|Pucón, between the lake and the volcano. Arrived in town, found lodging, and arranged a climb up Volcan Villarrica, all without incident. Took a stroll around town to familiarize my self with my home for the next several days.|
I can see myself easily becoming the geological equivalent of a hypochondriac. The volcano dominates the southern horizon, it being over 9,000 feet in height, and the town at about 700 feet. There is a continuous plume of smoke from the top. Which, in my limited understanding of vulcanology, is a good thing. No smoke means bad things involving pressure building up and pyroclastic blasts. Still, I find myself scrutinizing the plume of smoke. "Should we worry now?"
"OK, there's a bit more now, should we worry about THAT!?!"
And to think, tomorrow I climb up the thing and peer down into the
After dinner, I sat against a store front and listened to some street musicians play. In a rough and tumble way, they were quite good. Violin and cello. I've heard better renditions of Pachelbel's Canon, indeed I have often found the piece to be cloying and syrupy. But somehow, in the shadow of the volcano, and with the buzz of the village in the background, it approached the sublime.
Woke up early to an air raid siren. What could this mean? Should I gather my things? Figure out the evacuation plan and follow it? I lay in my bed, listening. After the siren wound down, all was quiet, save the barking of pretty much every dog in town. There are a lot of dogs in town. It seemed quiet enough, but there was no way I could get back to sleep. So I put on random clothing and stepped out into the darkness. This was the first time I have really noticed the stars down here. And I have to confess that the only thing I noticed about them was that they were different. *Different* No familiar Dippers grande y pequeno winking down at you. No comforting Cassiopeia or Arcturus or, for that matter, Polaris. I failed to discern the southern cross... I casually walked around the block to the big Volcano Alert Signal in the center of town, which read green. Thusly comforted, I completed the circuit and crawled back into bed. At 6:30 I woke up again and had a quiet solo breakfast in the common area, then set out to climb the volcano.
|I had signed
up with an outfitter the day previous, so I walked there and was
presented with a backpack full of gear, and off we went, in a Sprinter
van, up a dirt road, and then to a ski area. We began walking. Up and
up. First through pumice and ash, then onto snow, where I got to
brandish my ice axe in a very satisfying (and dare I say becoming)
manner. Thus assured of the remaining tattered shreds of my
masculinity, I continued upwards. The view was magnificent, and exponentially increasing. I'm sure this is true of climbing any
mountain, but due to the iconic, conic nature of volcanoes, the view encompasses ever more and more of the entire 360 degrees as you climb,
and once at the top it seems as if you are at the very summit of the world. And what a world it is. There are numerous volcanoes along this
section of Chile, all snowcapped, like a string of pearls laid out across the landscape. On a clear day such as today, they are all out,
resplendent and lording over their particular geological fiefdoms. At the top we were instructed to be careful and not stray too far around
the crater, for fear of toxic gas. Of course I followed the camera's needs and blithely ignored these instructions. Until a wave
of sulfurous, mephitic, hellish gas washed over me and I thought I was going to die right then and there.
It took about 3 or 4 hours to reach the top. When we were ready to head down we were bidden to unload our packs and put to use the
various tantalizing bits of gear therein. Once gaitered, snow-panted and atop my little plastic sled, the way down was clear. Sliding, down
a series of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride-esque toboggan runs, ice-axe serving as brakes. The chutes were deep and with well defined banked turns. An eminently civilized and thrilling way to lose elevation. I don't think it took more than an hour and change to make the full descent.
Once back at the outfitter's, we unloaded our gear and retreated up top for (much needed and deserved) beer and camaraderie. The other clients left soon, but a girl from Argentina and myself stuck it out to help the guides finish off the 4 large bottles of beer. I was
treated to a bit of Chilean/Argentinian rivalry. We talked about life as a guide. These are my people. At one point, Marcos, one of the
guides, was trying to make a point about the elaborate plumbing system of the Volcanoes of the region, how the eruption of one can have a
bearing on the behaviour of its neighbors. He arranged the various beer bottles around the table to make a map of the volcanoes. Before
he could press his point any further, I grabbed the fullest of the bottles and said, "But this one now appears to be newly active!!", and topped off everyone's glasses.
I retreated to my hostel and took another in a series of the best showers *ever*. I walked around town, and had dinner at a patio bar. Halfway through the meal, a stray dog walked up next to my table, and lay down with an elaborate show of tiredness and exhaustion. But he kept one eye open and fixed firmly on me, as if to say, "I'm going to lie down here, because this is what I do. My question for you is simple: 'You aren't gonna jack with me are you?'"
"No te preocupes, hunder, you're fine with me"