Pucon Chile, Bariloche Argentina
13.01.2009 - 17.01.2009 20 °C
Tuesday the 13th of January
For the first time in the entire trip since we started we cooked ourselves a meal! Yep Krystal made all of us some porridge and we all sat around enjoying a nice warm breaky.
After breaky and getting ourselves sorted we headed into town to try and organise some stuff for the following couple and days. After checking out a few travel agents we opted for one that our accomodation gave us as they seemed like they hade their sh%t together which is always a good thing when you are handing over your money. We booked for a trek up Volcano Villarrica the following day and then some hot springs the day after. Once happy with our schedule we headed for some lunch and then to a bus terminal to arrange our tickets out of Pucon and into Argentina. Again this is a time when I will say to everyone who may be heading to South America, learn some Spanish! We booked our tickets and once given to us we realised that she had booked them for a week later than what we asked for. After some please´s and sorry´s she fixed them up and we were back on track. 5 seconds after she printed them again Krystal looked at the diary and realised we booked it a day earlier than planned. This time the please´s and sorry´s didn´t work so we had to take what we were given and leave 24 hours earlier than planned. Since that happened we had to then run back to the travel agent and fix that part of the saga. All´s well that ends well though and we were back on track with a big day now planned for tomorrow!
With the sun beaming down on us from above we headed to the shorefront of Lago Villarrica which was filled with many holiday makers relaxing in the sun and swimming in the lake. We relaxed for a while, had some ice cream and a drink then headed back into town for some internet action before heading out for some dinner. Had some great Mexican food (cheap cheap too) then dropped by the supermarket for some supplies for the climb tomorrow before heading back for some relaxing and rest excited for the next day.
Wednesday the 14th of January
When putting our heads on the pillow we went to sleep confident that the sun would be rising and the day would be great. Usually you think that when you are treating to a beautiful sunset and cloudless sky the night before anyhow.....WRONG!! The day was ordinary and our hearts sunk knowing that the chances of us heading up would be slim due to the danger of it if the weather is not kind. We packed our bags anyhow and headed to the travel agent to see what the verdict was going to be. Upon arriving a couple of the others in our group said they would cancel and try for a better day tomorrow, an option we no longer had due to the bus stuff up by us the day before. So the guide said to us that we could take a drive to the base (at a cost of course) and make a decision form there. There was no yes no maybe about it and we hopped in the mini van and the 4 of us headed to the base about 30 minutes away, the 4th being an Irish fellow with the same idea as us. After 20 minutes or so our van popped its head above the clouds and straight into a beautiful blue sky with only a couple of clouds stopping it from being perfect! ¨Lets do it!¨our guide said. We were pumped and Krystal had a smile from ear to ear on her face as climbing a volcano had been one of the things she had wanted to do in South America.
Once we had our gear we began the climb up. The first hour was up (well the whole time was actually) and on dirt and was pretty tough going as 2 steps up meant 1/2 a step back with the slding that was going on. We finally made it to the beginning of the snow and were given our ice picks and a quick demo on how to use the things. Another hour and we were ready for our first break.
The weather was beginning to turn on us and the wind was ripping across the volcano but it was still ok to carry on as long as we moved on it. We all geared up with our pants, jacket, gloves, helmet, and we were back on the move. The track became pretty slippery and some parts got rather steep but the 4 of us powered on for another 2 hours before reching the final rest spot before the summit. By now the wind was galing and and our guide told us to continue on or we risk not getting to the crater so up we went for another 45 minutes before we finally made it to the top. What we were greeted with was the worst smell you smoke straight in the eyes! Toxic burning sulpur and what ever else volcano´s produce was pushed into ur face, up our nose, and down our throats but hey who cares we made it to the top!!! We hung around for 30 minutes or so then our guide said its time to begin the decent as the weather has closed in and we need to get moving ASAP!
We headed off the summit thinking that visibility was so bad due to the smoke but it was actually the clouds that had swamped us! We could see about 2 metres in front of us and not a thing more. The wind was blowing us from our feet and it was freezing!! One good thing about going down a mountain that is covered in snow is there are a couple of options. 1 is to walk and fall on your butt every step or the other is to put on a nappy (thats what they called them) and slide on your butt in man made tubes that have been formed on the mountain. Much better and quicker! So we set ourselves up and jumpe din the tubes for a slippery slide down the hill. One of the important things that we were told is to use the end of your ice pick as a brake as it can get very dangerous and you cannot control yourself once you begin sliding without it. So whats the first thing I do when I get into the tube. Lose control and lose my stick!!! I picked up pace like a drag car at the Thunderdome and began flying down the hill! Past Krystal I went and on my way to what I was sure was a certain broken bone! Now it sounds funny and fun but I can tell you its far from it!! I was shitting myself (not as bad as Egypt in 2007 for fellow blog readers!) but I finally managed to stop myself and get by breath!!! Finally the others caught up to me and we all managed to safely get to the base alive and very very cold and wet!!! We drove back to town, said our goodbyes and headed straaight back for a shower and some dry clothes!! After we were back on track we had a few drinks before heading out for dinner and then onto our night excursion to the hot thermal springs to sort out these aching muscles and bodies!!! We were pretty tired so we called it a night around 11pm before heading back to town and to bed for a good night rest!! All in all a great day that finished up not as bad as what we orginally thought!!
Thursday the 15th of January
Today was all about us getting from Chile to Argentina. So up nice and early and we packed our bags, had some more porridge (good stuff Krystal) and everything seemed under control. All was until Krystal runs out and says ¨Matt the bus is at 8:10, not 8;40!!!!¨¨Whats the time now?¨¨8:10!!!¨¨$&%$&%¨what my response. So we grabbed our gear as quick as possible and booted it ot the bus termianl hoping to get lucky. We were lucky and we saw our bus as we approached the terminal...............saw it driving away!!! We ran to the counter explained the sitaution with our skillful Spanish and were told get a taxi to the next terminal 30 minutes away. We ran to a cab and told him the deal and he did what was needed. He floored it and chased the bus! 20 minutes later and many speeding fines for the driver we ran to the terminal and managed to snag our bus and get our gear on and our butts in our seats. Just a nice and relaxing start to the day!!!
The next 10 hours was busing it down and then across the Lake District of South America. It was a beautiful drive and we mad eit to our destination around 8:15pm which was Bariloche, Argentina. There waiting for us was a familair face that due to the bus stuff up with the days worked out quite well and Ted was there smiling and greeted us in Argentina. Their tour was actually leaving the following morning and due to us coming a day early we managed to bump into them along the way.
From the terminal we grabbed a cab and headed into town only to spend the next hour trying to find a place to stay that wasn´t going to smash our bank balance! Finally found something half decent (still expensive) dumped our bags and headed up to ted and Sharon´s hotel for dinner with their tour group. Was a great night and Krystal and I both had our first Argentinain Steak and wine which were both fantastic before again saying our goodbyes to T and S and headed back to call it a night.
Friday the 16th of January
Up early and on a mission I was this morning. I had to try and finf somewhere cheap for us to park our butts for the next couple of evenings. After an hour of walking and asking I had little luck and we opted for a hotel that was ok but not great with the price range. Still is was the best we were going to get!
We checked out of the hotel and into our new one then headed to the net to try and work out what and how we were to get down South. Another financial nightmare and options were very limited so after a couple hours of surfing and asking we booked so tickets for a 34 hour bus that was to take place in a couple of days time!!! Once back under some kind of control we grabbed some lunch and then took a stroll around town for a while before deciding that due to the ordinary weather we should get some drinks and play some cards back at the room. 3 hours later we were in fine form and headed out for some dinner and more vino (wine) before heading back and calling a night on a pretty uneventful day.
Saturday the 17th of January
With the sun shining and the wind not around today was a perfect day for us to explore some of the beautiful landscape that makes this area one of the nicest places in South America. We had some breakie then headed to the local bus terminal and onto a bus that headed out to the begining of the Circuito Chico. This is a loop that travels for 27kms through around and past some of the best parts of the Lake District in Argentina. You can bike, hitch, bus, or if keen walk it and take as long as you want along the way while enjoying the scenery around you. We thought we would bike it but we shocked by the price of what they wanted for a daily hire of the bikes! We asked a couple of prices and realised we had no option but to pay the price so we went back and began filling out the forms. After reading the forms we were even more unhappy as we had to sign an agreement saying that if anything happened to the bikes and they were damaged or stolen then we would be up for ARG2500 (about $1200AUD) per bike!!! We handed the forms back and said thanks but no thanks and we will try our luck walking the track.
We took off and straight away we were happy with the decision as the walk was fantastic! We took our time, took many pics and enjoying the sun coming down on us. After 8kms or so we stopped off for some lunch at a local brewery and might of snuck in a sample of their product! Once full and satisfied we took off for another 13kms around the track until finally arriving at Hotel Llao Llao where we decided to retire and hang up the boots for the day! 21 kms is more than enough and we caught the bus for the remaining 6kms before getting back to Bariloche around 7pm. We headed back to the hotel and relaxed for a while before heading out for an earlish dinner (8:30, they eat very late here) and then called it a night as the legs were well and truly done!!!
Take care all
M and K