Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pucon, Chile (3 days)

Crossing back into Chile once again, we head to the town that is built at the bottom of a volcano, Pucon. On the way we pass through Parcque Nacional Lanin, which also has a volcano. Volcan Lanin comes into view just as the sun is rising, colouring its snow-capped peak a brilliant rose colour. The landscape consists of mature monkey puzzle trees, latin name Araucaria, which you might recognize from 1970´s popular landscape fame in North America. I have never seen anything like these trees though, as they are hundreds of years old and covered in lichen. When mature, all of the lower branches fall off and there is only a rounded canopy high up on the tree of which the branches really do look exactly like the tails of monkeys.

Dumped off at the bus terminal, we make quick friends with two danish guys, and all head to a hostel together. Always looking for the cheapest option, we end up in a house a little walk outside of town. The four of us grab lunch in town with Pisco Sour drinks (which the Chileans and Peruvians both claim is ´their´ national drink). In the evening we cook a stir fry together in the hostel. This night Alison and I are tired and opt for an early night where they head out on the town. Just before we hit the sack, the hostel owner tells us not to open up the windows, as it will set off the alarm system. Just an hour later, a german couple upstairs unknowingly opens up a window and the whole neighbourhood is woken up to a piercing alarm. It gets shut off. At 5am, the danish guys return with no key, and knock on our window wanting in. Ali, fast asleep, opens up the window and thus the whole neighbourhood is woken up again! The hostel owners think it was the danish guys both times and they are promptly kicked out the next morning.

Next day, Ali and I head off early to catch a bus to Parcque Nacional Huerquehue, which has several lakes and many monkey puzzle trees. At the terminal we meet our german couple friends, Helene and boyfriend, from our hike at Paso de los Nubes. We catch up on the bus ride to the park. At the base of Cerro San Sebastian, we go for a day hike in the sunshine and forest. We meet Jessica and Shaw, med. students in Texas, who are doing a practicum outside of Santiago. The four of us have lunch at Lago Verde under a blue, blue sky. There are dragonflies buzzing amongst the reed grass that edge the lake. Green lizards are sunning themselves on the rocks. Monkey puzzle trees dot the landscape around the lake and high up on the hills. The trunks of the middle-aged ones look exactly like an embossed puzzle. Covered in lichen, the light lime green colour of their trunks stand out as vertical elements in the landscape, particularly in the setting sun. In the afternoon, we sun ourselves at another lake, Lago Toro, where four local guys are fishing. They offer us beer and we find out that they are in the area for a weekend wedding. They are either very poor fishermen or this is not a lake for fishing- no fish are caught. They want to offer us ride back to town etc., but we gracefully decline.

The thing to do in the town of Pucon is to climb the volcano, Volcan Villarica. Ali wants a rest day, but I sign up to head off for an ascent the following day. When I show up the next morning, the group is quite familiar- there are the two danish guys, the two guys from Quebec first met in San Martin de los Andes, and three guys that I had met at the Lago Toro the day previous, from South Africa, Australia, and Brazil. So we all head off on a bumpy bus ride to the volcano. The hike itself leaves something to be desired as we hike so slowly, in true tour goup style. We are add kitted out in boots, crampons, ice axe, waterproof suit and helmet, oh and not to forget, gas masks for the top! The best part of the hike was the views afforded out over the landscape, as we were on top of the clouds. On top, the volcano was somewhat anti-climatic with no lava shooting out the top or even a red glow. Instead, there was a burn-your-throat cloud of sulfuric acid that emanated from the large crater hole in the top. Once we headed down, the weather changed and there were wispy clouds shooting past us, so so so cool. On our trip we have seen many peaks which have clouds whipping past their summits, and now here we get to experience what it is like to be in them. Highlight for most people is the journey down the volcano. We jump into long ´luge´looking runs where we slide down the snow on our bottoms. With ice axe for control and stopping power, we whiz down the mountainside. Ali and I grab a drink with the S.A., Ozzie and Brazilian trio before jumping on an 8:00pm night bus to Pichilemu.


At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elaine,
It sounds like the trip has been awesome. We recieved your post card today and are definetly jealous. Say hi to Ali for me. Keep up the great postings, I look forward to every new one and check often. Can't wait to see you, too bad the trip has to end, whish I could come to you, sounds like so much fun.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous cj said...

Love the photo of you and the pick ax - you should be in adventure mags! :D

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

Hi Elaine I've just finished reading your last couple of posts- wow looks like a real adventure! You won't want to come back north!
Thanks for the box of stuff you sent (Correos Chile)-- we have been listening to Manu Chao (?) CD- sorry I'm not sure if the spelling is right, I'm writing this in a library in Chetwynd-- Wren likes the "Fruitilitta" poster- it is up on her wall- unfortunately the video and DVD did not work on our machine- the video is "PAL", same as what they have in the UK (did you pick it up in Argentina?)- however this means that we will have to pack the video and DVD with us for the trip to England, so you can watch it with Wren and Davida for the first time (y Dora la exploradora)! The animal book is awesome!


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