I regretted going with a cheaper group ... our ice picks didn´t have safety cords to put around your wrists and little miss Christie who was hurtling down one section 10 meters in front of me managed to hit a bump and drop her ice pick. It was like the world went into slow motion as it spun around, the head caught in the snow and then the handle (with it´s nice sharp point at the bottom) kicked up and pointed straight back up the mountain at my fast approaching backside ... this was one that my medical insurance was just not going to cover.
Fortunately, I somehow managed to jam my own ice pick into the ice (lucky I´d been watching those other guys doing their safety drills) and veer quickly to the left. I then said some very un-nice things to Christie., or at least I thought them.
A perfect day, but still no kilometers travelled ... tomorrow our life on bikes begin. I´m excited!
There are more photos below