For the remainder of our time in South America, with the exception of Peru at the end, we are traveling overland by truck with the company, Oasis Overland. So far, it’s been great. We are traveling on a big modified truck nicknamed Didingo. It’s got everything we need on it to get to and camp in remote locations, and the inside is pretty cozy. There’s even a library! We’ve got a driver/mechanic, a tour leader, and are traveling with a group of 16 people from all over. Our schedule has been a few days of driving and bush camping followed by a few days either at campsite or hostel in various towns. This is our route and a few pictures of the truck.
Pucón was our first taste of the Sur Chico region in southern Chile, and it was amazing. It’s a small tourist town that could be mistaken for any little mountain town in the Rockies. While Pucón is surrounded by idyllic mountains, one of the main attractions is the Volcán Villarrica, which is an active volcano that huffs and puffs and dominates the landscape. The first night we came to Pucón, we went to some hot springs, which were lovely, and on the way back, we were able to see the volcano’s fiery, glowing silhouette against the night sky. This, of course, made us very excited to climb to the top the next day.
The volcano climb. So far, this was the most exhausting thing we’ve done. The volcano is 2,847 meters high (you convert to feet and feel our pain), and most of the climb was done on snow, led by two guides. It was quite dizzying to look up or down or any direction while climbing, so we mainly focused on the feet of the person in front of us for the ascent. Despite having to haul ourselves up such a steep slope, the views made every step worth it.
When we got to the top, there was so much sulfur dioxide (and other gases) in the air that we had to wear face masks. We were able to look into the volcano and see a few spurts of lava flying around, but it was too sporadic to capture a good photo. It was wheely cool.
You’d think that seeing lava, basalt, and a bunch of sulfur on an active volcano would be the highlight of a geologist’s day, but sledding down the mountain was by far the best part. At first, it was terrifying. There were deep grooves in the snow, you sat on a sled attached to your belt, and flew down. The only way to slow down was with an ice axe. Several runs were steep enough to get some air, and some took you over snow cliffs. We were all scared, until we did the first run. It was so much fun – we would both climb the volcano all over again just to sled down.
Pucón is bordered by a lake, an estuary, and the mountains. The main bird we saw around town was the Black Faced Ibis.