09.12.2010 - 18.12.2010 20 °C
After a few days travelling with a couple of stops overnight at Punta Arenas and Puerto Varas, we arrived at Bariloche on the other side of the Andes in Argentina. The day of travelling to Bariloche was pouring with rain so we never got to appreciate the scenery. It was still raining when we arrived and for the whole of the next day so there was not much to see. However, we met three South Africans (Jan, Pascal and Tamlin) and an Argentinian guy called Nacho who we had a couple of silly nights out with until the weather improved. We were very impressed with Nacho's near perfect impersonation of William Wallace's speech whilst on his horse in Braveheart. It is amusing how many times you get the reply "FREEDOM!!" after you tell South Americans that you are Scottish.
After two days of constant rain the weather improved and we were able to see what Bariloche was all about. We met a nice Australian couple, Luke and Emma, who we hired bikes with and spent the day exploring around Bariloche. It was very scenic with many mountains and lakes. The following day our friends who we had initially met in Buenos Aires, then randomly in Puerto Natales, arrived at our hostel. They are two Australian sisters, Paula and Leah, and Leah's English boyfriend, Chris. We did a day trip with them up to an amazing viewpoint, which has been declared as one of the best viewpoints in the world. We had a good laugh with them so we arranged to meet them again in our next destination back in Chile, called Pucon.
Following our fifth Argentina / Chile border crossing so far, we arrived in Pucon. It is fairly similar to Bariloche but has a huge volcano that towers above the town. Some other friends had hiked up the volcano about a week before, which looked superb, so we arranged this as soon as we arrived. Volcano Villarica is Chile's most active volcano and it is one of the only volcanos in the world with a lava lake within its core, which makes it look even more spectacular as it is always smoking. We got very lucky with the weather as the previous five days all excursions to the summit had been called off. We set off at 7am with our waterproofs, crampons and icepicks packed for a 4-5 hour hike in the snow and ice up to the summit. It was a hard climb but worth every minute being able to look down into the crater of the smoking volcano. Although it was freezing the day got even better, as we sledged about 2000m down from the summit. Although we hardly had a chance to stop coming down from the top, we managed to take a quick video of Linda sledging (see below). Great fun and the best ending to anything we have done yet.
Paula, Leah and Chris arrived that night and their crazy friend, Linda from London, arrived the next morning. We all had a great few days staying in a really good family run hostel. The owners young son kept us all entertained especially with his obsession with throwing waterbombs! We all went to the outdoor thermal springs one night then had a wee party back at the hostel after, which was a cracking night.
On our final day the others had booked to do the volcano trip, so we decided to try horse trekking. Neither Linda or myself had been on a horse before so we were a bit unsure on how it would go. However, we had a great day and it was just the two of us and our Mapuche guide. Mapuche is the name of the native indians whose decendants still live within this valley beneath some sacred mountains and the volcano. Our guide was great and told us various things about how they used to live. Linda got a very timid horse, called Bambi, who she really bonded with. However, mine was a bit temperamental and although I thought I was doing well with mine he changed not long before we were due to finish. Although I managed to stay on when he shot off, he was a nightmare after this. We all thought he was trying to put me into a river at the end too! We really enjoyed (most of) our first time doing this though and will definately do it again soon. We are quite sad to be leaving Pucon now as this has been one of our favourite places so far.