Puerto Varas 2015

Failed attempt to see Volcán Calbuco erupting

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Volcano chasing fail

Tuesday, April 28th 2015

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Volcán Calbuco erupted in April 2015. Spectacular photos began to appear of towering ash columns lit up by lightning and the glow of molten rock. I decided I had to go and see it.

May in the south of Chile is not a time of reliable good weather. But I checked the forecast and the portents were pretty good. A bit of rain followed by sunshine and blue skies was predicted for the two days I had available, so I headed to the Alameda and got a night bus to Puerto Varas.

The morning I arrived was grey and overcast. I walked down to Lago Llanquihue and hung around with spots of drizzle falling. I was just 20 miles from the peak of the volcano, which was, so I supposed, roaring away and pumping ash up into the atmosphere. But in the placid early morning it was impossible to imagine.

While I waited, the sky began to clear a tiny bit. I could see blue sky overhead, just about, through the thick mist. A passer by asked me if I'd come to see the volcano. I said yes, slightly self consciously, thinking that people who live so close to an active volcano might not appreciate gawpers at a time like this. But he didn't seem to mind my intrusion, and told me there had been amazing views but that all this cloud might actually be caused by the ash from the volcano.

That day, the skies stayed grey. The forecast was for better weather the following day, but the forecast was a lie. I walked out of town, towards the volcanic exclusion zone which was being enforced just a few kilometers away, but saw not even the slightest hint that a major eruption was going on so close by.

I went back to Puerto Varas, and sat in a cafe whiling away the time and occasionally checking to see if the weather was improving. While I was there, idly checking my change after my 17th espresso of the day, I discovered that I'd got one of the famous "CHIIE" 50 peso coins, minted with a misprint in 2008. I'd been looking for one ever since I moved to Chile so I felt slightly happy about that.

But the weather never improved. I had not seen any evidence that there was even a volcano just outside town, let alone that it was erupting. I got a night bus back to Santiago.

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