Pucon, Chile – 20-22 May 2011

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South America » Chile » Valparaíso Region
May 23rd 2011
Published: May 24th 2011
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After an overnight bus from Santiago in a full-cama bus, we arrived safely into the little village of Pucon. What a wonderful, quant little village which had a snow-country (European Alpine) feel about it. We got off the warm bus only to be met by very cold, clear weather. This was definitely coats and gloves and scarves weather! We caught taxis to the Hotel Donde German which had a combustion heater fire in both the lounge and kitchen. It was lined with wood and looked very inviting and homely. We had full access to the kitchen, which we used frequently through the 2 days we were there.

The scenery from the hotel was spectacular with the active Volcano Villarrica as a back drop along with the Andean Mountain Ranges – beautiful. Can the scenery get any better in this country? And we are only just on the edge of the South American Lakes District.

We settled in and Tom & I found that we were the only ones with an on suite bathroom and we were to sleep in our first king-sized bed since being in South America. Everything felt warm and inviting. Despite the warmth, after the bus trip we decided we needed a walk to explore this beautiful little town with about 22,000 people.

We walked into the main street which was called O’Higgins Avenue after the person who led a significant part of the revolution to independence in Chile. We found a beautiful warm cafe and Steph, Amy, Tom and I had various versions of hamburgers, some with chips (papa frittas in Spanish) and some with salad. We had to rush back because at 12MD we were being picked up so we could go and see the Volcanic Caves inside the Villarrica Volcan.

Our hotel owner was obviously the transport for many of the tourist trips so we hopped in his van and he took us out to the caves where we met up with a local guide. On the way we hit the snow-line which was at about 1000 metres as it had snowed the previous days. The van slipped and slid but Hermann had driven in these conditions many times. With the snow, the scenery was beautiful and to make things even more picturesque, the sky was a beautiful clear blue.

We learned from our guide that the volcano had erupted many times over the last Century, the worst being in 1948. There was a pretty sizeable eruption in 1971 and a smaller one in 1989, all of which we learned about. The cave was formed 100,000 years ago and we could see where the molten lava had flowed and then solidified. We walked 250 meters back into the volcano cave where it got very narrow so no tourists are allowed to go further than this point. It was incredibly cold in the cave with water dripping from the ‘ceiling’ of the cave. They had put a line of lights along the path through the middle of the cave. The parts of the cave were of different sizes but only once did we have to bend down to walk through the cave tunnel.

Just a bit of info about Pucon: Pucón:is located in the Province of Cautin, 100 km to the southeast of Temuco and 780 km to the south of Santiago.

Pucón's unrivaled location by a lake and a volcano and quite stable weather] (especially in the summer) make it a popular destination for tourists. It offers a variety of sports and adventure/recreational activities for tourists, including water & snow skiing, backpacking, white water rafting and horse riding, natural hot springs, zip line rides, and guided ascents of Villarrica Volcano. We were wondering how we are going to fit all this in 1 ½ days – just kidding

P ucón was established in 1883 as a fort in the aftermath of the Occupation of Araucania when the Chilean state subdued the native population of Araucania. The location of Pucón was found strategical because of being at the entrance to the Trancura Valley a place that had become of authorities awareness since the Argentine army had chased a group of Mapuches (natives) into it though Mamuil Malal Pass during the Conquest of the Desert.

The first hotel in Pucón was Gudenschwager established in 1923 but it was in 1934 with the establishment of Gran Hotel Pucón that tourism became a successful activity in the zone. In 1940 the first road between Villarrica and Pucón was built and in the 1970s the road to Caburga Lake was built.

There are a number of beautiful National parks in the area: Villarrica National Park, Huerquehue National Park and Villarrica National Reserve.

There are also a number of Volcanos: the most notable are the Villarrica, Mocho or Quetrupillan and Lanin volcanos.

The main lakes are the Villarrica Lage which Tom visited, Caburgua and Tinquilco lakes.
The river in the town in Rio Trancura.

We had one full day in Pucon, so I decided I wanted to climb Volcan Villarrica. (see next blog).

While I was climbing the volcano, Tom was in Puno walking around the town watching towards the volcano. He could see the weather changing (see photos) but I assured him the guides would not take any risks and on the mountain, we felt very confident in them as they had walked up this volcano for a number of years...and were locals. Tom in fact, didn’t want me to climb the volcano but it was on my bucket list to climb an active volcano.

When we all got back to the hotel, dear Tom made us tomato soup and coffee. He is wonderful. I had a beautiful hot shower and felt great, but had no energy to go out to dinner so we stayed at the hotel and ordered pizza. Natasha is the best at Spanish so she got on the phone to do the ordering.

It was also pelting down with rain so this was another good reason to stay indoors. We were reflecting that we were nearly on day 60 of our trip and had only experienced 2 days of rain – not bad!!

We could have done other activities if we had a 2ND day in Pucon – there was a hike past the waterfalls and gurgling brooks in the Huerquehue National Park. Doing this we would have seen the strange Araucaria (monkey puzzle) tree, as well as other native vegetation such as Coigües and Lingues. But Tom decided to wander around the town as the weather didn’t look good while I climbed the volcano. He took lots of photos and found beautiful little cafes where he had cappuccinos and empanadas which were fast becoming our favourite snack in Chile. You can have cheese ones or with vegetables of with meat (carnes) and onions in thin pastry. Yum.

The next day (Sunday 22 May) we had a leisurely breakfast and left at 9.30am. We caught the bus to Ancud. We had to change buses at Puerto Montt and cross on the ferry to get to the island of Chiloe to see more of The Lakes District of South America (6 hours). We loved Pucon and probably wished we had another day there.

Additional photos below
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