It turns out the weather wasn´t suitable to climb up Volcan Villarica on Friday, so after waiting for breakfast to be served at my hostel I went around to tour companies to decide on something to do for the day. It turns out a lot of tours had already left for the day, so from what was left I decided on a tour of the area´s parks that ended at some hot springs. It was raining and so at least we had some coverage in the parks.
We also got to visit this lake. Apparently on one side of the former president Michelle Bachalet used to live, and then on the other side Piñera (the current president) used to live. There were also some signs of the earthquake still here:
After that, it was off to relax in some hot springs. The ones we visited were actually really nice, in that they were inside a manmade pool and had a roof. There was a changing area and lockers also. I got to know 2 women from Santiago, a couple that were English teachers in Concepción, and a girl from Brazil. We stayed in the hot springs for close to 2 hours just talking and enjoying it.
Then Saturday morning started the real adventure: the ascent up Volcan Villarica. The van came to pick me up at 7:00, and we went to the tour company to get our gear. I was decked out in snow hiking boots, snow pants, strappy things that went under the hiking boots, a helmet, ice pick, a helmet, and even cool ski goggles. And this was before we even left the tour company.
It was an amazing sight from the bottom, but it got better and better as we got closer. I got to take a ski lift for the first time ever. The view was breathtaking. I could see the volcano right in front of me, and all of the trees were covered in snow. The only sound you could hear was the breeze of the wind going by. I was amazed by the beauty of something so simple as a snow covered mountain.
After we got off the ski lift, we walked a bit and then put the racquets on our shoes. It was totally like something out of a cartoon, but apparently they help you to walk on top of the snow and not to fall down into it.
Then the hiking began. Now I consider myself in good shape, but this was a workout fit for Superman. In addition to hiking up a regular mountain, you also had to lift your legs up and over the snow as well as carry a large backpack with your food and other supplies. After about 10 minutes I was sweating so much that I had to stop and take off my sweatshirt (as I was also wearing 2 shirts under it as well as my winter jacket). I was having trouble keeping up, but luckily I wasn´t the only one.
A guy from Brazil that also looked to be in good shape was also struggling. After 2 hours of hiking we made it to a rest stop, and we both decided that we were satisfied with having made it that far. Here is the view from where we got up to:
After we got that far, we unfortunately weren´t able to sled down becuase of the ice patches. So we walked down, but it was much faster than the ascent was. Later in the day, we explored downtown Pucón and got some dinner. Along the way we found this:
That´s right, it´s an alert of volcanic activity. Each color gives characteristics of volcanic activity, and the sign gives escape routes in case if evacuation is necessary. Then we got a delicious dinner of brasera (which is like a mini grill of lots of different types of meat).
That same night I headed out to some more hot springs, and the Brazilian guy as well as people from the tour yesterday were on this tour too. The hot springs at Los Pozones were more natural, but they weren´t as nice as the ones from the day before. Despite that, it was a nice way to spend my last night in Pucón.
The trip back to Santiago was uneventful. I had a nice breakfast at the airport, and it was probably the smallest airport I had ever seen. There were 4 gates, with three of them literally right next to each other. When you would board and disembark from your flight, you walked up or down a set of stairs onto the tarmac. It was kind of like being a famous person walking off of a flight.
It is good to be back in Santiago.