Thursday, 22 January 2015

Villarrica Volcano.

(next page: Altos Del Lircay -  Temuco to Santiago)

After two days of relaxing in Puerto Varas we completed our circuit of Lago Lanquihue via Ensenada and Las Cascadas.
It was a short ride for me. I only rode 67km, but Vijay rode a lot further. "Why?" I hear you ask. Well, we got separated. I'll explain how.

In the Lake District there are a lot of horseflies. If you're not familiar with them, they are giant flying beasts, sometimes bigger than bees and they LOVE to bite you. Personally I find them more of a nuisance. I haven't really noticed being bitten by them, but they really get on my nerves. As you ride they fly around you, constantly circling your head and trying to find a spot to land on. I felt like I was King Kong up the Empire State building being attacked by those planes.

So I had an entire squadron of these horseflies in my wake, so I decided to try and outcycle them. A foolish idea. Those blighters are FAST! This created quite a bit of distance between Vijay and I. At some point I thought perhaps the horseflies were attracted to my purple Paperhaus t-shirt (see photo above), so I pulled up outside a roadside mart to swap it for my dark green long sleeve icebreaker. This took me a while as I had to dig deep into my panniers to find it. While I was doing this I saw Vijay ride past. He seemed to be going slowly and I assumed he was going to pull over at the bus stop a little further on to be in the shade.

When I got back on my bike I couldn't see Vijay anywhere, he must have been way up ahead. We were a few kilometres away from Ensenada, the 50km of the journey. I hadn't eaten anything at this point and this would be the last town for nearly another 20km, so I was pretty keen to get some food. As I rode into Ensenada I kept my eye out for Vijay to see if he had stopped anywhere, but I couldn't see him, so I stopped to grab an empanada before going any further.

I decided the best bet was to ride to the next town, Las Cascadas, where I could camp, get on the internet to send Vijay a message, and wait to see if he turned up. So that's exactly what I did. I found a nice little store and sank a few "schops" (draft beer). It was a local craft beer from Valdivia - "Kunstmann". It's pretty good stuff.

A couple of hours later Vijay rolled up. He had no idea that he had overtaken me and he assumed that I had just ridden off into the distance. He was asking people if they had seen me, a few of which said yes, which is obviously not true, because I was behind him. He ended up taking a different road to Petrohue to see if I had gone up there. I think he must have ridden about 100km in total.

I felt pretty bad for him. I was just sitting there, relaxing, drinking a beer, yet he was knackered having searched everywhere for me. A cold Kunstmann sorted him right out!
One last view of Volcan Osorno.
Arcade games are really popular in Chile. Especially with older women.

Pan American Highway (Ruta 5)

After fixing my second broken spoke, we spent a night in Osorno (the town, not the volcano) then blasted up the highway about 94km to Los Lagos. A relatively dull but fast ride.

Los Lagos
Another picture perfect camp spot. No, it didn't rain!
The campsite had an excellent swimming hole with a cliff to jump off.
There were horses all over the place. This fella even stopped by my tent for a drink.

Lican Ray
From Los Lagos to Lican Ray everything was perfect: sunshine, quiet roads, fresh tarmac, beautiful views.
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Riding into Lican Ray we got our first glimpse of Volcan Villarrica.

Hiking Volcan Villarrica
I turned down the opportunity to climb Volcan Osorno at Lago Llanquihue because it was far too expensive. Just how expensive? £160!!! We met some people in Puerto Varas who had hiked up Volcan Villarrica and that cost them just £50 with a tour group. That pretty much triggered my decision to wait until Villarrica. The climbing is not technical, but the views are pretty unbelievable.

Vijay didn't want to climb the Volcano as he is not interested in hiking, so he cycled on to the next town, Temuco, where I would meet up with him.

I set off at 6am as the sun rose on the otherside of Lago Villarrica behind the volcano. It was nice to get a glimpse of what I was about to climb.
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Volcan Villarrica - 2,847 metres high.

The beginning of the trek is up mostly gravel slopes until you reach the snowline. I think normally people would take the chair lift to that point, but it was out of order that day.
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These are a few lads from my group. They were all Israelis. After doing military service most Israelis going travelling for an extended period of time. Wouldn't you want to? They follow a very strict route that very few deviate from. The only place I didn't see any Israelis was Puerto Varas. I wondered if that was because of its German heritage!
Atop Volcan Villarrica at the peak.

Looking into the eye of the beast.
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Looking over at Volcan Quetrupillan and Volcan Lanin. Argentina lies just beyond.
Feeling pretty small up there.

After four hours of hiking up this volcano the idea of hiking back down is not very appealing. Not to worry, because you don't have to! We strapped on some special trousers that acted like a sled and we slid all the way down on our butts using our ice axes as brakes. It was so much fun! On the way up you are always watching your step and occasionally checking out the view. On the way down you spend the entire time smiling, zooming down the mountain at mach ten, all the while looking out over the view. It was the best end to a fantastic day trip.

The next day I shot down to Temuco to meet up with Vijay. It was a flat 80km and only took about 4 hours to ride.

We discussed our plans which have become different in many ways. Personally, having skipped out the Carreterra Austral, I have found the cycling to be a little too easy and want to set myself some goals to make it more interesting. Also, when I get to Santiago I would like to head north on the bus so I can ride in the Atacama desert and get to Bolivia as quickly as possible. In Bolivia it will be mountainous, MUCH cheaper (which is a huge bonus), plus the roads will be dirt and more challenging to ride. Chile is a huge country and I don't want to spend all my money here then not be able to see Bolivia, Peru and possibly Ecuador.

We agreed to go our separate ways, so we spent our last evening in Temuco having a few drinks, starting at MADCHESTER! It's an amusing British themed bar. They asked us for song requests, so we pooled together our knowledge of clicheed tracks from the nineties and eighties. Britain represent! Hahaha. It's really funny to see what other people's ideas of your country are.
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Cyclist tan lines. Adieu. See you in England Vijay. Safe travels!

(next page: Altos Del Lircay -  Temuco to Santiago)

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