So, first up I`m glad I`m writing this shortly after my last. Thank you Grianne for pointing that out so I can clarify my stance and stay out of trouble! But yes, I was aware of the stupid debacle but thought most folk would be able to catch on to the irony and get the joke! But maybe its too early for that yet, or maybe you could get our Declan to explain it to ya (seein as he does take his intelligence from his Uncle Dee!) ;) Tell him I said congrats and to keep it up, I suspect those results may cost me when I get back!
So apologies if I may have inadvertantly offended anyone. I was meerly reflecting the tales and reasoning given to me by the guide of Santiago and they do not, in any way, reflect my own beliefs, which is why I chose to take my coffee away...
But back to this blog.
So, up to now 90% of me and Kims´ "discussions" have been based on either planning and organising (or lack of) or the stressful transistioning phase from place to place. Not good when 90% of what you are doing demands one or both of those!
But for once we were earky for our 11-ish-pm bus from Santiago to Pucon in the Chilean Lake District. Unfortunately so too was the rest of Santiago. Most Chileans either take holidays in Jan or Feb, and the bit in the middle is chaos with folk in transition. And we were in the middle of it.
Now, I managed to get a comfy seat on a bench that overlooked the terminal where our bus would come in. However, as this seat was not AT the the entire range of four gates our bus might come in, and there were a few people blocking her view, Kim was `anxious´. The clocked ticked on and our bus was 10mins late. Now, I seen busses scheduled for 9.30 leave closer to 11 and saw the traffic jam outside. Enough to know I had a window for a wee icecream before the bus came. When I came back after 15mins (incl time to check for our bus), Kim was more anxious. I thought I´d relieve this and went into the backstreets where I checked bus upon bus queing tp get in. Eventually I found ours, confirmed with the driver and returned to Kim, who was still anxious. Perhaps in hindsight coming back graven-faced saying we missed it didnt help. `If we had´ve missed that because of you stupid f***ing Icecream...´
Even arguing the logic that we had comfy seats, enough view to see the buses and I now recognise our bus wasnt working. The discussion continued until our bus pulled in shortly afterwards and up with the bags, onto the bus and on to Pucon. Cushty!
Arriving early doors I was met with a long-lost love - RAIN!!! And mist! And it was lower than 30deg! Actually way down to 15! After a comfort burger and drink we organised a trip to the National Park the next day. Again, cold and wet, we were at home trekking thru a much more familiar forest than the Amazon, with lakes, while lovely, could be at home in Scotland as Chile. Low visibility due to fog both took an element of splendour and added a measure of awe. The walk was quite easy and the regular stops at waterfalls and lunch gave us time to chat about us. Careers, (oh, by the way, congrats Mary on your new venture! Can you give Emma, Steve and Daniel my best? I´m nearly sure I txt them this blog but if not can you pass it on? Cheers m´dear!), outlooks and approaches. Really cathartic - but I´m not finding myself Jamie! Oh, and on that note -
An even bigger and massive congrats to everyone involved in all areas of my baby, the Sky Answers project, who have just delivered results way beyond expectations! Well done guys, and I believe it is coming to the end of your time Debs, thanks for all your help and a fab job. Good luck for whatever other successes you are going on to Down South. Tell Chris he can contact me if needs be as usual, just give him my e-mail tho I believe we are on LinkedIn.
Back to the story! We stopped in a little cafe for warmth while waiting for the bus and met a Swiss girl we ended up having dinner with. It turns out, stereotypes aside, she´s a watchmaker! Far from the old guy with a grey tache and little glasses perched on the edge of his nose! It was good to share stories and tips as we were going in opposite directions.
The next morning and the reason for Pucon - Linda and Del´s recommendation - Villiarica Volcano.
Mist rain and fog meant we could not see never-mind go up the 2800m moutntain before. But waiting outside the hostel for our lift, there it was. Mighty.
On arriving in town to get our gear on we were told the wind is high at the top, but usually by mid-day it dies down, meaning the smoke from the still very active volcano would stop going horizontal and go up. About 90% sure we would get to the summit and see the bubbling lava, they said. Time is now 8am.
After driving up a bit a chairlift was to take us 800m up, where we would walk the last 1000m on foot. A relic from a de-commisioned European lift, there were no safety bars and with the wind, too dangerous to use today.So walk all the way we would. Everything was going grand, apart from my impatience with the eejits who were clearly out of their depth and stopping every farts-end. Did they not know I had a rugby game to watch!?! (Wales v Eng, 6Nations opener). By 800m and lunch, I had given up on the rugby and mellowed into a more reasonable form.
The next trek was up snow as the mountain was interspersed with black volcanic rock and the white stuff. We were given a quick tuition on use of an ice pick, but due to the weather could not use the crampons - too easy to be blown over, slide and hurt someone. So up we went anyhow. Kim was not too keen on the snow, and when the wind whipped in from the side of the mountain it was easy to be blown over. But up we went.
Up we went, when, in the middle of a field of snow, the wind changed. Badly.
Instead of coming across, it changed direction to come down the mountain, taking with it ice, debris, and people. As they were falling down guides called them to use the pick to stop, but the rocks worked too.
We headed, on our feet thankfully, straight for a rocky section to get some shelter. Hunkered down, the ice storm now raged with winds well over 100mph. I sat upwind of Kim to try shelter her but after 2mins I was under 5in of ice and long-since lost feeling in my fingers. Kim managed to get my spare gloves and was quite cool. Then things got worse. With one girl mis-judging the weather and only wearing leggings, hypothermia set in and out came the silver rescue blankets.
Worry had set in at this point as there was no way a helicopter could get up, and the steepness and rocky mountainface looked not very inviting either. My only concern was getting Kim down (I am under strict orders from my Mum and the Barry and Camack clans, particularly Flo). Our guide then shouted `We have to go NOW. Every minute its gonna get worse´. Now urgency outweighed fear and I got Kim moving. For 5ft! Worse it did get, and now we were exposed and isolated.
Kim scrambled right while I went left. Some small respite but things were not looking good. As mountain rescue came to get the girl, our guide followed down. I didnt need an invitation. Collecting Kim en route I was in like Flyntt! Keeping her infront in an attempt to stop any falling rocks from above, we made steady progress. But when another guide was blown dpwn and lost his bag, Kim, as cool and confidently as you like, collects his walking poles and delivers them into his hand so he can right himself. 100mph winds and ice storms aside, I knew Kim could handle herself so I went to offer help to carry other bags.
When the rocky area finished we had to slide on our bums through the snow. I went first, but wished I hadn´t.
Although Kim could handle herself, her pathetic upper-body strength could not dig the ice pick in far enough to slow her down. She was, however, adept at the technique of heels into my back to obtain similar results.
Whilst the major danger was behind us, some 200-or-so tourists still needed to clear down the mountain. The sobering sight of mountain rescue getting people down was enough to bring it to life how hairy it was. I did wanna take a video in the thick of it, but you will understand the lack of functioning in my hands made it impossible. I tried to take an after video, but you dont get the same effect.
It was, though, an experience. One that not even the guides had seen, and one we will certainly not forget