We rented a beautiful cabaña between Pucon and Lago Caburgua. It was a gorgeous spot with great views of Vulcano Villarrica and Villarrica National Park. We were surrounded by sheep and just steps away from a nice river. The cabaña was quasi-new: We were the second tenants and the owner’s brother has built it with his own hands.
The first day was dedicated to the only open trail in Parque Reserva Huerquehue, the „Senderro Los Lagos“. The original idea was to hike the „Senderro San Sebastian“ but unfortunately there was too much snow such that it was declared as closed. Nevertheless, the six hour round trek was 100% worthwhile and depicted with a magnificent scenery.
The trek itself has a moderate difficulty degree. The most challenging parts were the muddy and snowy spots. Overall, it’s pure nature: The only thing you can hear are water splashes from rivers and birds‘ singing 🙂 The huge Araunica trees were particularly interesting.
As in the meantime expected to road leading to the park entrance is a dirt road but the part up to Refugio Tranquil is definitely doable with a 4WD.
The next day we explored around Pucon, got some paperwork done with the local notary (four notarized copies of the Declaracion Jurada which will come handy at the border crossing into Argentina) and spent some time at the lake shore. Pucon resembles a bit the feeling of an Alpine village with its neat architecture, the amount of tour operators (skiing, rafting, trekking) and the great vistas of Vulcano Villarrica.
In the afternoon, the first serious rain in Chile in three weeks occurred and lasted the entire next day. The best thing to do on days like these is a visit of the ample therms in the region. One has the choice of at least 10 different ones within a radius of 30km. We picked Terma de Trancura which had indoor and outdoor pools. The cover was 12,000clp for adults and 7,000 for kids three and older. The entire place was packed with retirees and our kids were the attraction of the day there 😉 Most importantly, Leo and Maja enjoyed it to exhaustion and felt smoothly asleep at night 🙂
The last day in the Pucon area was one of the highlights in Chile! Trekking the top of volcano Villarrica. Unfortunately, this is no family friendly tour at least not with kids at our ages. Theoretically, the ascend can be done independently. In my opinion, if don’t have a whole lot experience in winter trekking it is very advisable to join a tour. I picked “Go Pucon” (O’Higgins St, Pucon) since my brother also went with them a year ago and they were among the most affordable ones (80,000clp for the day).
We met at 6:30am at “Go Pucon’s” office and received our equipment for the hike: Snow pants and jacket, a helmet, leg wrappers/snow protectors and a plastic slide (as a matter of fact I do not the right word for this thing in any language;) ). We were a small group of three hikers (Sebastian from Chile, Angelica from Venezuela, Lothar) and our guide Armin (despite the name no German origin). We drove up to the volcano base and started the ascend at 7:45. In retrospect, I feel that a start one hour earlier would have been better beneficial w.r.t. snow melt and clouds at the volcano top.
We started with three layers and the path lead us between the gondolas of Pucon’s skiing area. Unfortunately, the skiing season had ended already on September 30. Otherwise, we would have hit the slopes as well! After half an hour it was already time for me to take the first layer off.
It was also the first time that I felt a bit of “mass” tourism in Chile. Herds of minivans arrived about the same time at the base and the ascend reminded me a bit of the computer game “Lemings”.
I’d categorize the hike as moderate-difficult. The beginning was quite easy with sticky snow, flat parts and easy walking pace. The middle section got steeper and it was a good idea to use the footprints of the person in front of you since the snow got deeper. The last part was very steep and the air got thinner with every step. Also the wind added to the difficulty. In this moment I could definitely feel that I was the guy with the poorest clothes: No scarf, no gloves and no hat. The worst was though the lack of sunscreen which I did not feel in this particular moment but got the reward in form of a bad sunburn afterwards 😦
After 5:15h we finally reached the volcano top. It was an amazing feeling which was slighlty blurred by clouds and volcano gases. As a matter of fact I had to cough multiple times from the sulfides. Some super-equipped hikers even showed up with gas masks which created a bit of a chemical attack movie scene 😉
After half an hour of varying views and herds of people on the top fighting for a view without other hikers on pictures taken the most fun part started: Sliding down a volcano!
We started off with foggy views on our buds and used the hoe as our break. What a great fun – I felt like a little kid :)) After using our buds we also started using the plastic slide and could gain a little bit more speed with it. I figured it out pretty quickly and partly our guide Armin – who always went first – was a little bit too slow for me. Germans are pretty good bobsled riders 😉
Since we covered ca. 80% of the descend by sliding it took us only two hours to get back to the volcano base. We completed an awesome day with cool cervezas! Salud!