Chasing the volcanoes through heavy rain
Two weeks after our trip to Mendoza, Amy, Martha and I decided to head out of Santiago for another adventure. This time we went south, to Pucón where we wanted to see if we could see Volcán Villarrica erupting. I'd climbed it twice before, seeing incredible lava fountains on my first trip in 2005, and then getting defeated by ice near the top when I returned in 2011. I was still recovering from back surgery so there would be no climbing for me this time but I was hoping at least to see some lava in the distance.
But this was winter in the south of Chile. That means rain - that means more rain than even a homesick Brit can handle. Blue skies on arrival soon gave way to leaden clouds that spitefully watered us throughout the weekend.
We went for a hike in the hills near Pucón. We were looking for Salto El Claro, but on our first attempt to find it we made the mistake of following a sign which said "Salto El Claro". We felt sure we were onto a winner with that, but it turned out that the sign just pointed the way to a distant hilltop where we found a man who seemed like he might not have spoken to anyone for quite some time. He seemed confused as to why we might have thought there would be a waterfall on his hilltop and said the nearest waterfall was miles away. I began to hear the twanging of banjos and we made a swift exit.
We tried again the next day, following the other path at the fork in the road, and we found our way to the falls. At least, the girls did. The path down was precarious and I decided that a fragile back, a paralysed foot and a muddy path might not be a happy combination. So I waited at the top in the rain while the girls went down to explore. I stood in the rain, remembering how much I'd missed rain when I didn't see any at all for six months. I enjoyed it, for about three minutes. Then I decided that I'd had my fill of rain and would quite like another six months without any.
The rain kept on coming down and it looked like we would go back to Santiago without even having seen the volcano. But on our final morning, as we walked to the bus station, there it was, steaming away under blue skies. It was enough to tempt Martha to stay another day and have a go at climbing it, but the word was that after days of rain it would be way too icy to climb it. So we all headed back to Santiago. Hopefully I'll be back in Pucón before too long, to climb again and get better eruption footage than I managed to before.