My time in Valparaiso has finally come to an end with my credit card eventually arriving in Santiago. I reluctantly left the addictive city of Valaparaiso. 2 days somehow turned into 3 amazing weeks with some special people along the way. My final days included a visit Las Docas just outside Valparaiso. Squeezed into the coolest car ever I was on the verge of pucking for the entire trip. Well worth the turbulent journey. We arrived in the afternoon and did a cool hike around the forest areas until we reached a secluded lake where we went swimming.
The beauty of hostels is you don’t know who your going to meet. So with the arrival of the eccentric character Senong (conveniently pronounced Seán). We hit it off immediately and we became instant cooking partners. He is 69 and backpacking around the world on his own. He’s very tapped but then again so am I, so we have a good giggle. After a heavy night of jazz and boozing myself and Joe polished off the last of Senong’s cheese, absolute murder scenes in the kitchen the following day. I’ll definitely miss this funny fish.
An extremely hungover and dehydrated Ró eventually managed to find Niall’s house in Santiago (after about 1 hour of knocking on the wrong street). I ended up loosing one of my runners in the metro station en route to credit card retrieval . Probably just as well my bag weights a ton. Cheers Niall for organizing the credit card. Turns out I really needed it. The following day I left my debit card in a bank machine and a legend of a man ran after me with it ( I promise Úna this is the last time) .
After a 9hr overnight bus I arrived in Pucon, a beautiful lake town with lots of hot springs, volcano’s and an abundance of national parks. I am staying in Chilli Kiwi Hostel just over looking the lake a seriously impressive view and good hostel.
A German couple in my dorm said they were taking an early bus to El Cani National Park to do a 9 hour hike (22km). I ended up third wheeling with them ( wouldn’t be like me). It was absolutely stunning. We were treated to some serious panoramic views from the top of the climb where we stopped for lunch. The lunch itself was was fairly bleek and consisted of stale bread, margarine and parsley. I was so hungry that it actually tasted fairly gourmet. We ended up picking up a beautiful Colombian Man, Juan on the way down. A gang of us finished off a hard days climbing with some well deserved Cervazas.
One sunny afternoon myself and Joe packed a picnic and an extra large bottle of wine and rented Kayaks to visit some of the many beaches around the Peninsula. This was my first time kayaking since a horrific kayaking incident in Cambodia a few years back (v long story). It goes without saying that I have learned absolutely nothing from it. We packed the kayak up with grub, camera, phones and vino. Not realising how turbulent the water was we ended up drifting into the middle of the lake and the kayak started to fill up with water from the waves. Frantically paddling, we eventually managed to find a ‘beach’ someones back garden essentially. Obviously I thought it was an appropriate time to take a boomerang (Instagram video thing for the older generations reading this). Anyway I dropped my phone into the lake. That night, phone submerged in pasta (I had no rice) we all prayed for a resurrection. It’s kind of essential having a phone here for music, google maps and contacting people etc (the general features of any phone I suppose). Despite phone incident Kayak was fab we had the lake to ourselves with magical views of the volcano and lots of hidden beaches along the way.
One of the biggest attractions in Pucon is climbing the Villarica Volcano (South America’s most active Volcano). It’s not cheap at €100 but you can’t go alone. It only erupted 2 years where the erruption exceeded the height of the volcano. There was a group from the hostel who had to turn back during the climb because the winds were too strong. They don’t take any risks and are extremely strict. You need ice crampons, gas masks and protective clothing because of the fumes from the lava. With the phone missing in action my dorm mate Philip kindly set his alarm for 5am! Philip is Brazilian and has been teaching me ‘Spanish’ for the past few days turns out he’s actually been teaching me Portuguese!!! Qué pena!
There were 12 of use signed up for the volcano trek. When we arrived at the base of the Volcano the weather was fairly grim and the guides advised us to leave it and try and again tomorrow. We all agreed and I extended by stay in Pucon by another night. All geared up and packed lunches brimming we decided to check out Huerquehue National Park to make the most of the day. I ended up with a gang who didn’t like walking so I managed to convince one of the lads, Chee to come explore further with me. We ended up horrifically lost. It was a treacherous route walking on frozen lakes, ice, snow and waterfalls. We subsequently found out that side of the park was closed off as a girl recently went missing and had to spend the night in the forest (luckily she was found the next day). Needless to say we missed the last bus home but no fear I secured us a lift home by hitch hiking off a local with my Spanish/Portuguese. Myself and Che had good craic and I definitely appreciated the company. He is an accomplished anesthetist in the states who also wants to abdomen ship on his carer and become a professional tour guide( he might need to scrub up on his mountaineering skills). Back late that night we started getting ready for round two of Volcano climb praying the weather would clear. (some poor fecker was on his third attempt of the volcano).
Some people in the group were packing obscene amounts of foods. One chap from Germany had 6 sandwiches, chocolate, Gatorade, Lucozade tablets, biscuits, nuts and dried fruit (not including his continental breakfast). He would have been well equipped to attempt the summit of Everest with all his grub. The climb itself is tough around 5 hours up and 1 down but definitely not the hardest thing I’ve done. There is an option to take a ski lift up at the beginning which cuts out 1 hour of uphill ice climbing. It costs a steep $10, 000 peso (if you’ll ptp) so I opted against it. It was only me and an Israeli lad left to tackle the Volcano. This was tough because we had to try and catch up with the rest of the group . Our pace was fast and breaks were limited we ended up catching up with the rest of group just before sumitting which was great. We were delighted after the challenge. The feeling at the top is surreal. We saw lava (which is apparently quite rare). We couldn’t have been luckier with the day we could see for miles absolutely spectacular.
Going down was the best bit. You can either ski or snowboard down (at additional cost) or slide down the volcano using a nappy. No joke you literally just slide down the side of a Volcano using a piece of plastic. It was insane you go so fast. The day ended with me badly needing to pee, unable to hold it in after 7 hours. I just went on the side of the volcano with a random woman covering me with her coat. A few unexpected skiers were treated to some nice scenery on their way down. It’s not the first and it won’t be last! Happy heads and full bellies (for some people) we all headed back to the hostel for some delicious happy hour craft beer.