The next day was spent, lazily walking round the quiet streets, due to it being low season for tourists, we went to the two lakes which were within walking distance of the two main central streets which transversed the town. We made our booking for the inevitable trip up the volcano and had a fitting for all the gear that we were gonna be using.
With a 6:15 start and a walk to the departure point for our bus to the bottom of the volcano (Villarica 1800m), the weather wasnt looking good withlow cloud all around and we were uanble to see the top. We got to the base and swiftly turned around as the weather was not going to be good enough to climb today. So back to the hostel and a small sleep then we checked out in search of a better hostel. This was a little taxing with our bags on and no real idea where we were going so we stopped and checked on the internet for come options one which was the block along. We arrived and were greeted by some very friendly women who showed us to the available hut, a very quaint self-contained
wooden shack with an oven and a wood burning fire. It was two bedrooms and we were the only ones using it as yet. So our first job was to go out in search for materails to bake cookies for the trip the next day, of course. Sam was missing his baking a lot so this was a major priority! We made good use of the oven that day!
So another early start the next morning but this time it was more fruitful. The sky was clear. We got kitted out, carrying all our equipment- crampons, trousers, ski skirt etc and lots of food and water and set off at around 9am. To our dismay the first part that supposed to be where you could take the chair lift up the first few hundred metres was closed. So we had to climb the very soft volcanic material taking two steps forward and one step back each time. This first section was over in about an hour to be followed by the next section which had similar material underfoot but a little harder and easier to walk on. Our group seemed to split up with the fit, mostly ex-army Israelis,
taking the lead. Next came the need for us to use our crampons as we were met with the ice . We had to climb this diagonally and it was getting increasingly steep. We took as many stops for food and drink and photos as we were allowed as were needed to reach the top by 2pm. It felt like after every 10steps i was out of breath too much to continue. This was extremely tiring and at times I did feel like I was not going to get to the top, Sam felt a similar way but we persevered. There were numerous other groups also doing the same trip. We eventually got to the last section where one of the guides took care of our bags and getting rid of the crampons for the last 20minute climb up some rocks to the top.We finally made it just before 2.We had limited time at the top to admire the views of the surrounding area - other more idle volcanos, the lakes, the Argentinian border and Pucon. It was a beautiful day and we had fantastic views. The time limit was due to the plumes of sulphorous gas that was billowing
from the crator which really made you cough if the wind changed direction and you got a nice gulp of it. You could see right in to the crator but there was no lava. After our brief rest at the top we scrambled down the first section then put on our very attractive 'snow skirts' like a nappy to enable us to go down no less than 5 channelled out toboggan type runs carved out of the ice that we had so pain-stakingly hiked up. This was really fun and you really got up some speed, with slowing down quite hard at times. The last 1hr and half was spent goign down the volcanic debris where with each step you took you sunk down further. We got back to the minibus at 430 and back to Pucon for 530. I was in lots of pain with the backs of my heels having been shredded by the lack of double socking and the boots that I had been given to wear. Wearing any kind of shoe with a back on was out of the question. We had a quick dinner and then got a mini bus to some nearby hot springs
Up past the ski lifts!
Normally you take the ski lift cutting out the first and hardest hour of the trek. As luck would have it, it was broke that day :(
to be viewed by starlight. They were set in a valley where you walked down some steps to them and then there was an array of different temperature pools ranging from the very hot to the almost cold splash pools. This was agony on my feet but so was some of the warmer temperatures so just had to suck it up! This was all outside so you could sit in the pool and gaze at the stars, it did get a little chilly though walking from one pool to the next.
Feeling tired and achy the next day we chilled out having a lye in, a beer at the lakeside and sorted out our coach tickets for the next day, which was by no means straight forward mostly due to where we wanted to go.
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