We are now back on mainland Chile, a fifteen minute boat trip took us from Chiloe Island to Puerto Montt, and from here our goal was to see Volcan Osorno (Volcano Osorno) It was really strange being back in what seem to us like a mini ‘Europe’ after the wilds of Patagonia, very posh houses all with lake views, oodles of restaurants, and very expensive supermarkets (all around Puerto Varas). We parked at Lago Llanquihue overnight and enjoyed the company of many people fishing late into the evening and once again early in the morning, but all without success. We were hoping for a salmon for our BBQ! This lake is the second largest in Chile and the third largest in South America.
The Osorno volcano stands at 2,652 metres tall and its size dominates the whole of the southern Lake District below and around it. We were able to drive high, passing through vegetation , bewildering in its variety and then on to the bare slopes with super views of the lake (Lago Llanquihue). Many people climb this Volcano, but we decided to save our energy for a bigger one!!!. LOL.
And so we continued to Volcan Villarrica which is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes standing at 2,840 metres which was the one we decided to climb. You must take a guide with you, also you need proper equipment like crampons , helmet and ice-pick to get you through the ice and snow once you reach a certain level. The crater is always active, with lava visible and sulphurous fumes rising from the centre. Part of our hike consisted of walking through the volcanic grit which was a good warm up, and then as we got close to the summer snow line we had to put on crampons and helmet and from here there was a trail zigzagging up across the snow and it was a good idea to stick to this so as to avoid any crevasses , also we had to use our ice-picks for balance. Just when we were about 10 minutes from the top we took off the crampons as we were back on volcanic grit and scrambled up the last bit to reach the top in 3 hours 20 minutes, not bad for amateurs!!!!! Every metre was worth it once we saw the views of the ice-fields, other volcanoes in the distance, and not to mention Volcan Villarrica at its best, the view of the whole crater was amazing, 500 metres from one side to the other.
As always coming down is much quicker than going up, but we weren’t quite prepared for our descent!!! In our back-packs was a canvas wrap for the bum which we tied around ourselves,put our helmets on and gloves and we had to sit in the channels of snow and slide down using our ice-picks and our feet for the brake. You couldn’t see how far down you had to go each time so it was always best not to gather too much speed just in case you couldn’t stop , which did happen to me, I lost control and nearly ending up falling out of the channel, but just managed to slow in time before I was the ‘laugh’ of the day. Quite exhilarating once you got the hang of it, but as a result we were down very fast. Apparently in the winter you come the whole way from the top to the bottom this way, but at this time of year there is only some snow left so we had to sline then walk, slide then walk… When the whole volcano is covered in snow, you can come down in 35 minutes! We never thought we would be sliding in snow down the side of a volcano!
All four of us reached the bottom safe and sound and being St. Patrick’s Day , having done the hard bit, we were now onto the good stuff ,food and a toast to all our family and friends where ever they may be , and what a lovely way to spend it drinking and eating with our friends Jurgen and Ruth.
To wrap up a super day, we had the sun setting on one side of where we were sitting, and on the other the smoke from the volcano, it couldn’t have been any better.
Really Chile just never stops giving !