Archive for Marzo 2015

Rio Trancura – Even the name sounds erratic

Today I had the chance to join Rafting for the first time. Without thinking twice about what I was getting myself into when I was invited to go rafting I just said yes and chose the most difficult of the two options – Rafting Alto. Everything or nothing right?

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and we had temperatures around 27°C – what would be better than to spend the afternoon on the river and let the rapids throw you around?! Therefore I prepared myself at 2.00 p.m. for rafting “alto”. The trip started from the agency where myself and five other adventure seekers met along with two guides who joined us in the van and we were driven to Rio Trancura.

After more or less 25 minutes we reached the river, where we got our wet suits. They had changing rooms there, where we could put on the gear. There they also had lockers where we could safely store our things to pick up at the end of the trip. Wearing the wetsuits the van took us a little more upstream. While we reached the drop-in we got additional protective gear, like a helmet and life-vest.

At the drop-in we reached a beautiful – still quiet part of Trancura, where we received safety instructions and after that the trip began. First we practiced commands with a guide named Miro. For controlling and having an overview he sat in the bottom of the raft. The second guide joined us in a kayak.

The group felt really connected with the commands we had learned and we had to paddle stronger and stronger and quite quickly we reached the first rapid. It was a quite a soft one, but that was nice to get the feeling of the power of the river. But the next rapid was unforgiving! We got crashed through the waves and skidded left and right through the stones – water splashed all around us and the level of adrenalin got higher and higher! So much fun! With every rapid we passed thru, the euphoria grew and the group feeling got even better – nobody wanted to wait for the next challenge.

And so it was a big surprise when they told us we had to get out of the raft – they explained that there would be a rapid, which is only possible to portage. We got out and made our way through a trail in the forest and after a few minutes I was above a cliff. Next to me was a really nice waterfall and 100m further in front of me there was a culmination of rocks. The mission was obvious– jump off the cliff into the raging water. I was so glad just to jump in that moment, because if I had thought about it first, I wouldn’t have jumped. But I jumped and it was breathtaking – when I jumped in I felt the raging water surrounding me – pushing … pulling, I have never felt something like that before – what a great experience! Without the adrenalin from before I think I wouldn’t have done it – but I did! You don’t know how proud of myself I was! When I came up from the rapids I was a little afraid not to get in the raft again, but there was no problem and after everybody got safely back in the raft the tour went on.

Afterwards there were some challenging rapids – but the adventure was over far too quickly! The whole group was happy and the smile on our faces stayed there for the rest of the day.

At the finish we were welcomed with cookies and juice and we rested from the exiting trip and were filled with energy. We took the wet suits off and the van drove us back to Pucón.


That was such a breathtaking experience and for me for surely it will not be the last time! But rafting “bajo” I guess would not even be a consideration in my mind after this adventure!

Villarrica Volcano keeps us on our toes…

For a long time we knew that something was going to happen in Pucón. On February 5th Claudio saw lava in the crater of the volcano for the first time after 4 years. From February 6th it closed with no possibility of an ascent until further notice. In the middle of February you could see black smoke coming out and by the end of February even some lava rising to the surface. On the night of March 3rd, with an almost full moon, the volcano finally erupted.

Even now, two weeks after the eruption, I can remember this special night quite well. Because of all the prior activity, of course I talked a lot to my roommate, friends and colleagues about a possible eruption. However, on Monday March 2nd, I went with my roommate to the supermarket to buy all the stuff we might need, mainly food you don’t have to cook and that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. So we bought some cookies, chocolate, long-life milk, bread and tuna. Furthermore I drew up a checklist in my head with things I would have to pack in case of an eruption. I don’t know why, but I was well prepared.

That night I slept really badly. Normally I sleep like a rock – once asleep I only wake up when my alarm is really annoying me. But that night I turned from left to right, had a look at the clock and fell asleep again. Around 3 a.m. I heard our dog barking and yelping. Because I left my window open I listened for a siren signal but didn’t hear anything. Barking dogs in the street are not that unusual, so I decided not to think anymore about it. But when our host mother came up the stairs and said “chicas, levantanse, el volcan” I knew – the Villarrica Volcano is erupting! Due to my checklist I was quite quick. Jeans, warm pullover, scarf, jacket. Some chocolate and water for the backpack and within seconds I was ready to leave the house. Meanwhile the son of the host mother arrived and we drove all together to the center of Pucón, near the evacuation zone. And there it was wondrously quiet. I saw a lot of people walking towards the Peninsula, the official evacuation zone, but nobody was hysterical or panicked. Except for warm clothes, the most important item that night was the mobile phone. Everybody wanted to know if family and friends were ok and safe.

Well, here in the center of Pucón, at 3.45 a.m., we saw the spectacle in the sky. We saw some lava coming out of the volcano and flowing down to its right and left side, but bit by bit it was getting less. Nevertheless, we waited until 6 a.m. before we got back home, everybody chilled to the bones and dog-tired. At this time the volcano was not completely quiet, but one of the wisdoms of my host mother was “the house is the safest place on earth, nothing has ever happened here”. Well, the alert was not reversed from the official side but because it was the 5th eruption in the life of my host mother I decided to believe her. Back home we all had a huge cup of sweetened tea and some bread or cookies and in this moment I realised how tense I had been the whole time.

With the sunrise my patience came back and around 10 a.m. I went to bed and woke up at 3 p.m., right in time for lunch. Now I was really positive and thought that everything could go back to normal. So I washed some clothes and prepared myself for having a short walk around the city. But as soon as I walked downstairs, this plan was canceled. My host mother told me that now, after the small eruption, the volcano is closed and that this had never happened before. So it would be best to leave Pucón for some days. Within seconds my adrenaline was pumping again and I became quite nervous. I started to pack a little emergency-backpack with some clothes and called some friends in Temuco asking if we could stay in their house for a few days. Fortunately we received a lot of help gain from the host family because they all were leaving to Temuco and we could go with them. Later I heard from a friend that we really had luck because the bus tickets were sold out within minutes, for double the normal price.

Anyway, from Tuesday until Saturday I stayed in Temuco – and Pucón was a ghost town. When I came back that Saturday evening I first felt a little bit nervous but then calmed down.

This situation persisted for two weeks. Tuesday evening I was watching a movie and only wanted to check my Facebook account before I went to sleep. Bad idea. One of the first posts I read was “vamos Ruca, de nuevo” accompanied by a picture of the volcano releasing some lava. Ok, this was not good. So I started again to pack a small backpack – just in case – and went to bed with the window open. I think in a few more days I will get used to this situation and will become an expert at packing emergency backpacks.

Away from the masses– hiking in „El Cañi“

I’m a nature loving person. I love to observe birds, discover beautiful plants and to feel the beauty and the energy of nature. Now I’m here in in Pucón, located in Chile’s Lake and Volcano District, and of course I’m trying to see as much of the surrounding nature as possible! There is only one problem: Pucón is a very touristy city and in the high season it’s full of people who want to do exactly the same as I do. And as always, when you meet many people out in nature it loses something of its’ magic. This is why hiking in El Cañi was recommended to me.

I didn’t go because there are two beautiful lakes high above surrounded by ancient Araucarias. Or because of the huge rock you can climb and enjoy a 360° panoramic view of the whole region with its’ volcanoes, mountains and lakes. No, my main purpose to come here was to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and to go hiking in a place which is less visited than all the other national parks close to Pucón.

After a 40 minute drive on the public bus I reached the entrance of the national park. There I had to pay a small entrance fee and was given a little map where I could see the description of the route.

The first part of the path went past some small houses and then after 15 minutes I reached a farm. Here I stopped to pick some plums, blackberries and other typical Chilean fruits to prepare myself for the next hours. Because directly after this farm, the ascent began…

In the beginning you have to walk a long 2-3 hours uphill. And the way is not only very steep, in addition the ground is slippery and the path is covered with big rocks. It’s recommended to be there very early in the morning, because a big part of the track leads you over an exposed old logging road with a burning sun above you.

But after 2 or 3 hours I made it and here in the upper part of the open terrain I had a fantastic view of the Villarrica volcano, Villarrica Lake and other mountains and lakes which are typical for this region.

The first stop marked on the map was the Refugio. This is a shelter where you can sit down and relax or prepare a barbecue. A great place for those who decide to camp here! The Refugio was the place for my lunch break too. Well, I didn’t have grilled beef, but a really tasty sandwich – and this was really necessary after this endless ascent! After a long break in which I recovered and collected new energy I continued my way to the lagoons. Now the beautiful part of the hike started. Indeed, it was a long way up to the summit, but now that we were in the temperate rain forest, the treks became easier and the variety of the flora and fauna increased. I could see lots of colourful lizards lying in the sun or running into the brush. I could hear different birds singing or just admire the flowers. On the soft ground it was easy to walk and by the minute my energy and passion to explore the area increased. After 20 minutes this last section of the ascent was done and from now on the path was easy-going. Until now I had only met two other people. Great!

Upon arrival at the “Lago Secco”, which by the way really deserves this name, I had to accept that it would not be possible to go swimming here. It was really dry (I should add that this year had been particularly dry in the region and hadn’t had rain in over a month) and only in one small part we could find water, well, mud is the better description for it. But anyway, it was a beautiful place. There I had the feeling of being in the savannah. Very close to us there was a bird that wasn’t scared so we could observe it from only 3 meters of distance – that was an amazing experience.

After exploring the area we continued along the trail to the “Lago Negro” (black lake), approximately a half-hour-hike. In this part, the trail went straight ahead without many ups and downs and all the way I was able to enjoy the silence and the beautiful nature. I really loved that part and I felt that the hard work was now worth it.

We arrived at the “Lago Negro” and determined that the name did not give the lake credit. The lake had wonderful sparkling blue water with a backdrop of the typical monkey puzzle trees.

In the background were amazing big rocks and there was a little beach and if you wanted you could walk around the whole lagoon.

Also at this breathtaking place we only had to share with a few other people. But that didn’t disturb me in any way, because they had the same intentions as me – just enjoying the amazing area and the silence of nature.

Unfortunately we didn’t reach the observation point due the long time we spent before with exploring the area. So the “Lago Negro” was the last station for us – anyway I will come back to visit the “El Cani” national park to reach the real top!

Really Breathtaking – the ascent to the top of the Villarrica Volcano

Unfortunately the Villarrica volcano is closed for ascents since February 6, 2015. And at least since March 3 2015 we know why: The activity of the volcano increased and increased and increased … until it finally erupted in the beginning of March. But nevertheless, I would like to tell you how I experienced the ascent to the apparently most active volcano in South America.

Right at the beginning of my time in Pucón I was given the possibility to join this once in a lifetime experience and climb the Villarrica Volcano.

The days before the activity I had some doubts. After all, this volcano has an altitude of 2,847m and already by the beginning of the year it was considered to be one of the most active volcanos in South America. And I just came back from a three-week holiday in Cuba during which I did no exercise let alone climb a mountain. But okay, let’s try. And I can say, it was completely worth it!

The preparation for this adventure starts one day before. In the agency you are fitted with pants and jackets and special hiking boots. All this is stored together with the other equipment in your personal box, so that on the day of the volcano ascent there will be no needless stress. “All the other equipment” means in this case a backpack, gaiters, two pairs of gloves, ice axe, helmet, crampons, a personal sled and butt protector and of course the jacket, pants and boots. Furthermore, Suzi gave me a reminder sheet of what I had to bring the next day, told me that I’m not allowed to have a Pisco Sour the night before (and no other kind of alcohol) and that the best dinner would be pasta to get a lot of energy for the next day. Okay, this part of the preparation was easy.

The next morning I left my house very early at 6:15 a.m. as the meeting time at the agency was 6:30 a.m. There we had enough time to put the gaiters and the boots on and to pack all the things we needed in the backpack. In addition to the equipment provided I had sandwiches, water, chocolate, fruit, sunscreen (apart from the chocolate this was the most important thing on that day!), a buff and a hat. And off we go!

We drove approx. 30 minutes in the Summit Chile van to the Villarrica Volcano ski center. After some brief safety instructions we took a Chilean style chairlift (very interesting when you, like me, only know the high-tech ski lifts in Austria) 400m up to the snow line. “We” means a group of 12 people accompanied by 4 very experienced und energetic guides. At a height of 1,800m we started the ascent of the Villarrica Volcano.

Before going up, the guides helped us to put on crampons and we received instructions on how to walk and follow the guide properly, had a last banana and put on some sunscreen again. The first steps in the snow with the crampons on our feet and ice axes in our hands were a little bit difficult because I had never before climbed a mountain or used crampons, but after some steps I got used to it. After approx. 30 minutes we had our first stop where we had some water, a little bit of food and –of course- put on the sunscreen again. This was the routine at every break. From this point I already could see something that seemed to be the summit. But this was a fallacy. What I thought would be the “summit” was only a plateau and the place for our next rest break. From here we had a great view over the region with the Villarrica lake and its’ volcanoes and Claudio explained everything to us.

After the same routine eating, drinking, sunscreen, we continued the volcano ascent. My breath already went faster and I recognized that I was starting to get tired. But not our guides. They ran up the volcano, down again, were singing and making jokes. Unbelievable!! This energy and good mood helped everybody to keep going! After the third break I couldn’t think of singing anymore. I felt so exhausted that only the chocolate kept me alive. I was glad that I didn’t have to do anything other than following the guide’s steps in the same pace without thinking about anything; it was a little bit like meditation. This part, between pause 3 and 4, was the most difficult for me, because it seemed like we walked for an eternity and still hadn’t reached the target. But then, after the last break, my ambition came back. I wanted to reach the summit!! Here, in the last part of the volcano ascent, it all belonged to your head and your thoughts.

And then, after 4 hours of endless climbing, we reached the summit. It was such a great feeling standing there next to the crater of an active volcano and walking all the way up alone (yes, I know, I was not alone and I didn’t walk all the way, but in this moment this details weren’t important). We even tried to have a look inside the crater, but because of all the sulfuric steam it was hardly possible to breath. Indeed, it was not possible to see the lava but we had a great view over a unique and beautiful landscape! This was a great place to have a huge break, have some food, relax and enjoy this splendid view.

After a little photo shooting we prepared ourselves for the way down. We put on a different pair of gloves and the butt protector and then walked some meters down. Now the funnest part of this activity began – the slide down! We only had to sit down on our butt – and the fun started. This was really the biggest slide I had ever done and due to the screaming, shouting and laughing of the other group members I was sure that we all felt the same: this is great!

Once the snow ended we had to walk a little bit until we came back to the van, exhausted but happy.

Back in the agency we had some juice and fruit and now I’m sure: this was the perfect start for my time here in Pucón. Despite my sore muscles the next day, I can only recommend to join this once in a lifetime experience with Summit Chile!

Through forest and over hills to the top of Quetrupillan Volcano

The sun is rising above the surrounding hills, some rays are just starting to reach the tips of the bamboo forest and the morning dew is sparkling. I’m standing there in silence, looking around and enjoying the beauty of nature…
This is not the beginning of one of countless novels, no, this is the beginning of my ascent to the Quetrupillan Volcano.
This beautiful and scenic place is about a one hour drive away from Pucón and after meeting at 6:30am at the Summit Chile agency, we arrived to the starting point of the trek around 8 a.m. In contrast to the Villarrica Volcano only a few groups have come today ascend this volcano. Why? I really don’t know. Maybe because at the first glance this sleeping volcano seems to be less spectacular than his active brother. And it’s true, the ascent is completely different – but wonderful!
As I mentioned in the beginning, the path led us through native bamboo and Coihue forest. Similar to the tour to the top of the Villarrica, we used gaiters – this time to protect our pants from getting snagged by some of the bushes or from collecting burs. One of our first challenges was to get over a huge tree trunk lying directly in our path. So we had to find a way through the bushes and tree branches, find a good place to climb and with a helping hand from our guide to get over this massive tree and only a few meters of balancing and then jumping down the other side – we did it!
We walked more or less three hours through this beautiful forest; hiking up, walking straight ahead, hiking up again… The sun was becoming stronger by the minute so we made a few stops to take off some layers. Three or four layers of clothing – this is really the best outfit for a hiking trip starting in the early morning!
Around 11.30 and after one last hill, we stepped out of the shadows of the woods into the blazing sun. From this point we had a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and the Quetrupillan Volcano. With this panorama in sight we took our first long break. Everybody could have lots of water, eat something light and of course put on some sunscreen. Okay, ready to continue the hike!
The path was now the complete opposite of the former one. We didn’t walk over small branches and soft ground any longer but over stones and rocks in the blazing sun. Easily one could underestimate the distances. The summit seemed to be so close, but when you had a closer look you could see some small ants climbing to the top. These small ants were members of another group that was in front of us. And when they seemed to be that small….. the summit must be very far away! The pace from our group slowed down with each meter we hiked up as everyone was getting tired. But our guides insisted to keep walking in the same pace – that should be easier than walking one part slow and another one fast again. And they were right. After some time we reached the first ice field. Because we walked with our own hiking boots and without crampons, everybody walked very slowly and conscientiously, trying to walk in the same footprints as the person in front. After crossing the last ice field we made another break before reaching the summit to recover and gather our last energy reserves.
At this point the ascent ended for me: one German group member was too tired to continue the hike. And because Summit Chile has a policy that nobody stays alone on the mountain, I was predestined as a German student to stay there with her. Of course it was a little sad because we were so close to the summit… But at the same time I had to admit that I was very exhausted too and so it was no problem for me to stay there. We searched for a nice place next to a big rock which was protected from the wind, put on all our clothes, sat down on the backpacks and enjoyed the great view. This panorama was really amazing, we could see the Villarrica Volcano with its grey side because of the smoke and all the other surrounding mountains. Until now I hadn’t realized how beautiful it was! So we sat there, talked about our lives in Chile, had some lunch and relaxed. What a nice break.
After the rest of the group finished their pause at the summit they started to descend and fetched us on the way down. Now I could see that everybody was really exhausted. The rocky underground was a little bit slippery and despite the fact that we had hiking poles some of the group members fell down on their butts – me included. Upon reaching the forest, we were once again protected from the sun by the trees and the going was a bit easier. While descending I asked myself “and where is this trunk we have to climb over?” Because I couldn’t remember that we had walked that far! The moment we reached it the next problem appeared: from this side it was more difficult to climb and our muscles were tired. In conclusion, the elegant and spirited jump from 8 hours earlier was now a graceless scramble … but everyone did it. Everyone except one person: One of our guides was curious about what is behind the trunk in the bushes so he went to investigate … and came out the other side. Ha! We hadn’t have to overcome this obstacle! But anyway, we are in an ancient forest and a toppled down trunk belongs there.
After approx. 10 hours we came back to our car and everybody was eager for the fresh and cold water coming out of a tap close to the parking lot.
At the end of the day an application on my phone told me that I had walked about 33,000 steps and 20 km. Reason enough for me to have a big serving of pasta for dinner!