Saturday, March 19, 2005

Volcan Villarica

The volcano climb was really fun. It started out as you see here, clear and blue. We were fully equipped with jackets, pants, boots, gloves, hats, helmets, crampons and ice axes. The first hour and a half is a hike up the volcanic rocks and dirt, after which you strap the crampons on your boots. I might add that the boots were similar to ski boots, although slightly more flexible at the ankle, and rather awkward for a major hike and ascent of 1047 meters! Unfortunately, as we got about half way up the clouds rolled in and by the time we got to the top we could hardly see our hands in front of our faces, let alone the magma and fountains of lava that are supposedly visible inside the volcano. We could certainly smell it, though, and luckily we had gas masks to filter out the stink. The best part was the descent: the pants they gave us had abrasion-resistant seats and we sat down on the snow, in paths carved out by hundreds of previous tourists, and slid down! It reminded me of going down a slide in a water park, with similar dips and twists, and sometimes I got going really fast and had to brake hard with my boots and ice axe to avoid slamming into the person in front of me. It was loads of fun. (And an evening dip in the hot thermal baths was the perfect way to ease my sore muscles).

I´ve been taking it easy yesterday and today, by choice yesterday and today an enforced rest due to torrential rains. Luckily my hostel has cable with many options, including a Wild West version of MacGyver which was playing when I left, so I am sure it´ll have something to occupy me for the rest of the day.