I had always wanted to go the the Lago Distrito in Chile ever since the year 2000. On that occasion I landed in Santiago and went up country and not down as we were heading over the Salar De Ayuni to Peru and Machu Picchu for the Milennium celebrations.
It was then that I was told of the gorgeous lake district of Chile, where houses resembled swiss chalets and lakes nestled amongst the high peaks of The Andian mountains, so this time we decided to explore South.
The Chilean relatives of my sweet lady offered us a chalet on Lake Villarica to stay in, a wonderful rambling wooden building with it’s own stretch of black sand beach with views of the lake and mountains beyond.
On arrival I settled down to some work whilst my three travelling companions hoppeed on horses for a morning of equine fun. Being a city boy I had never gotten the hang of why we would want to sit on a horse and be walked about, I’d rather have peddles. When they returned we headed off to search out the Thermas Geometricas, a fabled hot spring of which I’ll write more later. We didn’t get there and ended up at what can only be described as the dilapidated carry on version of Thermal Springs which featured a luke warm swimming pool, a collection of ramshackle buildings and a wee little river to dunk in for a plunge pool.
We had fun though and the drive in the wild mountians was worth getting out of the way for.
The next day we cycled up into a gorgeous little valley which was where I really fell in love with this place. The crisp mountain air and blue spectrum light bringing everything into focus in massive 3d. We cycled, then trecked upwards until we came across a pasture clinging high on the valley side. Here we sat a while and drank in the view, the sounds of water pouring from dizzy heights, the spring seeds meandering around us, perhaps describing something we’ll understand one day.
Then we took the plunge and booked our tour up to the top of Villarica.
I had been tempted to try the trip alone, for when you look up at Villarica it doesn’t look high at all. This is an illusion caused by the lack of anything on it to guage any kind of distance by. It looks similar in height to Ikm peaks around it yet is only a whisper short of 3km high, double the size of anything in the UK and more than that, a live volcano that occasionally incinerates the fragile lives of those who live around it’s slopes.
So it was with Joaquine and Daniel that we set off with at 7am from Pucon in a minibus, tooled up with waterproofs, crampons, ice axes and as much factor 50 as a face could possible wear.
And was it hard work? In the next 8 hours all of us were brought near to breaking point, because it’s a long way up and at times all you can concentrate on are the footprints in front of you as you zig-zag up the snow clad slopes in the hope you don’t slip and fall. This becomes a real possibility as you get more weary. But the views are spectacular. From up high you see The Andies in a way only those in aircraft get to glimpse, but they don’t get the breath of it, do not work hard to make it theirs alone.
We would have appreciated an air hostess fetching us a coffee though and at the summit were getting so nippy from the wind chill that the sulphurous gnarled teeth below us seemed to below go, not stay. So go we did and here is where the real fun started.
From just below the summit we strapped waterproof slides to our behinds and slid down the volcano. There was a knack to keeping up the momentum, but the slopes that were such hard work on the way up passed by in what made any fair ground ride seem like a contrived bunch of arse. I mean we slip aver 1.5km downhill and it was more fun that you could shake a stick at.