Monday, January 30, 2012

Pucon

I got up to get to the tour place for 6.30am. It had been raining overnight and the clouds were still around. This was not looking good for climbing the Villarrica Volcano. We waited about 45 minutes and then the guy told us that the weather at the base was too bad and the tour would not go today. We put our names down for tomorrow hoping it would be better since that's the only other day any of us could do.

I was staying in a different hostel to everyone else, since I'd prebooked a bed at ecole since it has a veggie restaurant as part of it. At around 10.30am I headed over to the other hostel. This cool giant dog lives there. He looks like a bear! His name is Thomas but he would only be your friend if you gave him food. Otherwise, he just lay there not coming when you called him over. Arse.


So, then I was keen to find out what we would do today instead. Oh my god, what a task that was. 'I want to go mountain bike riding', 'I want to go to the waterfalls', 'I want to go to the beach and drink wine'. This went on for about 2 hours cos no one could decide on anything or who they were going to go with. Then I think everyone got bored and started leaving. I was in the bus to the beach with wine group. It's surprising, I know. Seriously, even this was like herding cats! Someone would wander off into shops, and then someone else would go looking for them, then we'd be down to two people standing around going "where did the rest go now?" and we'd be waiting around again. So finally we make it onto a bus going up to lake Caburgua, which has a very nice beach.

One of the girls on the bus tour is Spanish. She did all the talking to find out which bus to take cos we had to get off before before the end for the waterfalls. I was watching a group of guys just standing there mesmerised by what she was saying. I asked her later if the South Americans take the piss out of her accent. She said yes, but her defence was they can't spell properly cos they pronounce s and z the same, unlike in Spanish. She then pointed out two hand written signs to make her point. Snap!

So on the way we stopped in at some waterfalls. They were nice enough but you couldn't swim in them which is a bit boring.



Here are some cool heads on the beach.


On the way back from the beach we found the English boys, who were having pisco sours. Sounds good, so we decided to have one too. They were so good at this bar. And I don't know who's right, but Peru claims it's their drink and so does Chile. After this one, I think Chile is winning. That said, I like the passionfruit pisco drink better anyway, which I had in Peru. Of course I was ordering mine without egg white, which is the traditional way to make them so they go really fluffy on the top. Eggs in drinks freaks me out regardless of the vegan thing. It's just plain weird!

We got back to Pucon and the Pachamama bus picked us up to take us to some hot springs. These were much nicer than the Aguas Calientes springs. For a start, they weren't all murky. They were also much warmer. We had to keep getting into the Liucura River, which was freezing, and then jumping back into a hot pool. But the hot and cold sensation felt so nice. Here's a nice shot of my arse climbing into the river!


By the time we got back to Pucon, it was late. After dinner and packing up my stuff to leave at 6.30am again, it was 1.30am. I went to sleep for what seemed like about five minutes before I had to get up. Urgh! Checked out of my room and headed down to the tour place. The sky was cloudless and there was no rain over night. This was a good sign and the tour to the volcano was on. The adventure companies are great. They provide you with all the gear you need including good quality snow boots. You just need lunch and sunblock basically.
 
So off the bus goes to the volcano. Driving up to it is starting to look quite daunting. It is 2,800m above sea level, the same as Machu Picchu.


This is a popular ski resort in winter so we could take a chairlift up the first 1,000m. If you don't do this, you add 2-3 hours to your day. Bollocks to that.

Coming from a subtropical place, I believe this was my first time on a ski lift. It was really high and freaked me out cos it had no safety bar on the front and I am scared of heights. As a result you can only take it up, not down the mountain. I had some American guy next to me who I asked to keep talking to distract me. I found out he sells beer for a living. Sweet. Pity he didn't have one on him then.

Then the climbing started. At the start it was mostly rock, and our ice picks doubled as walking stick things. I only slipped over once so that was good. Then came the snow and ice. This was harder to walk in. Plus the mountain got steeper as you ascended. Half way up we had our first rest. I can't believe how hungry it makes you.


Then we had another break after about 30 mins more of climbing. Seriously this break couldn't come soon enough. It was definitely getting harder and we were all knackered. I doubt everyone who tried made it to the top. This was physically one of the hardest things I've ever done.


 
Towards the top we were back into rocks. This bit was really steep and I started getting worried about getting down the mountain. Too late to back out now. Then we reached the top. This is our Pachamama group. Only four of us went up but we all made it. Hooray!


Fuck it was cold! But the views were spectacular.
 


This one has Pucon and the lake in the background.

 
Also, I know that something weird is going on with the contrast on my phone. I don't know how to fix it or edit the photos on a PC since all the computer editing programs are in Spanish.

This is what the inside of an active volcano looks like.



Thankfully the smoke from the volcano was blowing the other way so we could stay up there for 45 mins or so. Sometimes you can only stay up there for five minutes cos the smoke is poisonous. We had masks in our bags but I think they are only good for an hour and sometimes you need them for part of the climb.

These are our guides. They were awesome. At the top the just wrestled each other and hid each other's backpacks. Considering they are the ones we needed to rely on if something goes wrong, I was slightly concerned about that.


You need one guide for every 6-8 people. There were probably a good 300 people or so on tours today.

Then came the getting down part. We had to put all our gear on for this including a toilet seat lid thing.


This is why.



Tobogganing down the mountain on your arse on the toilet seat lid was AWESOME!!!!
Although I was shit and kept getting stuck cos I don't weigh enough apparently (I know, terrible). At one point I hooked onto a guide and he took me down. His technique was really good, obviously, so I didn't have to do anything.

The Canadian guy, Ryan, then told me about toboozing, which is where you get drunk then toboggan down the mountain. That sounds pretty fun and slightly dangerous. However, it still doesn't make me want to move to Canada.

We got to do about five toboggan paths before the rocks were back. This didn't take too long to walk down and we were back on the bus. Back in Pucon we got to have a free beer with the group and the guides. We were all exhausted so a beer went down an absolute treat. Then I saw two guides get on their mountain bikes to ride home. That is some serious fitness.

I said good bye to the boys. My plan tonight was go to go to Temuco and stay there since I have an a flight tomorrow. Temuco is two hours from Pucon. However, I really couldn't be bothered trying to find a hostel when I got there plus there are only two on hostelworld and neither is near the bus station. Temuco is also boring and there are no veggie restaurants. Time for Plan B. First, check the first bus out in the morning: 6am, good. Second, go back to ecole and see if I can get a bed. Done. Third, have dinner at a reasonable time for the first time in two nights. Done. I like this hostel cos of the veggie restaurant. It's not the best food I've had in South America, but it's still ok.

Since I was exhausted and had to get up at 5.30am in the morning, it was an early night for me. I was glad no one else was staying in the room, it made uninterrupted sleep easier without others coming in late. Tomorrow, I head south. Way south!

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