On Friday we started the day off bright and early waking up at 8:00 for a quick breakfast, so we could depart on time at 8:30. We then had a three hour drive to the bus station that would take us to Bariloche. When we arrived in Osorno we had time for a quick lunch which grabbed at a Chilean fast food restaurant. We all got Chilean hot dogs. We then proceeded to rush back to the station to be sure we didn't miss our bus. We boarded the bus after saying goodbye to Mr. Ortiz and Megan, and then we were off to Argentina! After about two hours into the trip we arrived at the Chile and Argentina border where we went through customs without a problem. We then had another two hours until we would arrive in Bariloche. When the bus pulled into the station, all of the of our host families were waiting for us and immediately greeted us when we stepped off the bus. We then got our suitcases and went our separate ways with each of our host families.
Today, the group that had elected to hike the volcano Villarrica woke up at 5:30 am. After a quick breakfast of lemon pie, bread, or a sandwich that we had prepared the night before, Henry, Zay, Alex, Nikki, Blessing, Mr. Pierpont, Ms. Herman, Mr. Ortiz, and I left the house and met the man who would drive us to a nearby house to collect our gear. Armed with protective clothes, ice picks, and lots of chocolate, we drove approximately 45 minutes to the base of the great mountain. Our four experienced guides strongly encouraged us to take the chairlift up the first segment of Villarrica. There was no debate here; we had already planned on doing so to take an hour off of our estimated 6 hour journey.
The hike seemed at first just that: a hike. Our guides led us up a zigzagging, rocky path, and the summit appeared very close. At that point in the climb, we were confident and truly had no idea what was soon to be in store for us.
Perhaps an hour and a half later, we reached the glacial ice on Villarrica Volcano. It was at this point that several of us, myself included, grew a little nervous. The snowy climb in front of us seemed nearly vertical. However, we had very little time to worry about what we were about to do. With just a quick lesson on how to stop any falls with the head of our ice axe, we continued on our way towards the summit. While walking single file up the ice, our guides instructed us to just focus on our feet and on securing the spikes of our crampons with every step. It became clear that we would not want to be looking down as we continued to climb. The view of the slippery side of the volcano all the way above the clouds was quite dizzying. Whenever we took a break, sitting on the volcanic rock on either side of the glacier, we were sure to refuel with Chilean candy and by drinking some of the 2 liters of water we each brought with us, perhaps in an effort to lighten our heavy packs.
Hours later, we reached the summit, and were met with two spectacular views: the view of the surrounding smaller mountains and clouds, and the view of the gigantic crater in the center of the volcano. We took dozens of pictures, and we were lucky enough to hear several groans emit from the murky depths of the volcano and to see a burst of flame. Unfortunately, considerable amounts of smoke and gasses came from the crater, burning our throats and encouraging us all to don the gas masks that we carried in our packs.
After a lengthy break, and after we all put on water resistant clothing, it was time to participate in the popular activity of sliding down Villarrica Volcano. After our terrifying ascent, this was not as scary as we all thought it would be. One of our guides demonstrated how to safely slide and how to control our speed with our ice axe. We then sat one by one in a trail formed by previous sliders, and were off down the mountain. As some of us reached the end of the snow, Mr. Ortiz acted as a human bowling ball, with students as pins; he accidentally ran into us from behind and sent us flying (into the soft snow)! As it is the end of summer here in the southern hemisphere, and because of the warming temperatures all over the world, there was not as much snow as there often is, and we still walked a considerable distance back to the base. Despite our shared elation over having conquered the great volcano, we were completely exhausted and fell asleep almost instantly on the drive back into Pucon. Climbing the Villarrica Volcano was difficult, exhausting, and scary, but it was quite possibly the high point of the trip for many of us, and it was certainly an experience that we will remember and treasure forever.
The skiing remains glorious out at the Nordic Center. Steve will be grooming this morning and Wednesday for those of you who plan ahead. We will keep a close eye on Thursday’s predicted rain storm. Enjoy it while you can!
Steve is grooming this morning and it should be fun. Some debris on trails from yesterday’s high winds. Enjoy!
Will reopen for weekend!
Tuesday morning, we all came down to breakfast by 9:00am. Many of us made fried eggs for breakfast, we had freshly baked bread, and raspberry and nut “kuchen” which is a german cake/tart. After breakfast, we made ourselves sandwiches to bring with us on the hike. We filled up our water bottles before getting in the cars.
Half an hour later we arrived at the National Park (after of course many pictures of the beautiful view along the way). We grabbed our gear and began our trip up the Sierra Nevada trail which is a 14km out and back hike. Some of us hurried excitedly up the trail while others wandered behind in awe at the environment. The trail was surrounded with vegetation similar to both the jungle and the forests of Dublin with lizards that would scamper across the trails in front of our feet. We learned about a foreign tree that grows only in Chile called the Araucaria. About halfway up the trail was an overlook of a beautiful lake that had crystal blue water and made you want to stare at it forever. We continued up the trail and discovered the trail narrowing to the side of a cliff. We carefully ventured across while gazing at the towering mountains next to us and listening to the glacier waterfalls in the distance.
Eventually (a whole three hours later) we made it to the top and ate lunch gazing at the magnificent view, wishing we could stay there forever. Reluctantly we headed back down after refilling our water bottles with crystal clear and clean glacier water. The walk back went much quicker than the walk up taking only an hour and a half.
Once we got down, we went to the perfect blue lake and excitedly walked in the chilly water and on the lava sand beach as we looked up at the volcano and the mountains we just explored. We made it back to the house tired and hungry. We played some rounds of Uno before we had an amazing dinner of steak, corn, rice, potato salad, and bread. We also tried the nuts from the Araucaria tree we collected on the hike. They are similar to chestnuts.
After that, we cleaned up and collapsed into bed tired from the adventure that the day had brought. It was a very hard hike and was less enjoyable during the hike but reflecting back I’m very glad I did it and would have been disappointed if I had missed the experience.
After we all met up at the entrance of the airport, we checked our bags and moved through security. We went to our gate and got dinner. We soon boarded our plane to Atlanta. After the short plane ride, we arrived at the Atlanta airport and boarded our plane to Santiago, Chile almost immediately. After boarding we got comfortable in the seats we would sit in for the next 9 hours. We were served a nice dinner, and had access to many movies to watch. After a VERY long and exhausting flight with sporadic turbulence, we arrived in Santiago and got our luggage and stood in line to get our passports stamped. Then we checked our luggage again. Our layover in Santiago was long but it was relaxing. We went to a restaurant in the airport and got sandwiches. They were really good. We split up and all got to walk around the airport. After a while we congregated and boarded the airplane to Temuco, which is a little farther south of Santiago. This flight was a piece of cake as it was only an hour.
Once we arrived in the small airport in Temuco, we finally got our luggage and sat a for a while as we got our rental cars. Some of us got bored and ran around outside the entrance to the airport. There was grass and it was green! The air was warm and the sky was blue! Once we got our cars (a van and pickup truck) we hopped inside and drove for about two hours to The Conguillio National Park. After the relaxing car ride, we arrived at our gorgeous house that we would be staying at for the next two days. We ran around with excitement exploring every part of the property. There is a pond, horses, a stream, fields, a pool, and a staircase to the roof! Mr. Ortiz’s parents were there to greet us and had started to prepare dinner that they were making for us! Neither of them speak a lick of English so we put our Spanish skills to work.
We heard that behind the house there was a path to a river. So many of us (including Mr. Pierpont eager to catch a fish) followed a path far into the woods. We followed little signs to a cute little stream with a bridge over it, and most of us assumed that was it. But I, Caitlin, knew that there must be more. I decided that I would continue to walk up this mysterious road, after a bit, the others began to follow curiously. Soon we found another sign that continued to point forward down the road saying “cascada”. I knew it! As we walked along the road we heard the faint sound of running water. We followed the path and the sound became much louder. We looked to our right and noticed we were on a cliff, far below us was a large river with huge rocks. Excited, we skipped down the path to the river. We explored the river, it resembled a rocky river like the ones back in New Hampshire, we followed the trail along the river which led to a small waterfall. Meanwhile, Mr. Pierpont had begun to fly-fish in the river. We admired the waterfall and began to play in the river. He caught one! Mr. Pierpont caught a little trout on the first day. We just got here!
After tiring our selves out we hustled back to the house for dinner. We all sat down at the dinner table and ate a beautiful and tasty dinner of grilled chicken, rice, sausage, and bread. We all showered and got ready for bed. We were very tired for obvious reasons. Some of us finished the night by watching a movie and then went to sleep. Spoiler alert, we all got a great nights sleep. Tomorrow we would be hiking a mountain.