|Pucon is a small town in Chile whose main claim to fame is the Vildarcio volcano. It is a large, snow covered beast, only 2,800 meters but significantly elevated from the surrounding terrain. We decided to climb it, although this was a debated issue since you have to have a guide and it isn’t super cheap, (quite a few people have died or being injured because most of the climb is over ice, so they have stopped random punters trying it) and since we did a great volcano at Pacaya we wondered whether it wouldn’t be as good anyway. But, we decided to, Georgie taking some persuading, however...
You start by walking up steep rocks which wasn’t great. As soon as you hit the snowline, however, it is excellent. You put on the crampons and ice picks and start climbing. It took about 5 hrs to get to the top and it is a steep but steady time, the ice is like something out of Lord of the Rings and was very cool, both literally and aesthetically. When you get to the top there is a huge crater, like out of a James Bond film where a megalomaniac may choose to relocate his evil lair. It goes very deep into the ground and you can stand right on the edge and watch lava getting belched way down below in fiery explosions. Very cool and , thankfully, like Guatemala, there are no safety restrictions so you are free to risk death by getting as close to the edge as possible, suffice to say I did and enjoyed it immensely. The only bad thing is the aroma of sulphur. Actually aroma conjures up images of fine wine or perfume shops in cobbled French streets, but actually it was more like being in a chemical attack in the desert. The whiff was overwhelming and toxic and every time the wind changed the huge bellows of cloud sought out menace and terror. Some people had gasmask at the top and while I initially mocked them for looking like a gimp shop full of freaks, it was their lungs that had the last laugh. The other point of note was the view. We were blessed by a sunny blue sky day and you can see 360 degrees over other snow capped volcanoes, mountains and vast lakes. Most agreeable.
The other reason we chose to do the climb (and purely as a volcano it was suitably different to Guatemala and quite excellent) was the option to sledge back down. You get given a small sledge and just hammer down the mountain with your ice pick as a brake and a steering wheel. Very good fun, we both wiped out, and I got reprimanded by the guide at every stop for going too fast and sledging dangerously. He just didn’t understand, but I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately Georgie got some gnarly air and landed on her Coccyx which wasn’t serious but meant she needed lots of attention and wine to dull the pain (apparently – according to Georgie, it can take months for bony bruising to heel so I guess she will use this as an excuse for much attention and vino over the next few months!), to which I offered the full extent of my services.
The day after we went to some thermal hot springs, which were like hot baths, and basically just slowly cooked for several hours, which was most agreeable.
After Pucon we headed west to the capital of Santiago...