From Santiago we headed to Pucon, via Miguel Torres Vineyard. We had a tour around the vineyard followed by a little tasting.
Lunch on this day was the most interesting to date. We had some raw ingredients on Carmen for sandwiches and salad, but the vineyard wouldn't allow us to use their carpark for the picnic. Not wanting to be beaten, we hit the road, and had a picnic on the truck while going along! Cutting tomatoes, assembling sandwiches, etc. while travelling wasn't easy and a few people were a little worried about the knives flying around. This was overlanding at its finest.
We got to Pucon at around 9.00pm, making it a very long day as we left Santiago at 7.30am.
Pucon is a great little town, it felt a lot like a small town in New Zealand. The town has a large lake and the back drop was snow covered mountains and Volcanoes. The main activities in Pucon are climbing the active volcano (Villerrica), white water rafting, biking, skiing and hiking. It is a very active place.
Chris and I both went white water rafting and climbed the volcano on adjacent days. The white water rafting was on grade 4 rivers and was so much fun. There were two boats of Dragoman people, which made it quite competitive. We (the boat Chris and I were in) managed to bump and bash the other boat. The other boat also lost 2 members of crew on one evil rapid, whereas we all stayed in our boat. I think we WIN!!
The next day we climbed Villerrica with a few other Dragoman people and 6 guides. We were very lucky in being able to get to the top. In winter, the weather conditions are not always co-operative and many climbs are aborted. The climb was a lot harder then any of us had realised. It was snow and ice all the way and 6 hours of climbing. We had crampons and ice axes, which meant that no one fell on the way up. I will say there were a couple of times I was out of my comfort zone. It was very steep in places and my fear of heights kicked in. Once we got to the top and saw the smoke from the crater it all became worth it. The views were also amazing, we were above the clouds and could see peaks of other volcanos and mountains.
Getting down the mountain was supposed to be easier then going up. We took off the crampons, put on a device that was like a nappy and slid down the volcano on our bottoms using the ice axe as a brake. Well, that was the idea and it would have probably been fine in better conditions, but it was a little too icy for it to be any fun. The first slope was steep and very fast and many of us lost control, ending up tumbling down the slope. It was particularly dangerous losing your ice axe on the way - this means you have no way to stop yourself sliding, and it leaves the axe lying around for others to impale themselves. I used a fellow truck member as my brake, hurtling into her at great speed. After this slope there were a few less steep slopes that were very icy. Crusing along on one's bottom, hitting large balls of ice wasn't too much fun either. The last slide of the day left me pretty shaken up for a while. It was a steep slope and it was more icy then the others had been. My ice axe wasn't slowing me, so I anchored it in for an emergency stop. Unfortunatly I lost grip and left the axe behind. Now I was flying pretty fast with no way to stop. Chris was ahead of me and I caught him up, smashed into him and passed him. Luckily the guide heard me say no axe and instructed one of the other guides to stop me!! I wasn't the only one with problems, so the guides decided it was time to put the crampons on and start walking down. For everyone else walking down was a great relief and fine. For me at the beginning it was terrible. My fear of heights made me tremble. Luckily one of the guides picked up on this immediately and told me I was going to go down the volcano with him. So for the rest of the hike I linked arms with a young, good looking Chiliean guide ;-)
I learnt alot about myself on that Volcano. I would do it all again tomorrow, if I knew I had someone to hold my hand on the way down!!