Day 39 – 10 Apr, 2015
It was a ghost town when I arrived, but I still had to go see what all the hype was about. Before I left home, I knew I needed to visit Pucon, the adventure hotspot in central Chile. I do love adventure after all!
Not one week after I left home, I received an email from the US State Department informing me that Villarrica, the volcano that was the centerpiece of activity in Pucon, had erupted and that the town would be briefly evacuated.
Over the next few weeks, I kept my eye on the news, hoping the situation would improve. A few people from home would ask if I was anywhere near the place with the volcano, never mind that I was actually hundreds of miles away but that I was eager to go there as soon as it reasonably fit into my itinerary.
From Bariloche, Pucon is a “short” ride across the border, about 7 hours. By Argentina terms, 7 hours is short anyway. So Hostel 41 Below in Bariloche became Ground Zero for backpackers deciding whether they continue on to Pucon or bypass and go directly to Mendoza. The answer for me was easy. If Pucon was accepting travelers, I would be there with a short stop in San Martin de los Andes in between. A few friends I had connected with in Bariloche were en route to Pucon and I couldn’t wait to see this little town surrounded by monstrous volcanos, one of them still glowing with lava.
Immediately upon arrival, the first thing you can’t miss (unless it’s shrouded in clouds) is Volcan Villarrica, looming over this small town. Every year, hundreds of thousands of adventure junkies flock to Pucon to climb Villarrica and ski down it’s gravelly slopes. The second thing I noticed is that the town was virtually empty. All of the reports of a smoking volcano had chased off the crowds.
It seemed the topic of to climb or not to climb was quickly put to rest when it was apparent the beast was still showing signs of activity. But luckily, there are a ton of other things to do in Pucon.
Arriving to my hostel around noon, I was greeted by familiar faces. Freddie, Harry, and the Australians (whom I met in Uruguay and Bariloche) were just preparing to go horseback riding and invited me to join them. We rode for about an hour for fantastic views of Villarrica. My horse was incredibly stubborn so I was often at the back of the pack, but once he decided to gallop all I had to do was hold on and let the wind blow through my hair.
Ryan and Chris (see previous post) and another English bloke, Frank, were planning to climb a different, less famous and less daunting volcano, the next day and I just had to join them. Quetrupillan was our mission, standing at 2,360 meters. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a full day of steady uphill where we were finally rewarded with breaktaking views of Volcan Lanin and Villarrica herself.
As the story goes (and I’m paraphrasing), Lanin (seen in the distance above) was in love with Villarrica but he became suspicious that Quetrupillan was shagging Villarrica behind his back so he cut off the head of Q, which is why Q doesn’t have the characteristic cone-shape and is just a snow-filled caldera. In reality, this story seems farfetched, mostly because volcanos can’t shag other volcanos.
While brief, my time spent in Pucon was memorable and inspiring, even without setting foot on Villarrica, which was still spitting lava as we walked to the bus station for an over night coach to Santiago.