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January 31, 2006 – A journey to Pucon, Chile in South America

A Mountain Retreat

Felt much more relaxed when entering Pucon from the bigger busy cities. Pucon, a little mountain lake resort area in upper Patagonia in Chile, is basically a town for outdoors enthusiasts. You can hike, mountain bike, run, swim, trek, and take part in many other outdoor activities here. Didn't feel exactly like home, but pretty darn close.

Thermal bath springs also exist here, too. Rick commented that Pucon felt like Tazawako, a mountain and hot springs retreat in northern Japan. He also noted that the volcano, Volcan Villarica, looks similar to Mt. Fuji in central-eastern Japan.

Decided to do the Volcan Villarica climbing trek, which takes 7 hours to do. 7 hours sounds like a lot of hiking, but in reality, it was more like 3 hours of walking up to the top and 1 hour getting down to the bottom. The rest of the hours was a combination of prepping, transportation, lunch, and lounging around.

fuming Volcan Villarica, due for another eruption pretty soon

The climb is quite steep and you have to walk in ice and snow with an ice pick in hand. Being from Northern California and having grown up only in sunny or rainy weather, I had a hard time walking in such conditions. I couldn't count the numerous times I've slipped and slid. I'm just glad I didn't roll down the mountain.

Getting to the top of Volcan Villarica at the foot of the crater was awesome. Despite the unavoidable acidic sulphuric gases that hurt your lungs whenever you accidentally breathed them in, the surrounding views from the top of the mountain were spectactular. The spouting lava from within the crater was amazing to look at, too. I think the funnest part, though, was sliding and rowing yourself down the mountain through the snow. Bet it would've been funner with a snowboard - some actually hiked all the way to the top with one.

Also went to the thermal hot springs nearby - definitely worth the trip. I don't remember the name of the place Rick and I went to, but the place had 6 pools of varying degrees (2 outside, 4 inside) and three mud baths. Tried the mud baths. Thought it was going to be smooth volcanic mud, but it really felt like taking a dip in a grungy swamp or diarrhea. I guessed wrong. I wondered if I picked up any parasites from it.

In any case, there's really nothing like staring up at the southern hemisphere sky full of stars at night, without any surrounding city lights, while hanging out in a warm, therapeutic pool.

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