Hiked up Villarrica Volcano (& realized how out of shape I am)
I took an 11 hour overnight bus from Santiago to Pucon, the country's activity capital. It's a bit too touristy for my liking and expensive but I still wanted to head here for a few days to do a few cool things before continuing to head down south. The number one thing that everyone does in hike up to the top of the Villarrica Volcano.
You can only do the hike on nice sunny days and when I got in, the next day, Sunday 1/15, was the last sunny day for the next 4 or so days. The tour that went through the hostel was booked out so me and 2 other people went into town and did it with another agency, but $5,000 CLP more expensive.
The night before, we had an equipment fitting to get out shoes (which were horrible and I forgot to bring socks so I was just stuck with whatever fit), pants, jackets, gloves, etc. We met up the next morning at 6am and started our trek at around 8am (not entirely sure, just an estimate). The first part of the hike is said to be the hardest so they actually offer a ski lift that will make you past that part and a lot of people actually took it. It costed $10,000 CLP so I didn't take to take it and didn't think I would need to.
First problem were my shoes. They were so bulking and hard and didn't fit on my feet properly so they just hurt in every spot of my feet. I ended up hiking in just my socks for the first part until we hit the snow because the seconds of pain walking on rocks and gravel didn't hurt as much as a constant beating on my feet. Let's just say I'm pretty badass (;
I was pretty active back at home, hiking and working out regularly so I was in pretty good shape. I've been gone for about 4 months and haven't been doing much physical activity but I thought that since I'm young I shouldn't be that out of shape after just 4 months. But oh boy, was I wrong... I was struggling real hard going up the first half. I was walking up pretty slow and panting the entire time. I was so shocked at how much of a pain it was for it. I was actually pretty upset because it wasn't that difficult of a hike and I have definitely done harder ones and have never struggled this much. I might have to reconsider doing the full O circuit in Patagonia for 8 days.
The second half was a lot easier so maybe my body wasn't used to the physical activity and once we got going it got a lot better. That's what I'm hoping for at least... The entire trek going up took about 4.5 hours to get to the very top of the volcano. 70% of it was through snow so there were a few close calls with slipping on ice and and snow. Some parts we had to also walk on sharp lava rocks. It was an incline the entire way up without any shade so that definitely made the hike difficult because many hikes I've done have some flat parts but then was just straight up for 4.5 hours. We were geared up with helmets, gloves, heavy duty boots, sunglasses, and an ice pick. We were also carrying a good amount of gear with us and my backpack didn't have a hip or chest strap so my shoulders were definitely feeling the pain.
We had a gas mask to wear at the top because the air was pretty tonic and hard to breathe in. It was the first time I ever saw the top of an active volcano and we even saw a little lava burp come out so that was super cool. The best part was the way down because...
WE SLID DOWN ON THE SNOW
I did this in Alaska but on a whim so just with no protection and our butts but it was so much fun. For this trip they got us well prepared with waterproof jackets, pants, butt protection thing, leg warmers to prevent snow from getting into our shoes, an extra pair of gloves and a plastic sled. This was the real deal compared to what we did in Alaska. It was sooo much fun! We used our pick so control our speed but I didn't really use it while the girl I kept getting stuck behind was super hesitant and went really slow so I ran into her twice. Totally not my fault...
We lucked out and it was a gorgeous day - blue skies, warm weather, no wind. The entire trip took about 6 - 6.5 hours and costed $120 USD, which is pretty expensive but when will have get another chance to hike a volcano. It's the #1 tourist attraction in Pucon.