River rafting, paragliding, a volcano hike, hydrospeed, hot springs, mountain biking, canopy cable gliding, 4x4ing…that was the list of optional activities presented to us upon arriving in Pucón. Oh, the choices!
Since we are traveling as a relatively small group we decided it would be best to choose three activities to do together. Looking back on the discussion of which activities to chose brings a massive smile to my face…what a privilege it is to be arguing whether it is worth paragliding in Pucón or if it would be better to save the experience for Rio. The worries of being a traveller in South America :) Our group decided that the volcano hike, hydrospeed and relaxing at the hot springs would be the best choices for the time we had in Pucón.
The Volcano hike was purely epic. It pushed me right to the edge of physical exhaustion but was incredibly rewarding. The goal of reaching the crater kept me going and blocked out the odd thought of turning back. The tour company that we used were friendly, efficient and experienced. We had three well trained guides and a full set of equipment, including snow pants, jackets, gloves, backpacks, ice picks, hiking boots, and most importantly a funny looking blue plastic thingy. No one told us what the funny looking blue plastic thingy was for until we started our decent later in the day. After hiking for a good four hours to reach the 9000ft summit our group was riding on excitement whilst staring into the crater of Villarrica Volcano. A few steps in the other direction and we were all dreading the long walk down, until we were told to bring out the funny looking blue thingy. It turned out to be a mini ice sled. Four hours to the top, and only forty-five minutes down; i`m sure you can imagine the fun that was had. We carved the ice as we slid furiously down the slopes of Villarricca. The reward at the end of the long hike came in the form of ice cold Chilean beer and a toast to what was an amazing adventure. The hike up Villarrica Volcano was a great bonding experience for our group.
Later that evening we all experienced our first Chilean braai, courtesy of our tour-guide, Christian. The braai consisted of fresh bread, beef, Chilean sausage, corn and salad. The preparation was similar to that of a South African braai, but the little differences were noticeable. The biggest little difference was certainly the lack of boerewors…four months away from South Africa and that is at the top of my cravings list.
Hydro speed was next on our list. It is one of those activities you don`t tell your nervous grandmother you will be doing. In short, it is the same as river rafting except minus the boat and paddles. Instead you have a small body board, a pair of flippers, a helmet, life jacket and wetsuit. Hydro speed turned out to be one hour of pure adrenaline. A must-do activity for any adrenaline junkies out there.
Outdoor activities aside a really interesting part of the travel experience down south has been our mode of transport; the public bus system. The buses here are really impressive. After having some rather dodgy bus experiences in South Africa I was intrigued to see how our Southern Hemispheric counterparts faired. I must admit they top us game, set and match. The deciding factor for me has to be the comfortable seats, more importantly, the fact that the seats recline to a near horizontal position. This has meant that traveling 10 hours through the night has been relatively pain free. So, if you are ever considering a journey through South America, do not count out the bus system.
Next stop, Argentina…Time to see if the Argentinian beef lives up to its name...