For the past week or so, we have called Pucón, Chile home. Pucón is a popular stop for Chileans, backpackers, and other tourists because it offers a buffet of adventure sports options, hiking, hot springs, and just about any kind of outdoor activity imaginable. Although this town receives some deserved criticism for being a bit too “touristy,” we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were a bit sad to leave.
Our first full day in Pucón we signed up to hike the nearby active volcano, Villarrica. Despite some early hiccups (our guides forgot our backpacks and then gave us some incomplete backup packs, one of which broke halfway up the mountain), the hike turned out to be a good time.
This hike has to be done with a guide unless you can prove that you have a membership in some mountaineering club, and as it is high season in Chile our guide company took the maximum number of people. This made for the odd sensation of feeling overcrowded while hiking up a mountain.
The hike up was easy enough. We went incredibly slowly because our guides kept the whole group together despite some pretty dramatic fitness differences. We also took the advice of some people who had already done the hike and paid for the ski lift that cut down about 20% of the hike. At the top we got some great views of the crater and the surrounding landscape. We have yet to see a disappointing landscape in Chile.
Mike’s head is still undefeated against so-called “one size fits all” headgear.
The real highlight was the descent, which involved us sledding down the side of the volcano either on small plastic discs or just sitting on the ice and sliding down. It was incredibly fun, although we don’t have any photos to prove it since we were protecting our camera in a backpack. There probably wouldn’t be much to see besides our smiling faces and flying snow.
Parque Nacional Huerquehue
There are some great hikes in the parks surrounding Pucón. We were told that two of the best were in Huerquehue. Because it was overcast when we set out we did the less impressive (and easier) of the two hikes which took us on a tour of some beautiful and secluded lakes. After the slightly claustrophobic feeling of our volcano hike, this almost deserted hike was a welcome change.
The tranquil lakes and seclusion made for a great day activity.
Now THIS was a ton of fun! We signed up for a canyoning tour through our hostel after they described this activity as “zip lining, water slides, and jumping into pools of water.” Sold! It turned out to be exactly that, which was hugely fun.
The adventure rips the band-aid right off with a 20-foot jump off of a rock into the river. Despite some initial thoughts about maybe taking the non-jumping option (being lowered down using ropes) both of us decided to jump. Unfortunately for Anna her plant foot slipped right when she jumped so she had more of a 20-foot fall than a jump (she was fine and continued smiling). Her parents always said her middle name should have been “Grace.” Mike nailed the jump, along with the other small jumps throughout our tour of the canyon.
The rest of the 3-ish hours we spent in the water was spent walking along the river, jumping into the water, sliding down natural rock water slides, and floating in the water. We loved pretty much all of it, as you can see!
Other Pucón Fun
When we weren’t running around we got to have some good old fashioned fun in our hostal (El Refugio) with a good group of other guests and the very friendly hostal staff. We stuffed our faces at two barbecues, played a few entertaining rounds of kings cup (one of which included Mike “Tebowing” which he likes so much…thanks, Anna), and went to a pizza joint to watch the US Men’s Hockey team lose to Canada. Frankly, we would have done more of the activities offered, but outdoor fun ain’t cheap in Pucón and we have a budget to stick to. So instead of whitewater rafting and/or kayaking we caught up on some reading, got some sun, played some gin rummy, and made some new friends. Not a bad trade.