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Published: January 28th 2008
After New Year in Valparaiso we made our way to the Chilean lake district, further south. We stayed in the town of Villarrica at a hostel run by a very abrupt German lady and her husband. After exploring the town and nearby lake we decided that we would hire bikes to go on a ride in the nearby countryside. After looking at the routes suggested by the hostel owners we picked one that was 39km long but not only that it had ´hilly´in the description. I was a little unsure it would be suited to me but Steve said that he could only see a couple of small hills on the map and the rest would be fine .........I should know by now not to trust him!! Needless to say the bike ride was long, tiring, sweaty and above all consisted of hill after hill on a rubble track. I think after about 15 minutes into the ride I was regretting it and I was not afraid to let Steve know it! However I continued to keep going and after about 4 hours or so we made it back to town, where I treated myself to a large ice cream!
The following day, not content with being in pain from the bike ride, we decided to climb the nearby active volcano of Villarrica. Therefore we were up at the crack of dawn to be picked up by our guide at 6:30am. The majority of the volcano was covered in snow so we had to wear special boots with gaiters and then carry a bag with us containing waterproof clothing, an ice axe, hat, gloves and what they called a ´nappy´(I will explain in due course). We started our ascent at about 9am and at first I was managing to keep the pace, using my walking poles as support. However after the first break I decided to stay back with the second group, as the climb was getting more steep and the wind was blowing so strong that I was scared I was going to be blown off the mountainside. As we got higher we were no longer able to use our walking poles so we were instructed on how to use an ice axe - most importantly how to dig it into the ice if we started falling down the side. This did not fill me with confidence for the
onward climb but luckily for me I made it up to just before the crater without falling over. The last part of the climb consisted of rocks that I had to clamber over to reach the summit; finally at 12:15 (3 hours after we began) I had finished and the view from the top was worth the effort. At 2847m high I was able to see for miles around; the lakes and volcanoes looked stunning in the distance, I could even see smoke billowing out of Volcano Illampiu (the one that had been in the news due to erupting recently). I walked along the edge of the crater and tried to look in but the sulphur coming out was so choking that I could not bear to stay there, Steve had a quick look and took a couple of photos but he was unable to see any lava. After about half an hour at the summit it was time to head down again and this is where the ´nappy´came into play. Luckily we did not have to walk down the volcano, instead we were able to slide down on our bums using the dug out channels in the snow. Therefore
we attached the waterproof ´nappy´to our bottoms and slid our way to the foot of the volcano, it was great fun but when we stopped both Steve and I were soaked down to our underwear!
The next stop on our journey was Cochamo Valley, further into the lake district. By this time Helen and Fergus had met up with us and together we stayed in cabins on an eco-friendly resort, in the absolute middle of nowhere! We spent the first afternoon chilling out with a spot of high tea and decided that the next day we would like to go horse riding - bad decision! It all started off well with a gentle walk along by the river but then we started to head up into the forest and the terrain bacame a lot more difficult. The poor horse had to carry me up over huge rocks and boulders, through narrow crevices and then knee deep mud. Everything was a little slippery due to heavy rain, that I was holding my breath the whole way up and then when we reached the top we had to cross a river - this was supposed to be suitable for beginners!! We
stopped for a picnic lunch with our cowboy (guide) and then started our descent back down. Once we made it back to the riverside I thought I could start to relax again ....but oh no! As we got closer to home some of the more confident people began to trot and then canter, my horse saw this and started to take off. He flew down the pathway, with me on top and no matter how hard I pulled his reins he did not want to stop. It has to be said that I found this a little unnerving and started to scream! The cowboy who had been at the back saw and came charging behind me, just as my horse decided to ride up onto the bank, heading for a tree! Now my horse was not stupid so luckily stopped just before the tree for the cowboy to grab him and reprimand him! 5 minutes later I was back on my own feet and was ready for some afternoon tea!
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