03.01.2008 - 06.01.2008 32 °C
´Life is just a precious minute baby, open up your eyes and see it baby, give yourself a better a chance because time wiill pass you, right on by´Time Will Pass You By by TobI Legend
I can´t remember if I have used those lyrics to open a previous blog, but they are very apt and ´Time Will Pass You By´is a song I´ve been listening to a lot on our travels.
We´re in the lovely lakeside town of Pucon. Tomorrow we are heading further south to Puerto Montt and we then intend to try and get down to Torres Del Paine. Yesterday we climbed an active volcano, it´s not every day you can say that!
This is what we have been up to since I last wrote.
Thursday 3rd & Friday 4th January
We wandered around Santiago, visiting a museum containing some amazing Inca and pre-Columbian works of art, tools and artefacts. One of the exhibitions also had a series of inca statues in a series of sexual positions. The statues were used to symbolise the journey from life to death and back again. From looking at the statues and reading the descriptions I can only imagine that the Inca´s had a grand old time of it.
After that we hung around for the rest of the day at our hostel, our decision to keep our room on proved wise, meaning we could snooze and shower before our overnight bus journey. We caught a cab at 10pm with an Australian couple, James and Claire, to the bus station. We also met a Scottish couple over on holiday. The bus left promptly at 10.55pm. It was pretty comfy with plenty of leg space and reclining chairs. In fact I would say it was more comfy than a lot of planes we have been on.
We slept quite a bit of the way and blanked the rest of the journey out by using eyemasks and listening to our i-pods. We arrived in Pucon at 9am and headed to Hostal Pucon, booking in for 3 nights for a total cost of 60 quid. Pucon is pretty expensive for accomodation, especially just now as it is near peak time. Our hostal, like a lot of Pucon, is modelled on Swiss Challeys and is very nice.
We headed into town and bought some food for breakfast and then headed back for a bite to eat and a snooze. After that it was back into town to book on to a volcano tour for the next day. We booked on one at 35 pounds per person (there are no pound signs on these computers), with a 7am start.
At night we had a bite to eat sitting outside a little bar, gazing up at the 2,827 metre high volcano in the distance with smoke coming out of the top, wondering how on earth we were going to manage to climb it. Also managed to speak to my Mum on the phone, which is always good.
Saturday 5th January
The alarm went off at 6.05am, so technically we were not getting up at 6am, but pretty close to it. We had packed our gear the night before and after a light breakfast of yoghurt and banana we headed to the adventure companies office. We were kitted out in ski boots, waterproof jackets and trousers, as well as being given a rucksack with gloves, a hat, crampons (which were not required), a thing for putting on your bum (more about that later), an ice axe and a helmet.
Along with our 3 guides we had 2 Brazilian twins (female and blonde in case you wondered), a Chilean family of 4 and 3 Canadians. By the time we were kitted out and drove to the start it was 9am. The drive had climbed 1,400 metres to the ski lifts used in ski season. So we only had 1,427 metres to go.
We started off on rocky volcanic soil. The lead guide went at a nice steady pace, not fast at all. His experience shone throughout the whole day and his pace helped most people. After an hour we reached snow and it was time to out on our helmets as we continued to climb. By this stage the Mum and Dad of the Chilean family decided they were knackered and dropped out. Sadly the Brazilian twins did as well. One guide led the Chileans down while the Brazilians waited for him to return so they could join us later.
The snow was pretty soft and we followed our guide in single file, his footprints meant that we always knew where to walk. At times teh snow became hard and icey and we found that it was sometimes harder to get a good grip, but our ice axe meant that we always had something to lean on.
We climbed on with the sun beating down. Lynn and I had wisely bought some factor 50 (war paint) sunscreen teh previous day and we were glad of it. There was no shade at all. We rested for lunch at 12pm and admired the views out to Pucon, Lake Villarrica and beyond. The views rival anything in the South Island of New Zealand and that is saying something.
We soldiered on and scrambled over some volcanic soil and rocks just before the top and finally made it at 2pm. The smoke rose from the volcano and the smell of sulphur was overpowering at times. That didn´t stop us from walking around the rim of the volcano with the guide but we didn´t see any lava, just some red rocks that had been spat out.
The volcano last erupted in 1984 and is overdue an eruption by at least 4 years. The views from the top were amazing but the best part was yet to come. Our guide instructed us to strap on the things for our bums. Extra padding as we were going to slide back down the volcano!
We clambered back over the first rocky section down to the snow. In peak season around 200-300 people a day climb the volcano and there are slides cut into the snow all the way down. So we all proceeded to slide back down the volcano. It was the most fun we have had in ages. We were like kids. Some slides were pretty steep and if you didn´t use your ice axe to slow down you flew down them. I went too fast a couple of times and ended up spinning around and going backwards, but as it was snow you couldn´t hurt yourself.
It only took us 2 hours to get back down the volcano and it was absolutely magic fun. I can´t recommend it highly enough. We met the Brazilian twins halfway down and they slid down the rest of the way with us. Great fun. Unfortunately one of the Canadian girls lost her camera on one of the slides. Nightmare! We regularly upload photos and get cd´s burnt to send home as losing photos is just your worst nightmare.
We got back to Pucon after 5pm and went straight to our hostel for a shower, getting the volcanic dust out of our ears and nose was a relief and we felt brand new afterwards. Our room has a TV and ESPN had a replay of the United v Villa cup match so I caught the last 20 minutes of that. United won 2-0 with Ronaldo and Rooney scoring. United look to be in good form and Giggs looked fantastic. 34 and still going strong.
We had dinner around 8pm and then sat and watched a terrible film called ´Terminal´with Tom Hanks before sleeping soundly after our day on the volcano.
Sunday 6th January
We´ve had a quiet day today. Getting up late, doing a washing, booking bus tickets to Puerto Montt and finally booking flights from Brazil to Ecuador. We have been monitoring the price for ages but it´s not going down, so we have bitten the bullet and gone for it. It saves us backtracking if we go to Brazil-Ecuador-Peru-Bolivia-Argentina.
We may head down to the lake for a quick swim before dinner and packing our bags.
Take it easy
Murray and Lynn