Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'll be sliding down the mountain when I come

I've spent the last couple of days in Pucon, which is about 800km south of Santiago. It's not quite Patagonia yet, but it's getting there. The main reason to be in Pucon is to climb Villarica, an active volcano that spits out toxic fumes and you can see lava from the edge of the crater. Yesterday's attempt was cancelled due to bad weather, and so instead I went for some training in the gym, somewhere I haven't been since I have been away. In that sense, it was quite novel. I went with a couple of guys from my tour bus, and so we had a "plank" competition, which unfortunately I lost. Turns out I'm not as strong or as fit as I used to be. After that, all the good work done by my 5k was cancelled by hanging out in a coffee shop and eating muffins. Pucon is very much a little ski town, and has a Swiss chalet feel to it, with all the buildings being very tasteful and wooden. Tres chic.

Anyways, today's volcano attempt was successful in that I got to climb the volcano. It was vaguely unsuccessful in that I was utterly bored the entire time I was climbing it (coming down was another matter). The reason for my boredom was the complete cloud cover that we were climbing in, and so the scenery of complete white (we were climbing on snow) did not change for 4hrs. The only thing that was quite amusing was the fact that the climb was completely orchestrated, I think by CONAF's (the national parks people in Chile) request. So there were hordes of people climbing up in single file, and you could see them making their way up the mountain like lemmings. Amusing for a while, but not enough to really make me wonder why I was climbing. The reason I was questioning my motivation is that my original motivation was to see cool volcanic landscapes, and to check out the crater. I then realised that it was going to be so cold that the crater was going to be enveloped in steam, and there was no point. This was actually true - at the top we saw nothing but cloud, although it stank. And my face was partly frozen, as were the tips of my hair. A good look, but not as good as the stripe I have across my forehead from sunburn where my hat was. Anyways, like I said there was no view, but that doesn't mean that the hike was in vain, because we did do one of the most fun descents ever -sliding down the entire mountain on our bums in chutes which have been dug in. It was awesome! Of course, the 4hr ascent took only 45mins to get down, but so worth it. Plus the sun had come out, we could see the summit, the snow was white, and basically, the craic was great. So a wasted morning turned into a great afternoon.

Tonight, the boys are cooking up a steak night for the girls, which is how it should be, and then tomorrow, we're heading for the steak country that is Argentina.


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