Villarrica Volcano

From Pucon

From Pucon

So it’s 5 A.M, I’m supposed to be climbing Villarrica Volcano today (yes, a volcano!), and all I can think is that I don’t want to wake up. Those first moments are always the hardest. Of course I eventually managed to pull myself out of bed and groggily prepare some breakfast, a bowl of Special K as it were. Like myself, Randy was also having a tough go of it this morning, and I contented myself by bossing him around and telling him to get a move on, hehe. We had to be at the tourist office in less than an hour, all geared up and ready to go. We got out the door in good time and reached the office ahead of schedule, where another 10 people were also waiting, about to embark on their trek up the side of an active volcano as well. Considering what we were up against (at least in my mind) and how early it still was, everyone seemed to be in exceptionally high spirits.

We were told after the guides arrived that due to some potentially poor weather, we may not be able to make the climb today. Can’t say I was thrilled or disappointed in that, I guess I would’ve accepted either outcome, as I wasn’t too thrilled about the climb in the first place, that was Randy’s department. Despite the warning, we were shoehorned into vans and driven to base camp. The first good news of the day came after we hit base camp, as were informed a lift would take us up the first 400m. Just like that, about 1/5 of the distance we had to go would be taken care of. Maybe I could get into this climbing thing after all!

Volcan Villarrica

Volcan Villarrica

After hopping off the lift, our plan for the day was spelled out to us in no uncertain terms by Rodrigo, and we were officially off, not even a break for a snack after that 400m of climbing (oh, I guess I already said we got lifted up, but still, that’s a lot of climbing right?!). Of course the first thing you realize when you start is that if the thought of just climbing under ideal conditions isn’t bad enough, when you actually have to do it with a ton of heavy equipment on, it’s that much worse. This was definitely no walk in the park (why can’t people just enjoy walks in the park, why must they scale volcanoes??). Once we hit the snow, it got even more fun (sarcasm), and Randy delighted in taking pictures of me looking worn out and silly after just the first few hundred metres.

We finally got a break after a short jaunt up the snowy slopes, where I got a nice wet butt for my troubles. I was glad to accept the wet bottom rather than stand and eat though, I needed the rest. Before we left from these break we had to put our spike heels on, which I enjoyed, it made me feel like a cowboy or something (not that I ever wanted to be a cowboy mind you).

So we began to get into the rhythm of it, and despite it not being quite as bad as I thought it would be, I still didn’t really see the point. It was hard work, and for what? There was nothing to look at, it was difficult to even talk, as we had to climb in single file for the most part, and the wind was whipping around up there.

Villarrica Volcano

Villarrica Volcano

Finally, after no less than 5 hours we made it to the top of that beast. It was hard to breath up there, not only because of the increased elevation, but because the volcano (did I say it was ACTIVE!) was spewing out charming gases. We couldn’t even see any lava, which I thought would be the star attraction of the journey up here. What a bummer. Randy took more pictures of every conceivable nook and cranny, while I just wanted to get down off this thing.

Going down was a lot easier physically, and much faster, but had its own little annoyances, like the fact that we had to slide down half the time. We made these makeshift seats from our raincoats and sat on them, almost like sledding, which was basically what we were doing. I never thought I’d go sledding down the side of a Chilean volcano on a raincoat!! It was fun, but went very fast at times, and I don’t think I was using the proper techniques to slow down.

Miraculously I did make it to the bottom of the volcano in one piece, completely soaked and freezing mind you, but otherwise intact. I actually fell asleep on the bus on the ride back I was so tired and exhausted, physically and mentally. The fact that I was still in soaking wet clothes didn’t detract from my sleep time whatsoever. Back at the guide office I finally got to change out of those nasty wet clothes and get into something warmer and dryer (though I really wanted a nice hot bath, that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, as the hostel had no hot water when we got back! I consoled myself by drinking…a lot, haha.

We also had to do laundry for a second straight day, as the smell of our wet, sweaty clothes was overbearing. This was our last night in Chile, so we went out that night and enjoyed a hearty meal (and drinks, did I mention the drinks?) on the town. I got by on some fish and a salad, while Randy ate a burger bigger than this head (and that’s a big burger, believe me, he’s got a big head both literally and figuratively).

After a crazy day on the volcano, we got a great night’s sleep in preparation for our trip to Argentina the next day.