After Christmas in San Martin we took the bus to Pucon in Chile. The regions most famous attraction is doubtless the volcano Villarica and our plan was to hike this perfectly shaped mountain. When we arrived the weather was just great and we decided to do the hike on the following day in order to use the perfect conditions. So we went straight to one of the many tour operator offices and booked us in.
The next day started early for us, when we got our volcano climbing gear and were driven into the volcano surrounding national park up to 1400 m of altitude. The top of the volcano was located at 2800 m which would require to climb about 1400 m in total height. From the head of the trail we had the option to take the lift to cover the first 400 m of altitude or do it the old fashioned way by foot.
There was no question for us we would walk instead of letting us lift up the first steep section. At this point the mayority of our group took the lift and we were left with only a handful strongly motivated others who were willing to challenge the volcano without short cuts. Up to 2000m we made our way up through loose volcano ash and gravel. From there we started into the beautiful snow covered area around the summit. Thanks to our vast hiking adventures down in Patagonia we both were in great shape.
On our way up we constantly passed much slower groups and I kept our guide motivated when I asked him several times if we could go a bit faster. 😉 However we were really lucky with our group as everybody seemed to keep up with the speed. After 4 hours we finally reached the smoking top and enjoyed our well deserved lunch. In front of us was the huge smoky crater and behind us the stunning view into the surrounding landscape with lakes and other snow covered volcanos in Chile and Argentina. Unfortunately there was a bit too much smoke to see completely down into the crater, but it was still stunning. The average duration for the hike up is actually 5 to 6 hours. We reached the top before the groups which had taken the lift in only 4 hours.
The way down was not less fun, as we more or less slided down the snowy slopes for 1,5 hours on our buttom. It was fast like hell in some sections and we were all totally wet at the bottom but it was so worth it!
The next day we treated ourselfs to rest and recover with a picknick in the park and walked around town to see the volcanic sand beach and try some local ‚German‘ chocolate. It was better than other chocolate we have tried so far in South America, but still a bit too sweet.
From Pucon we left to Talca, which is around 7 hours north to celebrate New Years! While Pucon was more resort style, Talca was refreshingly down to earth and our B&B a great treat.
Consisting out of a couple of wooden huts around a lovely garden it was cosy, perfectly well maintained and quiet. The three older ladies who were running the place really made us feel at home and created a „I am on visit at my auntie’s garden“ atmosphere. As almost everything was closed for New Years Eve, we decided to stay at home for the night’s celebration. With fresh fruits and food from the supermarket we created our own buffet and used the 4 hours we were behind Germany to skype with our loved ones.
For New Year’s day Talca was still shut down. The friendly lady at the reception told us that almost the complete town was down at the beach, which was 3 hours away by bus. Without saying a word to each other we knew in the super sunny New Years morning that we would not go anywhere that day. It was just too perfect. Sitting on our little terrace on the sofa, shaded from the trees, surrounded by the beautiful garden and refreshingly cooled by a light brise.
For the next day we had already a bus which would bring us to Santiago in the evening. This left us enough time to visit the surrounded wine region. Our first vineyard we visited was Balduzzi in San Javier just 30 minutes by bus from Talca. It turned out we were a bit too early for the tour in the afternoon, so we started to explore San Javier first. After a hearty Chilenean cazuela this time (which was a soup of beef and veggies) at the market area, we hired a friendly taxi driver to bring us to another vineyard called Gillmore.
It turned out that he was also very well educated about wine and wineries around. Besides the very tasty Rosé we tried during our obligatory tasting, the vineyard itself was picturesque almost like an antique hacienda. It is also a very famous wedding location for Chilenean people
Back at Balduzzi we had one of the most privat wine tours and tastings during our entire travel. With just another couple from Switzerland the grand son of the vineyard founder Senior Baluzzi showed us around. We tried more than 8 tasty wines, although the tasting was actually limited to 4 wines and chatted in relaxed atmosphere for more than 1,5 hours. Somehow it felt more like visiting a good friend instead of being on a wine tasting. With a bottle of Balduzzi’s Sauvignon Blanc Grand Reserva we left more than happy and caught our bus to Santiago.