Snow storms, Volcanos and a cold Lu Lu
21.05.2012 - 24.05.2012
We arrived at Pucon to find the hostel owner waiting for us, South America still has its little surprises!!! The hostel was more like little log cabins in the Alpes, 3 bedrooms surrounding a living room with a little log fire and what can only be described as a dead animal as the carpet. The cabins were really nice though and at first we were only sharing it with three German’s. They spoke no English and we speak no German, made for interesting conversation….. Then ended up having the whole place to ourselves for the rest of the time we were there. Most people just come to Pucon to climb the volcano and it turns out they had done it the day before, or so we guessed. Not wanting to waste the day though we headed straight out to explore the town.
Pucon is literally just shops and accommodation and walking around, it didn’t seem like there were any actual houses as every building either had a sale or a vacancy sign in the window. After looking around a few of the shops and discovering that even sale prices weren’t cheap enough for us, we headed down to the main lake which is on two sides of the town….. Its that big though it seemed more like the sea!!!! Then off to haggle a cheap price to climb the volcano. Turns out they don’t like to haggle, so we booked with a company called Agua Ventura that a few of our friends had recommended to us before we got to Pucon. The main reason to go with them is that they will only climb on good days, pretty much guaranteeing you will hit the summit, whereas some of the other company’s have got a reputation for climbing in bad weather and then having to turn back with no offer to climb another day, BOOOOOO. One of the guides in the shop also told us about a waterfall hike we could do even though it was already mid day so we grabbed a map and headed for the bus station.
When we got to where we thought the hike started, well where the bus drops you off for the start of the hike, we got ambushed by the local camp site owner demanding her little bit of tax for crossing her land to get to the start of the hike. Being forever thrifty we quickly did an about turn and walked down the road and jumped a fence, I mean it is a free hike…… We ended up on the wrong side of the river so scouted for a place to cross, eventually finding a rock pool to use to jump across the river where Lucy fell in! Once we figured out which path was the right one we set off. Turns out that where the bus driver had dropped us was not the start at all so we ended up doing a trek and a half. Five waterfalls later, one bleeding forehead and an ever so damp Lu Lu we found ourselves lost again…. It seemed like the local land owners have decided that the trail shouldn’t be there anymore so they’ve built fences and styles across the path. It only took around thirty minutes though to figure out what was going on so we jumped a few more fences and found our way back to the road and our bus home.
We woke the next morning to find the weather had closed in. Not wanting to risk missing the hike though, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am and headed for the shop… we were back in bed by 5.30am, the climb had been called off. We spent the rest of the day stoking the fire and watching movies whilst the snow and sleet came down, managing to muster just enough energy to go to the super market and get the ingredients for a good old English roast.
The next morning, the weather was still on the turn but the guides were sure it would clear before we started hiking so we jumped in the mini bus and headed for the foot of the volcano. Just as we arrived the sun broke through and we set off, ice axes and bum boards in hand. The first two hours of the hike are reasonably easy, just zigzagging up the foot of the volcano but once you get above the snow level and into the more icy areas you have to put on the crampons, huge snow shoes with spikes. Your feet are now equipped to the max and after a quick safety briefing about what to do when you fall over and how to avoid stabbing yourself in the back of the ankles, you continue up. From this point on though the views just got better and better!!! By the third hour however Lucy was starting to struggle a little so we put both our rucksacks into one and continued upwards. By the fourth hour I was ready to give her them back….. After losing about a quarter of the group at the last rest stop we headed for the summit on the last push of the day. The last hour is up over sheer ice plates and wind shaped icy monoliths that seem like they are ready to swallow you up at any point but once you hit the summit it makes it all worth it. It’s a 360 panoramic of the whole area with the other 4 volcanoes in full view. Looking back at where you started I found myself a little breathless, STUNNING!!!!! The only down side is that it’s about -10 up there and the sulphurous gasses released by the volcano are poisonous so a few quick photos and a look down into the smoldering abyss and back down you head.
The route down is a lot more fun than the way up because it is easier but also because you can almost bound down through the snowy bits, a little what I would imagine moon walking to be like (still high of the fumes I think!) You also catch your crampons on each other, causing you to face plant, well I managed to anyway much to Lu’s amusement. About half way down you swap your crampons for your bum board and bounce the rest of the way down cruising into big snow drifts to slow yourself down and smashing into rocks with only your ice axe to control your speed. Amazing fun but your ass is bruised like a peach the next day, take extra padding!!! 5 hours up; 2 hours down!!! Climbing an active volcano - Check!!! Once back you’re greeted with an ice cold beer and a pat on the back, in return you get to give them all their soaking wet and sweatie snow clothes back. We headed back to the cabin for a cheeky hours kip and then headed out for dinner. We ended up at ‘Mamas and Tapas’ well worth a look in especially as they have two for one cocktail’s on most nights and they don’t hold back on the spirits!!!!
We spent the next day recuperating with a short walk around the lake again and caught the bus out that night to Pichilemu… Bring on the surf and the beach!!!!!
Loz x x x