Summit, don’t plummet.

A plethora of exciting things have happened since my last blog post (my 21st birthday, for example!), but today I would much prefer to blog about my past weekend, which I spent in Pucón with my fellow CIEE students. 545 miles south of Valparaíso, Pucón is described by Lonely Planet as “boasting the best small-town tourism infrastructure south of Costa Rica.” While I definitely could extract some similarities between my time spent in Pucón and that in Monteverde and La Fortuna, Costa Rica, my first thought upon the sun rising (we took an overnight bus) was that I could definitely be back home in Nashville. There was just so much green! Being by the beach and so close to a city as colorful as Valparaíso is wonderful, but getting to escape to nature for a while was brilliant.

We got in at about 10 am, so we dropped our luggage at the hotel we stayed at, a collection of cozy little cabaña houses, and had some breakfast. Though we were all feeling a little drowsy from the semi-sleep that the twelve hour bus ride allowed, we headed straight for Cuarrehue, a Mapuche community that took us in for the day to teach us about their traditions, their fight for equality and autonomy, and their world view – “respeto por todo lo que existe” (“respect for all that which exisits”). They fed us a delicious lunch, which we ate around an indoor fire pit, and listened to one of the Mapuche men play music.

After lunch, we all split up to head to one of four workshops. I chose a textiling workshop during which I learned how to make yarn and work a loom! Since I love crocheting and knitting, it was incredible to see the process that makes their medium.

After our workshops, we learned to play a Mapuche game that is basically field hockey with a big rock instead of a puck and then we ate sopaipillas with the most amazing carrot/basil sauce that the cooking workshop had whipped up earlier that day.

That evening, everyone in my cabaña was pretty beat, so my friend Helen made a couple batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and my other friend Dana made mulled wine. A few other friends came over and we ate and drank and had a few Beatles and Disney sing-a-longs before hitting the hay.

Getting a good night’s sleep was imperative, because the following morning I woke up at 6:00 am. Why? Because, dear reader, on Saturday April 2, I summitted  a 9,341 foot volcano. An active volcano.

Climbing this beast that answers to the name of Volcán Villarica was the most strenuous activity I have ever done. There was the option to take a ski-lift up the bottom part of the volcano, which I opted out of mostly due to pride. I climbed that entire volcano, from the base to the upper part, which is covered in 40 squared kilometers of glaciers. For the glaciated part, we attached crampons to our boots. I felt really hardcore. Probably because I was.

The summit of the volcano was probably my least favorite part. Although I was overcome by the sense of achievement and the view was breathtaking, the sulfuric fumes issuing from the crater also took my breath away…literally. I was wearing a ski mask and had a bandana tied around my face, and my throat still burned. But it was so worth it. All in all, the ascent took five hours and the descent about two and a half.

That night, though exhausted, my friend Marc and I decided to initiate a jam sesh, him on the banjo and I on the harmonica (which I was gifted by my friend Evan for my birthday and am slowly but surely learning how to play). There ended up being about eight of us, all sitting around singing along with the instrumentation. But only in the key of C, because I have a C harmonica. Fun fact: Marc and I have decided to start a band, called the Key of Sí. It is going to be big, get ready.

Sunday morning we got to get up a little later than the previous day, thankfully. We began our day by going on a tour of the area… Pucón continued to be gorgeous, as if that was a surprise. The macro setting on my camera got quite a workout!

We proceeded from our tour to some nearby hot springs, which, after almost eight hours spent on a volcano the previous day, felt like liquid gold. My muscles basically melted away. It was glorious!

Our day ended with dinner and laughter, and then we boarded our long overnight bus back home. Definitely a weekend for the books.

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9 Responses to Summit, don’t plummet.

  1. Susanne says:

    all I can say is…WOW!!!

  2. Kristen Miller says:

    Natalie,
    All your pictures are SO epic!! I especially like the ones where you look like a bandit on top of the mountain haha. miss you lots!!

  3. Hannah says:

    You bring me home some Chilean yarn and I’ll bring you some Irish wool and we’ll snuggle in our suite and knit scarves together. Sound like a plan? 🙂

  4. aubreybean says:

    your photoooos!!!! so amazing! also, I’m really excited for key of sí =)

  5. 'Melia says:

    The photo of the rift in the ice is breathtaking (like all of them), and those blackberries are making me hungry! I love how your photography actually captures what it was REALLY like; they leave standard snapshots that don’t have any feeling in the dust.

  6. Grandma Jean says:

    What a fantastico adventure you are having! Love your bl0gs, darlin’…

  7. Liesel! says:

    I can’t believe you summitted an active volcano, Natalie!! That is absolutely amazing! I’m loving your blog so much, and I’m so glad that you are having a fantastic time! Love you!!! Update from the homeland: I’ll be working in Nashville this summer 🙂

  8. Matt says:

    Natalie! I love reading your blogs 🙂
    AND I loooooove your photos! I think you need to teach me some of your tricks. I also know that you are harboring many more pictures that haven’t been posted on here or facebook. It would be great to sit down with you, chat, and look through some. Yes?
    Oh and lets go take photos together!
    Great, its a date.
    ~Matt

  9. Marion says:

    I can’t say it any other way I’m envious of your yarn workshop!

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