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Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

WOW!!

Out of all the awesome things we have done so far on this trip, this one ranks up there amongst the best.

We only decided to do this about a week and a half ago after talking to and seeing pics from a friend we met in Bariloche. Why we didn’t even know this was possible is beyond me given my affinity for volcanoes. Don’t ask me why, but ever since I learned about Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii back in grade school, I have always wanted to see a volcano (I know, kind of morbid, but you have to admit, volcanoes and magma are pretty freaking cool).

So when we heard about the possibility of climbing to the top of an active volcano in Chile only 10 hours away from where we were, I knew it had to be done. And the best part about this whole climbing a volcano thing was you got to sled back down after arriving at the top. That’s right, sled back down. How could we not do something like this.

So we arrived in Pucon, Chile a few days ago with the sole purpose of hiking Volcan Villarica. Luckily for us Pucon is also a charming little town set on a lake with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it. It’s quite beautiful. Also, because it is surrounded by various volcanoes, it has a volcano warning light system in the town center, which I thought was interesting.

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

We signed up pretty much immediately when we got into town. Again, the weather gods were with us as we awoke to a beautifully sunny day with bright blue skies. There were some clouds, but that was all right because we were above them, making the scene that much more spectacular.

Above the clouds

Above the clouds

The first hour of the hike was on a sandy gravel, making it a bit difficult. There was nothing but beauty everywhere around us, including this interesting thing (not sure what else to call it) which Megan said looked like belonged on the Lost island (just one of the many reasons I love her; dropping Lost references while hiking up a volcano, seriously, she’s freaking awesome).

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

After the first hour, we came to the snow, which was quite interesting considering it was 70 degrees and I was wearing a t-shirt. But it was actually quite a bit easier than we thought it would be, and it was pretty cool being that the sun was booming and it was warm outside.

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It was about 4.5 hours total to the top. And I have to admit, I was pretty damn proud of us. While it was difficult, it wasn’t too bad, and we were a little nervous at the beginning of the day when we saw that we had four 20-year-old Brazilian boys in our group. But I guess Patagonia trained us well as we were right behind our guide while the Brazilian boys ended up 45 minutes behind us sucking wind the entire time. Every time it did get tough, all we had to do was stop and look around us, and then look at the smoke billowing out of the volcano we were climbing up to.

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Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

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If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

After leaving the snow briefly, we had one more short climb over lava rock and solidified lava flow (which we regrettably did not get pictures of as there was a logjam behind us making it hard to stop). We soon reached the top, saw into the crater, and admired the spectacular beauty all around us.

View from the top

View from the top

View from the top 1

View from the top 1

View from the top 2

View from the top 2

View from the top 3

View from the top 3

View of another volcano in Pucon area

View of another volcano in Pucon area

Close up of volcano

Close up of volcano

View from the top 4

View from the top 4

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

Adam and Megan:  Owning volcanoes since 2009

Adam and Megan: Owning volcanoes since 2009

After eating a quick lunch at the top, we had to go back down (even though the views were amazing, the sulfur fumes were a bit much, so not much time was spent up there).

Now I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but whoever did deserves some kind of prize because he or she is a genius. While at the top, we had to pull out our awesome “costume” that would prepare us for our “ride” down.

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We had pants and a jacket, then a “nappy” (European word for diaper) that went over that. This “diaper” was made of fabric and was basically just there to try to protect us from getting wet. We had to walk a little ways down, then came to some luge looking grooves in the snow that we had seen our whole way up. This was our path down the volcano. What took us 4.5 hours to ascend took only 45 minutes to plummet back down to Earth.

Luge anyone?

Luge anyone?

More luge tracks

More luge tracks

We stood in line like kids on snow day hurling ourselves down the “luge tracks” with nothing more than our “uniform” between us and the icy snow. Each “track” was of a different length and steepness. Some were pretty slow, some were super fast. Our brake for the fast ones was our ice pick that we were given at the start of the day. It was an exhilarating ride down to say the least.

After getting most of the way down, we did have another short 30 minute hike to the very bottom, talking with one of our guides, Gabriel, along the way.

While the scenery and experience of climbing a volcano was beyond words (even though I’m going to manage to use 1000 of them to try), the little personal experiences are really making this trip what it is. The short half hour conversation with a local Chilean guide put the cherry on top of this spectacular day (we will have more on different examples of this in a future post because our personal experiences with all the wonderful people we’ve met, had conversations with, and befriended is definitely something that needs to be written about all on its own).

We finally reached the bottom and got one last picture to remember the day by.

Were we really just up there?

Were we really just up there?

And then it was off to our hostel for a much needed shower and some rest (Megan is napping as I write this right now; which I guess is OK; making 20-year-old Brazilian boys your bitch is tough work;)).

We have so much more to write about as we know we have not posted much these last few weeks. There are many reasons for this: business, laziness, travel burnout (which is another future post), a long week of drinking at an Irish-owned hostel in Bariloche, amongst other things.

But we are now reinvigorated, excited, and ready to jump back into the blogosphere and get everyone updated on the things we’ve done and the experiences we’ve had over this last month.

We leave Pucon in a few days and then head north to Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile, where we will meet up with our friends Nate and Sarah whom we wrote about in our El Chalten post a while back. Then we’re off on March 4 to fly up to Bogota for a month in Colombia.

So until next time….

~Adam

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