Pucon, Chile

Our stay in Pucon was amazing, and left us feeling weirdly homesick when we left, as we met so many cool people there, and it truly felt like home.

The town itself wasn’t all that (just a touristy little town geared up for outdoor adventure enthusiasts, and hikers who come to climb the famous active Volcan Villarica) but we stayed in the most dreamy hostel, called Chili Kiwi. Situated on the lakefront, it had everything. A big garden out front for sunset wining and dining, big brand new kitchens, cool places to sleep like a treehouse cabin and a converted transit van (which we stayed in for a couple of nights – so cool! Complete with lights, cup holders, chargers, and errr.. steering wheel!) It had the lot. Basically this meant it was geared up for socialising, and we spent many days and nights chatting and eating at the lovely outdoor tables, playing ping-pong, cooking together, soaking up the sun, and planning the day’s adventures.

IMG_6230

IMG_6313Our British and Aussie compadres

Speaking of which, we decided to get more active again in Pucon! After weeks of just strolling around places, we hungered for a bit more of an outdoors adventure of sorts. And this was just the right place for it.

Initially we’d come to climb the active volcano, but turns out it was TOO bloody active, and had spewed out a load of volcanic rock a couple of nights before we arrived and was subsequently closed! It was huffing out black smoke the whole time we were there, and at night you could see the glowing orange lava on the top, which was pretty awesome!

However, this also meant we needed to find new adventures. The hostel offered a hike up the nearby smaller inactive volcano, but this felt like a half measure to us, so we decided to opt for other activities. On the first day, we took out the hostel’s kayaks to the edge of the peninsula and found a rock to sunbathe on, drink some beers and watch the volcano. Sounds pretty awesome huh? Well, the bit at the peninsula and the way back was, but the actual getting there was PRETTY hectic, truth be told. I’ve never kayaked before, and had a little freakout getting used to being on the water in such a tiny boat, having to row constantly to avoid jetskis that made huge waves, from pushing us into the side (whilst shouting ‘JETSKI WANKERS!’ at the top of my lungs) and generally quietening the fear that we’d a) capsize, b) sink the boat, c) capsize and sink the boat or d) break my camera (again!). But all was rosy after the initial stretch outwards and the way back was much more fun! (And drunken 😉

View from the kayaks

Day 2 we visited a nearby national park – Huerquehue National Park – for a day trek, which was surprisingly tough! Admittedly we were out of action, but it was so much harder than anticipated. Three hours of sheer uphill (my least favourite kind of hiking!) to reach the top, but it was worth it. We did the ‘3 lakes circuit’ and the lakes were totally stunning. Bright green and turquoise, clear water, reflecting the surrounding trees and mountains. We stopped at ‘Lake Verde’ and managed to scramble away from the main backpacker beach to find a rock to sunbathe on (along with some locals) and I went for a long swim in the cooling, clear water. Unlike Sam, I’d been too chicken to go in the sea the previous days because the rocks were so slippy, but at the lake it was clear and sandy, so swimming was a dream.

Swimming at Lake Verde

Exploring the three lake circuit, Huerquehue National Park

On the third day, we were planning on going to some nearby Geothermal springs, but we’d heard from our Brit hostel buddies that they were super busy and overcrowded, and we’d end up fighting for space, so we decided against it. We were also really hungover (not that this affected the decision at all! 🙂

On our 4th day, we did HYDROSPEEDING, which is completely insane! You can only do it in Pucon, or New Zealand, as you need a certain kind of Class 3 white water rapid, but basically it’s white water rafting, but just on a boogie board (with internal handles) and in a padded wetsuit, so when you hit the rocks, they don’t break your bones! It was absolutely brilliant, exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures. We went with some really fun British girls we’d met (from Brighton) and an Aussie guy also from our hostel, and it was a right laugh doing it together! You end up banging in to each other, getting trapped on rocks, being flipped over in the water, screaming, being blinded by the rapids, crashing left right and forward, all the time trying to see the guide at the front and follow his direction, hand signals to show where the biggest rocks were (so you inch yourself up on the board more), and when to paddle frantically in the right direction. There were some bits where we were crashing free-form through the rapids for minutes before it evened off again, and you’d feel the rocks brushing your padded knees or stomach, and try and stay as flat as possible on top of the water to avoid injury.

Preparing to HYDROSPEED!!!

There was one particularly terrifying bit at the end, when the guide told us we were coming up to a sinkhole. It was pretty lol because his English wasn’t great, so at one point he said he’d ‘choose’ the sinkhole, but he meant ‘show’, and told us we needed to avoid it because it was really dangerous! The hole’s caused by a glacier stream that rushes into the rapids, causing a washing machine effect under the water, where you can get sucked in, under the water, and would lose your board, get swirled around, and potentially hit a load of rocks (or worse still, drown). He told us it was coming up after a ‘fall’, so I was expecting a waterfall as a precursor, but it just popped up out of nowhere and I nearly drifted into it! Next thing I know, the guide’s screaming to paddle out of it, so I managed to get back on course, but I definitely freaked for a second. Don’t think I’d be able to style that out very well!

So that was super fun. It was even more fun because there was a little farm where we got suited up with PUPPIES beforehand, so that was a calming distraction before the event!

That evening, we went went out for burgers and drinks with our British and Australian buddies, and ended a great 5 day stint of meeting really cool travellers (and hostel volunteers) from Chile, Canada, UK, Australia, America… exchanging tips, drinking cheap rum and coke, (or ‘Frog’, a coke substitute!) and staying in all the kinds of rooms they had at the hostel (from dorm to van to glamping tent with mattress!)

It was hard to leave such a great place and after so many adventures, but we also recognised that we’d been very much in the tourist ‘bubble’ of just speaking English, about travelly stuff like where to go, music, hostels, drinking and cooking on the cheap. So we were looking forward to getting back out into the real world, aswell as being sad to say goodbye. Onwards and upwards next, to Santiago…!

Our little slice of paradise: view from the peninsula, of Volcan Villarica. We couldn’t climb the bastard, but he sure looked pretty.