Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pucon and Parque National Huerquehue

Villarica Volcano, Pucon

From Chillan, we got another day bus south to Pucon. Pucon is considered the adventure sports capital of Chile. It is a tiny town nestled on Lake Villarica and at the foot of Villarica Volcano, the second most active volcano in South America. In the surrounding areas are two more volcanoes, various other mountains, and a few lakes and national parks. With all of these natural resources available, there are plenty of opportunities to find ways to do yourself damage!

Being focused on activities like volcano climbing, rafting, paragliding and so forth, the city if very tourist based and highly seasonal. Come here during April to August and the place is empty, but in the high season it is full of tourists looking for a combination of nature and adrenaline rush.

The main street in Pucon

Given the type of place this is, we were expecting the place to be a bit trashy and full of people trying to sell you something. Certainly the place is full of tourists and tourist based businesses. Everywhere you look there is a hostel, a restaurant or somewhere offering activities. But actually the town itself is quite nice. It has big wide streets, nice looking buildings, and what little traffic there is is very pedestrian friendly. And no one is trying to sell you things. Everything is there for you to buy if you want, but there is no hassle or hard sell, unlike Cusco where every second person was either offering you a massage or trying to get you into their restaurant. 

Our first day here was spent looking round the town and organizing a few activities and some of our onward travel.  As we came out of the municipal buildings where the tourist information office is, we were accosted by a very keen looking man with a big camera.  He rattled something off to us in Spanish and started beckoning us to follow him.  We followed slightly bewildered.

We were fairly sure that he had said he wanted us to have our photo taken with Pucon's mayor, so we were a little surprised when we were greeted by someone in a giant beaver costume.  Then the mayor did turn up as well and it turned out that they were trying to promote fire prevention in the national parks.  So we agreed to the photo.

We later took a trip out on the lake in a converted 1905 steamboat.  That was quite pleasant and gave us an excellent view of the Villarica Volcano.

Fire risk warning at Huerquehue

The second day was a bit more energetic, as we took a bus to the Huerquehue National Park and did one of their treks. I don't know why I agree to doing these things. It seems like a good idea at the time, but I always end up with my heartbeat racing, not being able to breathe properly and with pain in at least one part of my body! The trek was through the forest to some lakes.

Start of the trek at Huerquehue

It was supposed to take three and a half hours to get there, but it took me nearly four and we didn't go all the way to the end. The overall climb in altitude was about five hundred meters, which doesn't sound too much compared to some treks but was more than enough for me.

View from halfway up in Huerquehue

Part of the reason for going was that the park is supposed to have a lot of monkey puzzle trees, which I quite like as trees go.  Well, we were three quarters of the way through before we saw any, and then there weren't that many, so I wasn't overly impressed.  And really, the lakes we pretty, but I've  seen better without having to knacker myself to get to them. There wasn't even a bar at the end! And then you've still got to get back again.  I don't think trekking is really my thing!

Monkey puzzle trees in Huerquehue

At least the way back was a bit easier being mostly downhill and a bit quicker. Annoyingly, although Nic had been stumbling over tree roots for most of the day, whilst I was rather more careful and surefooted, I was the one who ended up flat on my face after falling over nothing at all. That hurt. And when I got in the shower later, the lower half of my legs were completely black with the dust that permeated through my trousers when I fell. But I got back up and carried on down the trail.  Keeping a careful eye on the pathway did mean that I spotted a lot of lizards along the way though.

Lizard in Huerquehue park

We met up with a couple from Northamptonshire towards the bottom of the trek and had a chat with them for a while, swapping travel stories and so forth. We left them a the bottom as they were kayaking back across the lake to where they were staying nearby, whereas we has some time to kill in the bar before our bus back to town. We later got a text from the friend of Nic's that we met up with in Santiago and Mendoza, asking us had we enjoyed our day in the park. This was rather weird as the last we had heard they were heading north and should have been in Peru by now. Turns out they were staying at the same place as the couple we met and in talking they realised that it was us they had met. Meeting up with them later, it appears they are now following basically the same route through Patagonia as us - we are now considering a restraining order to stop them stalking us!!

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