|Mount Villarica - Pucón's active volcano.|
|Chile's national 'Bellflower.'|
|Sunset on the lake... from my hostel!|
I loved my time in Valparaiso! My first earthquake (5.0 and a little shaking, but no damage), a great hostel with great people, including the people working there - it was like a second home really. The beaches, although you can't really compare to Australia, are just fine and do the job, the town is full of life and there is always something happening. The art is incredible, and no matter how much you walk around, there is always something more hiding around a corner, and it just makes you want to keep on exploring! OK, so the town smells like piss and in some parts has a slightly unsavory atmosphere, but it's hard not to like this funky little place. All things come to an end though, but I may be back!
|Swimming at a lakeside beach with black, volcanic sand - cool!|
|Sunset in Pucón.|
|One option for a room at the hostel!|
|The Claro waterfall - all 90m of it!|
|Thanks Heike for helping me to the top!|
|Lovely spot for a bit of a read - top of San Sebastian att. 1880m.|
|Mt Villarica puffing away... it may even erupt soon!|
The hostel I'm staying at, ChiliKiwi, is right on the lakefront, so it's front garden is the best place to sit and watch the sun go down over the lake and the volcano with a cheap but good Chilean red and have dinner, which is exactly what I did. The following day, I got the bus at 8:30am to go to Huerquehue National Park to do a bit of trekking on San Sebastian. Normally I don't hike by myself, but no one on the bus was climbing the mountain, they were all doing the lake walk. I started up by myself, and the first hour was all up hill and quite steep and dusty - the fact that I had been up drinking till 2:30am that morning wasn't helping either. I must have made it half-way when I was seriously thinking about going back and doing the lake walk instead - so far the view wasn't great and it was tough work. While debating what I should do, a German girl stopped at the same spot for a break. Heike was her name, and she convinced me to keep going - you can't quit! You have to reach the summit! So up I went, complaining slightly, but I did make it - and was it worth it? Oh yes! It was a climb from about 770m to 1880m, and at the summit you could clearly see at least 6 volcanoes, and a superb 360 degree view, and you can also see Argentina! 3.5 hours to hike up and 1200m, a short break at the top, then the tough job of coming down the steep slopes - quicker (2.5 hours) but much harder on the legs, and I finished with shaky legs and a big old thirst for beer after the 14km round trip! Thanks for the motivation Heike - I would have regretting not going to the top! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger... but I'm never doing San Sebastian again!
|Woody Woodpecker hard at work.|
|Yup! I made it!!|
The trees and wildlife around the area are superb! On my hike, I actually saw my first Tarantula! It wasn't big (compared to some Sydney Huntsman spiders), but it was very hairy and cool to look at. I also managed to spot 2 woodpeckers tapping away, a male and a female - I heard to loud knocking sound, and knew what it was, but spotting them was more difficult! The male had beautiful red plumage, which made him easier to spot, but unfortunately the female was a solid, boring black. The mountain is also home to the Chilean Pine, also called the Monkey Puzzle Tree. This tree you can only find in this area, from 37c to 40c South, and at a certain altitude - it is worth mentioning because of its old 'reptilian' appearance, and photographers love it. Most of the trees here are also covered with what's called 'Old Man's Beard.' This is a rootless plant, a kind of lichen, and grows hanging from branches and leaves of other plants, only needing sunlight and water to survive.
|Old Man's Beard growing over the Monkey Puzzle Tree.|
There are so many things to do in Pucón, most of which are not cheap. Skydiving is expensive anywhere, but where else can you skydive over an active volcano! Mount Villarica is the local volcano, and it is active (warning signs for evacuation all over town) - it has been puffing a bit of black smoke lately. It's last eruptions were in 1965 and 1971, and I'm hoping there won't be one while I'm here! It dominates the town from just under 20kms away, and it is also the first image that you will get when you Google image Pucón too. You can walk up an extinct volcano (but its costs 40000 pesos or $80!), but you aren't allowed anywhere near the big boy Villarica for safety reasons. There is also rafting and boogie boarding down the rapids, as well as horse riding and many other things. My time and money is limited however, so it is back to Santiago to find work. My little Chilean holiday has been good so far, but it is time for a slice of reality... and to save money for the next break in Chile!
|Mt Villarica having a bit of a smoke at sunset.|