World Peace in Chile

Since my last update I have made a lot of progress travelling a couple of thousand kilometers north and just arrived in Mendoza (33º South), the wine capital of Argentina. Luckily, I am now firmly back in T-shirt territory after spending 3 weeks in a climate zone where the temperature never really exceeded 15º.

Anyway, to get here I actually spent a lot of time travelling through Chile. This was not my original plan, but it’s great to have the flexibility. I decided to travel north via Chile mainly because I wanted to try out a different mean of transport after all the hours on the bus. So I bought a ticket for the Navimag, a ferry that runs from Puerto Natales in the very South of Chile to Puerto Montt, 1500 km further north (amazingly on this whole stretch there are only 100,000 inhabitants!) It’s a journey of 4 days and was quite uneventful expect for the beautiful fjords, the volcanoes we saw along the way (including Chaiten who had just become active again a couple of weeks ago), the wonderful sunsets, rainbows and starry skies and of course the bingo we played on the last night.

Rainbow from NavimagNavimag Ferry

After 4 days on the ferry with nowhere to go except upstairs/downstairs and round the boat I was feeling kind of antsy and eager to get back on land and move. I decided to join Christoph, Steven and Claudia who were heading to Pucon, a resort village in the Lake District of Chile. I had read that the Lake District was very similar to Switzerland and indeed it felt kind of like coming home: beautfil resort villages, blue lakes, green forests and hills, nice chalets and plenty of chocolate stores. The only thing that does not fit in the “Suiza” picture are the plentiful volcanos.

Villarica Volcano

Villarica Volcano

After resting our legs on the ferry, we were all ready for the next challenge and decided to climb Villarica volcano, an active one, peaking at 2800m. It was kind of hard to get up at 3.30am but luckily we were rewarded with a sunny day and great views from the top. However, to get to the top we had to walk uphill for approx. 5 hours. Volcanos may look pretty from a distance but when you try to clim up it’s actually quite nasty because the volcanic terrain consists of all kinds of loose rocks, gravel, sand and hence for every 2 steps forward you make one backward. Fortunately, a big chunk of Villarica is covered by snow/ice and walking with crampons made things a lot easier. Once we got to the top I wanted to take a deep breath of mountain air but oh la la my nose and eyes did not like the toxic volcano gases… Thanks to the early rise we were back in the village at 1pm and had plenty of time to spend on the beach (of course with black sand).  To top things off,  the friendly owner of our hostel gave us a ride to the hot springs that night and we went to bed rejuvenated.

Volcano Conqueror

Yes, we made it!

Villarica Crater

This definitely smelled like a volcano!

Sunrise at Villarica

Beautiful views and sunshine while descending Villarica volcano

Well, after the wonderful climb it was time to say goodbye to Steven, Christoph and Claudia. We had a lot of fun, especially with our Dutch friend Steven who kept promoting World Peace the whole time and was convinced “Schmick Schmack Schmeckel” means bon appetit in German.

World Peace Steven

World Peace Steven taking his campaign to the beach

I was heading back across the border to Argentina, more precisely to Junin de Los Andes, close to the Lanin National Park. During the bus ride we had spectacular views of Lanin (3775m), another volcano (but a passive one). For a while I was contemplating to climb Lanin as well (which is substantially more difficult than Villarica) but then decided I still had enough black sand in my trekking boots and should save my energy for some other mountain. So I just did some easy hiking instead and spent some time in the picturesque resort town of San Martin de Los Andes that lies at the Northern end of the 7 Lake Route (and hence quite touristy).

Lanin Volcano

Lanin volcano

Church in Junin de los Andes

Modern church in Junin de los Andes

Lago Lacar, San Martin de los Andes

Lago Lacar, San Martin de los Andes

Meanwhile my friend Patrick has arrived in Buenos Aires and we have made arrangements to meet up in Mendoza in the next couple of days. Will keep you posted about our adventures in and around the city of sunshine and wine.


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