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Travels in South America

The Hills are Alive - with the sound of moaning

CHILE | Thursday, 13 November 2008 | Views [923]

On Monday 10th November our bus pulled into beautiful Pucon.  What we have seen of the lake district so far is just stunning.  So many huge clear blue lakes, mountains everywhere, green forests, clean tidy towns with cute little wooden houses.

In Pucon we stayed in Hostel Donde German which is pretty much perfect.  It is the cleanest hostel you have ever seen with nice little rooms, a good kitchen and a big garden with views of Volcan Villarrica.  Plus there is a lovely little dog who always wants a belly rub.

We've come to this area of Chile for the views and to do some hiking, rafting and horse riding.  All the expensive activities!  After speaking to some of the other people in the hostel we all decided that on Tuesday we would 'do the volcano' and a couple of the others went off to book it.  Now, it's not like I didn't think about this.  I had been told that it wasn't easy and that you needed to be fairly fit but how many chances do you get to look into a smoking active volcano?  However, I was really unprepared for the climb.

Nice and early in the morning we went to the tour company and they fitted us out with all the gear, including special boots.  The heaviest shoes the world has every known.  Ridiculously impossible to walk in.  After having difficulty making it out to the car I wasn't sure how I was going to walk up a volcano in them.  The mini van took us up to the base of the volcano, we got out, realised it was boiling and took off most of the extra clothing we had been given (but not the shoes).  The climb started and when I was already quite tired after only 10 minutes, I realised I might be in a bit of trouble!

Volcan Villarrica is 2800m high, it is covered pretty much all the way to the bottom in icy snow.  It is not a technically difficult climb as there is no need for ropes and stuff, but it does take an average of five hours.  This is because the volcano is steep and obviously slippery so it is not possible to climb straight up, you have to zig-zag your way to the top, therefore covering much more than 3km.

We climbed our way up to the half way point, stopping a couple of times for a quick break in order to drink and apply yet another layer of sun cream.  At the half way point we stopped for around twenty minutes.  It is so steep there that it is difficult to sit down and it is particularly icy so everything tries to slide away from you.  I was exhausted at this point.  Dave and the others were all tired, but me and another girl were just absolutely knackered.  When the guide told us that the next hour was the most difficult section I almost thought he was joking, for me it couldn't get more difficult.  But he was right.

For the next half hour we climbed on very steep very icy snow.  It was difficult to stay standing.  You may think, does it really matter if you fall, it's only snow, it does matter.  When at one of the resting points I put my hand into the snow and it cut my finger.  It is not soft and fluffy!  We came up over a ridge and the guide told us we had two hours left.  At this point I seriously considered turning back but I didn't want the last 3 hours of walking to go to waste.  We carried on (still steep and slippery) and it seemed ages before the guide stopped us for another break.  At this point I was getting deperate.  I was exhausted and the top still seemed to be so far away.  When at the next stop he said there was still half an hour left I wanted to cry.  I just didn't think I could make it.  With 15 miuntes left we had another rest. 

There was another group at this resting point too.  Their group only had 3 people in it but two of them couldn't go on they were just too tired.  I felt so sorry for them having to give up when they were so close.  The last 15 minutes seemed to take forever, but we slowly plodded along and eventually got to the top.  The views were spectacular; lakes, volcanoes, mountains, Argentina. Really good.  The crater of the volcano looked cool too, although it was emitting throat-ripping gas.

Everyone was so relieved to have made it to the top (gut gemacht the Donde German massive!) and we were all looking forward to the slide back down.  Yes, slide.  All of the groups sit down to slide down the mountain and eventually this leaves a little chute through the snow.  We had some very attractive plastic nappy type things tied around us, we sat in the chutes and slid down the hill.  It was like the best sleigh ride ever.  5 and a half hours to get up and only one hour to get down.


Was it worth it?  Yes.  The views were amazing, I got to look inside a volcano and the sliding was excellent.  Would I do it again?  No way in hell.  Dave on the other hand probably would, although he'd probably put a bit more sun lotion on.  A new meaning for the term red neck (although I can't talk because I forgot to put lotion on my ears and they are currently covered in blisters)!

Everyone at the top

Everyone at the top

Tags: hostel donde german, pucon, volcan villarrica

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