Shari Summers: Chile Diary

Jan. 25, 2006

Pucon, Chile - This past weekend I visited a city called Pucon with four Stanford friends. JJ Garton, (who plays water polo), Kathryn, Anita, and Jen. It is about ten hours south of Santiago--yes, it was one of the longest bus rides of my life. We get there early Friday morning; I went for a li'l run around the lake, which had a view of this amazing volcano. There was plenty near our hotel because this was a hotspot for tourists to visit (what with a volcano, lake, and many activities to do). This guy and I decided we wanted to go rafting -- needless to say...AMAZING TIME!! The Trancura River is in the city Pucon and was only a ten-minute bus ride away. I love extreme sports, so logically, class 4/5 rapids were the only way to go. This was right below the professional level, but hey, why not try it out? Not only were the rapids super strong and ridiculously crazy, but the view from the river was spectacular. The water was crystal clear, there was green everywhere around us, and in the distance was the volcano.

The second day of the trip I woke up super early for a 7:30 volcano climb only to find out that you needed to buy tickets in advance. Instead, my friends and I decided to visit the nearest terma (thermal bath or hot springs). When we got there, they had canopying!! So, definitely went canopying...that's where youhang off of a wire and speed down at like 70km/hr on a wire hundreds of feet above the ground. We had a beautiful view while speeding through the trees; I could see lakes and the volcano and everything. It was so much fun -- but only if you aren't afraid of heights (which one of my friends was ? whoops!). Afterwards, it was nice and relaxing to hop into the hot water.

Now for the best part of the trip: the volcano climb. So, I bought my ticket that Saturday for the Sunday morning climb, but I wanted to make sure that I had all the information. So my friend Kathryn and I spoke with a gentleman from the agency about what to expect. Now he only spoke Spanish and what we both understood was that the total trip lasted about 4-5 hours, it wouldn't be that cold, all the equipment was provided, and food and water as well (sandwiches, cereal bars, chocolate, fruit, manjar!! I was very excited for the comida)... mmm...sounded delectable!! After setting my alarm for 6:30am, the next morning, I awoke to find that it was 7:25. We were supposed to arrive by 7:10 because the group left by 7:30. I frantically ran into the other room to get up JJ and Anita, grabbed my ticket, and we all started running to the tourist agency. Upon arriving, in shorts and a t-shirt, I noticed that everyone around me was bundled up in jackets and pants. The guide then turned to me and asked whether I was going to the beach or the volcano?? I guess we weren't exactly in volcano climbing attire. So he let us run back really quickly to change into some jeans and return just in time to grab a backpack, change into some hardcore snow boots, and get onto the bus. That is when I met a very nice Canadian man and we started talking about the trip. At this point, I found out that the trip would last not 4 hours, but more like 9 hours. To climb up the volcano alone would take about 5-6 hours. Now the horrible part: I turn to the Canadian and ask whether the food was below the bus; come to find out that ya, the agent was telling me what food I should bring because food and water was NOT PROVIDED. So here we were, about to climb a volcano for 9 hours without food and without water. Not exactly the perfect scenario! But I didn't care; I had been looking forward to this for a while. When we finally arrived at the volcano, everyone was able to pay for the ski lift to take them to the beginning portion of snow. Well, surprise, surprise we didn't have any money so instead we hiked directly uphill on dirt and rocks for an extra hour. When we finally arrived at the snow portion, we put on all of our snow gear (pants, jacket, snow pic, boots, and I even had to borrow sunglasses cause I forgot mine). We climbed in the snow for 4-5 hours before reaching the top. Everyone gave us some water and snacks and took pity on us when they realized we were the only ones that had forgotten to bring food and water!

But getting to the top (and being at the top) was the most amazing experience of my life. The prettiest and the coolest view I have ever seen. There was a ginormous hole with lava at the bottom and a view of four different lakes and two other volcanoes. This was the coolest thing I have ever done. The best part was definitely the way down. We were two miles up on the volcano, which was all snow capped; to get down, we each sat on our butts and one right after the other we would start sliding down. We are zooming down and all we have is our ice pic to stop us at the end (and a guide just in case we can't stop, they don't want us to fly over the edge of the volcano and die). After 9 hours, I don't think I have ever been hungrier in my entire life. We ate a huge dinner, packed all our bags, and headed to the bus where we all passed out after such a long day!! Definitely the most amazing weekend ever!!

-- Shari Summers

Pucon, Chile

Shari Summers (second from right)


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