The Seven Lakes Drive to Pucon is one of the most scenic we have been on this far. We stop at each of the lakes (9 in total!) to take photos and stretch our legs. Mirror lakes and tumbling water falls keep us shutter bugs busy. By late morning the weather changes and by the time we stop for lunch it is incredibly windy outside. We decide to eat lunch inside the truck to avoid the Patagonia winds and a healthy dosing of the sand that gets blown around.
We have one more border to cross, from Argentina back to Chile, so we have a feast eating up all the fruits and vegetables which we are not allowed to take across the border. Thankfully, the problems at the southern borders have not travelled north, and we make it across to Chile without too much hassle. From what my friends tell me, the news hasn’t made it to Australia, but the southern border was closed due to protests about fuel price hikes.
We arrive in Pucon late evening. As we sit at our first Arabian restaurant in these parts and dig into hommos and pita bread, we get chatting with a British couple who had been air lifted by the Red Cross. Thankfully we had crossed a few days earlier and were not inconvenienced!
Pucon is our last stop before Santiago, the end of this trip, and almost the end of my travels. I decide it is time for a bit of pampering, before I call it quits. I have a hair cut, browse the shops and do a bit of grocery shopping.
We are staying at an Apartment Hotel, which means we have a little kitchen, living area and dining room in addition to our bedrooms and bathrooms. As I hang my washing out and put away my groceries, I am reminded of what it is like to be home on a Saturday, and am briefly stricken with feelings of nostalgia for my home in the bush and the daily routine of a normal life!
Since our accommodation comes equipped with a kitchen, Andy decides to cook us a curry for dinner. We bring our drinks and turn up for a feast and a night of socialising. We have a lovely group and everyone gets on well, so it is fun to relax in the company of friends and enjoy the night. Tomorrow, some of my friends will climb Villarica, the active volcano after which our trip is named. Villarica last blew in the 1980’s and is about 2,800m high. The top of this volcano is a glacier and the slopes are covered in snow even in summer. There are more active volcanoes in the surrounding area, making this one of the most active volcanic regions in South America. About a 1,000 years ago, a 6000m volcano in the vicinity blew its top. Today, it still stands, now a mere 2000m but an amazing testament to the immense power of nature!
I have decided to give the climb a miss. I feel that I have climbed, hiked, swum and run my way through my year away and it is time to wind down, have a bit more pampering and enjoy another slice of Europe in Chile. As we chat, someone yells that the volcano is now visible. Villarica, which had been shrouded in cloud all this time, has finally decided to show us her face. She stands majestic looking down over the town in all her glory as the sun sets. Tomorrow, my friends will make their ascent on Villarica. Today, we drink a toast to another natural wonder and hope for fair weather for our climbers.
By the time I wake up to cook bacon and eggs, my friends are already on their way up the mountain. It is a glorious day and I am happy they have the opportunity to climb in such good weather. For me, it is a perfect day for more pampering and wandering. I have to look after the body, which has stood me in such good stead during a year of abuse! I walk to the lake, browse the markets and take more photos before I go in search of a day spa! My friends come back in the early hours of the evening, tired but exhilarated from their achievement. We have decided to spend the day in the hot springs close by. They need to soak their weary limbs..and I …well, after a year of wandering, my muscles need a bit of relaxing too.
We drive through the surrounding countryside which is absolutely beautiful, to soak in the springs and have my final bit of pampering – a South American massage. For me, it has been a wonderful, relaxing day and I have finally learnt am important lesson - I don’t have to push myself to climb every mountain!