After the helter-skelter voyage down the country, we decided to put down roots for 6 days in Pucon, a small town in the Lakes region of Chile. Caught between an active volcano and a placid lake with easy access to hot springs, rapids, waterfalls and mountains it’s an idyllic spot to laze around and chill for a while.

However, we didn’t come to Chile to merely chill, so once we dumped Shakira in the hostel car park we got right on with the activities. First day was a chance to ease ourselves with a gentle horse ride to see a quiet waterfall. Of course, this presumed we wouldn’t get grumpy, ball-busting nags to carry us around and a sharp gradient hike to go with it. Horse-riding for treks is a very romantic sounding notion, but the reality for me is a rather less comfortable experience. I’m not sure I’d be up for a few days with only these solid, muscley, non-plush creatures for company. Plus, there’s no cigarette lighter to charge my notPod from. On the plus side, the waterfall was gorgeous (pics when internet speeds pick up) and it was a good way to get into the swing of the town.

The moon that had been so slivery in San Pedro de Atacama was now waxing gibbous and it brought about a certain… rabidity in the many stray dogs that patrol the town. Beyond the usual car-chasing and spring-time ‘exuberance’ that such animals are often known for, they would now stalk your every move from hostel to agency, cibercafe and restaurant. The midday sun was pretty much the only respite, these dogs might have been mangy and creepy, but they weren’t nuts. Fortunately, the 21st century Englishman comes equipped with high-factor sun cream and wide-brimmed hat, allowing him to pass more or less unharmed at this time. I say more or less, I managed to get a tiny spot of sun-burn on the underside of my nose when the sneaky UV rays bounced off the snow and outflanked my defenses.

The snow in question was that capping Volcan Villarica. This volcano emits a steady stream of sulphurous smog 20km away from Pucon. The town itself has been devasted in the past by eruptions, but Villarica’s activity has been diminished over the last two decades. In the winter a mildly competent ski resort is run on the slopes here (I say mildly, the road that takes you there is often impassable), in the spring and summer gringos swarm to the top to get their money shots of liquid magma and smoke. While it’s a steep 5 hour trek up ski slopes to get here, it is worth it for the rarity of the opportunity and the views. The trip down is far more enjoyable and involves the complicated task of sitting on your arse and sliding your way down the mountain. The previous snow-boarding trip alloewd me a lot of practice at this so needless to say, I excelled at it.