South America | Chile | Pucon – The Volcano at Pucon.
Friday 27th April
To think that I had planned to climb the volcano.
Highly unlikely for two reasons: 1, the weather is still bad (although showing signs of improvement) and more importantly 2, I am incredibly out of shape, having done no exercise but walk to the tube station in the past 12 months.
Rather than climb the volcano, it was decided that we´d hike there and then investigate the caves at its base. A 12km walk from Pucon – no big deal, right? Wrong. I don´t know why it didn´t occur to me that it would be a 12km hill, but it didn´t and it was.
Undeterred, we soldiered on. After an hour, we passed the 2km marker. It was not looking good. Onward though and not even stopping for ‘El Mirador’, a lookout point just 500m out of our way. Half an hour on, a craft salesman told us that the caves were still 10km away and chuckled as we carried on. Had we not got any closer in the past 30 minutes? It was still not looking good.
I started to wonder why we hadn´t seen another person making their way along the road, save for the lone cyclist who had given up after the first kilometre. Now before I go on, I must tell you about this fear I have. Dogs. I am terrified of dogs. I was chased through my garden by something I remember as being like a Doberman at the tender age of 5 and have lived in fear of them ever since. So far on this trip dogs have been everywhere and I happen to think that I have coped very well. Until now.
Each home that we passed (one every 300 metres or so) on our way to the volcano had a dog. Sometimes 2 or more. And each time we passed the entrance to a property, the dogs would come to meet us on the road, growling and snarling and barking. To say the least, I was a wreck.
I think you can see where this story is going. It´s getting colder as we get higher, the hail has started, the dogs are snapping, my legs are aching and the thought of walking back past the dogs after dusk is not appealing to me at all. So I quit. Seven km in, I convince Hector that he wants to come with me and we head back. Not proud of it, but there you go.
At least I got to take some good pictures on the way down (although El Mirador turned out to be a building development) and we were back in Pucon for sunset. It´s probably for the best that volcano trips have been cancelled – I would never have made it!!
We might not have reached the volcano, but the hike was still well worth it for the spectacular views of the town and the exercise it gave us. And I feel much braver around the street dogs in Pucon now!!!
Saturday 28th April
The hospedaje bill was paid. The bags were packed. The bus was booked. We were all set to leave Pucon in 8 hours time. On the way to buy the customary bread, cheese and ham breakfast from the supermarket, I caught sight of the volcano smouldering against a perfectly clear blue sky. the rain had stopped and I felt an overwhelming desire to climb, despite my apparent lack of fitness. What do they say? It´s always better to regret something that you did than something that you didn´t do… I had to at least try.
And so the arrangements began. The bus tickets were changed to a day later, the room paid up for another night and the excursion booked. All that was left was to pray for good weather. Excursions hadn´t gone ahead that morning due to wind, but it had dropped a bit. The locals said the winds lasted for 3 days so we asked and asked until someone said it might be OK in the morning. I had to gamble…
Arrangements made, we went ahead with our plans for the day. A short bus ride and a gentle 3 km walk to a waterfall. Not exactly reaching our expectations, we left the water behind and ended up eating our picnic at the bus stop. We were lucky to get on a bus at all, but we managed – me half sitting on someone´s knee, holding the broken door shut and clinging for dear life around every sharp bend. Hector half standing in the back, one foot on the arm of a chair, one foot is someone´s handbag, arse hanging out of the window! Ah, it´s the little things that make travelling fun. A few hands of cards, then a $4, 3 course meal by a log fire and it was time for bed. The volcano beckons.
Sunday 29th April
A sleepless night, due partly to the excitement but mostly to the howling wind. Doors and windows banging, wind howling – the chances of me looking into a live volcano were seeming bleak.
The alarm clock went off at 6.30 and I piled on the layers, prayed for the wind to drop and left for the pickup point. the news was not good, though not surprising. No-one would climb that day and the outlook was not good for the next couple of days. For one girl, who had risen with the sun for the past 5 days in hope of climbing, it was all too much and she was off to the bus station to wait for the next bus out of Pucon.
As for me, I decided not to wait. I am of course disappointed, but I know that I did at least try and was defeated only by the elements. As winter draws nearer, the days of climbing the volcano are numbered. Much as I like the town, I would like to see some more of the continent in the next 7 weeks.
Pucon is a beautiful place, but the building work is in progress – hotels are springing up everywhere. I will return one day and conquer that damn volcano. I only hope that if I return I don´t find high rise apartment blocks and tacky hotels blotting the landscape.