After sleeping through pretty much all of the bus ride we had a bracing walk through the drizzle to our hostel in Pucon. The hostel is a converted chalet with wood burning stoves and a big lounge and kitchen. It’s really nice to be staying somewhere so homely feeling. It also means we can cook our own dinners for a few nights which will be nice. Some of the rooms are outside in the grounds in small cabins, but Karen and I had a room in the main house, which was nice as it was so warm! We also had a great big picture window with views out across Villaricca, which is awesome!

The hostel also has a house cat, a tiny little ginger tom, who constantly wants feeding and loves a snuggle.

We had a walk around the town and headed for a breakfast in to local cafe. Michelle wound up with the most enormous bowl of yoghurt I have ever seen, like a cake mixing bowl. They only gave her the tiniest amount of granola possible too, so that was quite amusing. It looks like there’s too many good cake eating opportunities here, might be dangerous! It’s a really cute town and feels like were in the alps! It is a skiing town in the winter after all.

Pucon town was established in 1883 and was originally a fort town, it is located on a lake called Lago Villaricca, after the volcano, in area an known as the Lake District of Argentina. It is in an important location as it sits at the edge of the Trancura Valley, which is historically important as it is where the Argentinian army once chased a Mapuche community, during the conquest of the desert, a hugely bloody campaign which basically consisted of ethnic cleansing of the Mapuche people.
Tourism became popular in the area in the 1930s after development of hotels and roads allowing access to Villaricca.

After breakfast we wandered around the town, but it was rainy and overcast and as it was during siesta time, not a lot was actually open. The group also booked our excursions, exciting! There is so much to do here, I think we will only scratch the surface…

After that we headed round the shops again 🙂 then the weather defeated us and we headed for cake. I had a great nut tart, it was delicious, but made me feel a bit sick!

Hmmmmmm cake, um no it’s a tart…

By the time we had finished stuffing ourselves with diabetes inducing snacks the artisans market had opened, so I walked around that. They sell a lot of knitwear here, as it gets fairly cold. I was interested to see that they just use the fleece and don’t actually spin it into proper yarn. Whilst this look quite funky on a lot of chunky knits, I do wonder if people know how badly things will felt when they wash them…

Dyed fleece balls.

That afternoon I went for a run to clear out my head and then spent the evening cooking dinner and chilling out ready for an action packing day tomorrow.

Fortified by an amazing brekkie of poached eggs (the best food ever) cooked by moi… Yes I am an egg chef extraordinaire! Karen, David and I caught a bus to one of the nearby national parks, Parque National Huerquehue.

What started out as a nice stroll through gentle wooded paths ended turning into an enormous seven hour 23km epic uphill hike.
We walked took the “tres lagos” lake trail which takes you around several lakes that are located up in the volcanic plateau, Laguna Chico, Laguna Toro, Laguna Verde and then on to several more that we didn’t have the chance to see.

The national park is actually classed as a temperature rain Forrest area and covers 125 square kilometres in area. It’s mainly around a large lake called Lago Caburgua. The mountains in the park range between. 720-2000m, which we pretty much climbed!

When we first arrived it was pretty overcast and you couldn’t even see the lake, Lago Tinquilo, where the bus dropped us off. We set off along a small wooded track that runs along the lake, the Ñirrico trail.
It was very pretty walking amongst the trees, with their leaves all turning beautiful colours, with leaves underfoot and small bubbling streams and waterfalls. It was just like a walk through the woods in England and at times I forgot we were in Argentina and almost thought I was back there… There was also a very chatty group of six Brits walking just behind us…

We then walked past a bunch of campground along the lake, these must be beautiful in the summer, or even in a clear day, but it was still too overcast for us to see much.
I did spot this cute puddle though 🙂

The trail then crossed a wide stream and started to head uphill through the woods. Every now and again I’d spot a bunch of cows hiding between the trees, some were tiny.

Cute chalets at the campgrounds. The trail has hills to one side and the lake to the other.

We walked through the woods for about an hour and a half and it was pretty much all uphill and very muddy. My little walking shoes weren’t really up the task. It was a pretty solid boots and garters or welly walk! So a proper hike 🙂 it was great fun though!

We then reached the first waterfall, at this point we were extremely hot from the uphill slog and it was make and refreshing to cool down by the spray and take a break.

The first waterfalls we stopped at are called the Nido de Aguilas falls and they are very pretty. The water flows over smooth rocks and spills out over a wide area so you can see quite a lot. The waterfall is surrounded by very dense vegetation so it almost appears out of nowhere as you walk down the path.

Further up the hill, yes more uphill…, there was view point back across Lago Tinquilo and over to Villaricca. The mist was clearing and we had stunning views. Also, it was a nice excuse to stop for a few minutes again too 🙂 as we were walking pretty fast to try and complete the route.

View across to Villaricca, mid-morning.

We stopped at another waterfall and continued hiking uphill, about three hours uphill slog in total. We were pretty knackered and sweaty by the time we reached the lakes and I almost didn’t believe it!

The trail winds around the different lakes, the first we saw was Laguna Chico, the smallest lake. We crossed a small wooden bridge to get to it, the lakes feed the waterfalls below. The water is seemingly so still that you get great reflections on the surface.

My first view of Laguna Chico from the bridge.

Bridge cross Lago Chico.

The water is full of grasses and the colours of the grass and the reflections of the autumnal trees was very pretty.

We then headed off to Laguna Toro, which is far larger and provides great views of rock cliffs and small mountains.

View across the Laguna Toro.

More mountain views…

We stopped at a rocky part of Laguna Toro for a packed lunch and sat in the sun and relaxed. Whilst we were climbing it was pretty hard going due to our fast pace, but whenever I stopped I’d get cold fairly fast, so it was good to have lots of layers.
We sat and chatted and rested for a short while before heading off again. By this point we realised that we wouldn’t make it all the way around the trail, otherwise we’d miss the last bus home. In fact we don’t know how anyone other than fell runners could make it as we got the first bus out there and aimed for the last bus home…
We headed back up a short-cut track to take us up over the hill and back to Laguna Verde, which ended up getting increasingly boggy until it turned into a small steam. We hiked up over the hill and down the other side down to the lake and then clambered around back to Laguna Chico. It was very wet and muddy, but good fun :-). I just wished I’d had proper big leather boots on so that I could have sploshed around a bit more.

Laguna Verde… Funnily enough it’s green 🙂

We met some of our other group members as he headed back to the bus stop. They had just come for a short walk in the woods. The walk back was nice as we could go a lot faster downhill, although it was a bit slippery! It was also nice going past the viewpoints again as the weather had completely cleared and it was stunning afternoon.

Whilst waiting for the bus a nice couple on holiday from Santiago offered us a lift home, which was great as it got us home an hour earlier than planned!
The evening was spent relaxing in the lounge and enjoying a home cooked dinner, chilling out in anticipation of what was to come the following day….

On our second full day in Pucon myself and many of the other group members climbed the volcano, Villaricca. It is an active stratovolcano, in fact one of Chiles most active. It last erupted in 1984, so thirty years ago and generally has an effusive, non-explosive eruption style. It has a basaltic-andesite lava type and is actually one of the only volcanoes in the world known to have an actual lava lake in its crater, although you’ve not been able to see it since 2006. As the top of the volcanoes is stop called and partially glaciated eruptions are commonly associated with lahars too.
It’s actually one of three stratovolcano than run along the Gastre Fault line perpendicular to the main Andean chain and I could see the other volcanoes as we climbed. The volcanoes are located in the national park funnily named Parque National Villaricca, very original :-). This national park is located on the opposite side of the town to the one we had hiked in the day before.

The day started with a six am pick up and we arrived at the climbing centre to get kitted out. From there we drove out to the base of the volcano, whilst watching the sunrise. It was very nice and I was extremely excited! I was a bit nervous about how my knees would handle it though, after having come a big hike the previous day and jogging the day before that though. Unfortunately I think I’m going to have to have knee surgery when I get home, boo.

Looking back at the last of the sunrise.

Looking up at where we had to get to was slightly daunting at the start!

The lower stages were quite tough on your feet as the ground was very loose and rubble and it was literally walking uphill on loose gravel. We stopped every half hour for water and to catch our breath. This was a gold chance to check out the views around us too… And heed the national park warnings…

Make sure you’ve got your gear…

Checking out the views with the guides.

After the second rest stop the group split into two smaller groups, which worked out well in terms of pace. I was with the other girls and we had a really good group all supporting each other.

Looking back across to Pucon during a water break, you can see other groups headed up the ridge. We started to hit the snow about halfway up, in the winter the snow line is all the way down at the base of the volcano at the visitors centre.

View across the mountains to another volcano, awesome! I think I belong here :-).

Looking uphill… This photo is so misleading as it looks quite flat, but actually it was really steep, we walked in zig zags almost up steps in the snow. Shortly after this point we got the crampons on to help over the icy sections, as the sun hadn’t warmed it enough by that time to make it softer.

You can see Pucon town down by the lake and the previous rest stop down below.

Enjoying some snacks and jokes on the mountainside. It got very hot and sweaty but the second you stopped it was freezing, as you’d expect. I was slapping on the sun cream big time too.

It took between 5-6 hours to climb to the summit and the last hour was up a pretty steep section. You can see other hikers above us zig-zagging away.

The views back down were all gorgeous, I took so many pictures!

We finally reached the summit and were all extremely happy and proud of ourselves and our little group! You can see other volcanoes off in the distance behind us too. The views were just totally insane!

More volcanoes….

Icicles hanging out over the crater.

I’m stood right at the edge of the crater of an active volcano woohoo! I could see quite a bit of steam down there too. You had to go the edge very carefully and with your ice axe as the drop off was very steep and sudden.

Expert mountaineers 🙂

This was easily one of the best things that I have ever, ever, ever done in my life. I just loved it!
The day was hard work, but so worth it and it was a great feeling to get to the top.

On the way down the snow had softened with the sun and we were able to slide down the snow covered/glaciated sections of the volcano on bum-boards, which was super fun, although I kept wanting to go faster :-). We got down in just under two hours, so about a third of the time it took us to go up!

That night a group of us went to some local hot springs to recover from the last views days. My knees were pretty sore so it was nice to just relax. Karen and I found a really hot pool and it was just bliss, we didn’t want to get out!
The springs are called Los Pozones and they’re natural volcanic hot spring pools, located next to a very cold looking river! There are five rock pools of varying temperatures and depths. It was also lovely and quiet as it was Mother’s Day so most people in the area were doing family based activities. All the better for us!

It was a fairly late night, so a very long day in all, but one of the most amazing days I have ever had.
Tomorrow we leave early on the bus to San Martin the los Andes, crossing the border back into Argentina. I have loved what I have seen of Chile, it has been so east to travel here, the people are so friendly and welcoming and yet again I have loved the scenery. It would be very easy to come back here and I’m sure there’s a lot more I’d love to explore.
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