Volcanos and a guardian angel

Lagos, Araucaria, RM, Valparaiso, Coquimbo: 06. – 19.05.2010

Chile greeted us with a flat. But as quick as the air went out it was fixed again and the journey could continue. But where to go? Ahead of us just grey skies. However both north and south we saw some blue along the horizon. In Osorno we consulted the internet for the weather and it was decided: We are going south.

It was already dark as we arrived at the Lago Llanquihue. We hoped to camp right at the lake but it seems that the lakeshore is on sale. Either it was all fenced off or houses stood in our way. No more wild camping here. Somewhere our eyes threatened to fall shut we found a suitable spot. We’ve been curious what to expect in the morning since it was pitch black.

On time with the sun we got up and could witness a wonderful sunrise with a view directly towards the Volcano Osorno. Another night we spent the bottom of the Volcano at the lake Todos los Santos before we headed for Pucon.

Since we both are fans of secret paths, we decided to take a route that was marked in the map as 4x4 only. That arrives in Pucon from the back through the Parque National Villarica. After a night at the Lago Calafquen with view onto the active Volcano Villarica we headed for that road that begun as a beautiful gravel road uphill through the Forrest. That was until we stud in front of a bigger hiking trail where a sign said: “Route is impassable, you better go the next 9 km by foot!” We looked at each other and Markus hit the pedal. For sure that only is to scare off normal cars. In the next 24 hours we should learn the hard way that it also was meant for Nistos. Roots that where showing we took easily if you refrain from the shaking. However rainfall has plowed the road that much, that we had to start to fill holes with wood, to keep Nisto from tilting. At the latest here we should have turned around, but why should we if it works that well. But the further we got the bigger and more frequent the craters got. In the meantime Sonja was walking ahead of Nisto to gather wood and left the decision to Markus when a passage was ready to cross. It was better for all participants when she only looked once the self constructed bridge was successfully passed. We agreed that if something is not going well Markus would hit the horn.

Then it happened! That it sent shivers down Sonja’s spine, as she heard the horn, does not have to be mentioned extra. Markus wanted to take a wash under Nisto, but got blinded by the sun, drove a bit too far left and slipped with the right side into the wash, so we stood there with a threat full angle of tilting over. In Sonja’s head horror scenarios began to develop. But it didn’t help we had to get out of there, like that we could not spend the night.

After Markus inspected the situation from all sides, he decided to shovel a ramp and go ‘straight’ ahead. We had no clue what would happen and ultimately nothing happened except that all four wheels spun through and Nisto just tilted a bit more. Well if not forward then backward. Nisto swayed a bit left then a bit right and a few moments later he was all horizontal again. One could hear the tensions release.

That way we finally arrived on the top and thought it is all over our mood was on a high. On the way we met two Chileans who told us it is going to be better as it goes downhill. And that is how it looked like, at least in the beginning, but 10 minutes later we just where ahead of our biggest test. Grand Canyon ate his way through our road. To just take it between the wheels would not work, it was either to wide or it was too close to the side. And to fill it just with wood, well the part was about 300m long and about half a meter deep. Despair was written on our faces and it was clear today we would not make it out of here. It was already 4pm and in two hour it would get dark. While Markus started to prepare the track with the shovel, Sonja went on to check if some more of these test would be in line for us. About one and a half hours later she came back, it will be the last test and it would not be worth to turn around. Good that we have our home with us, nevertheless at dinner our mood was definitely spoiled. We tried to encourage each other that we will make it; it just needs a bit of work on the road.

At 9am the next morning we started working. While Sonja gathered wood for the new road, Markus shoveled on it or build bridges. At 1pm we had the 300m so far ready that we had a try. Together we walked the track and Markus instructed Sonja how she should guide him since at places there were no 5cm spare. At snail’s pace it went downhill. A few times we had to stop because the rear didn’t want to follow the front and threatened to slide down and the track had to be improved. Nisto groaned, screeched and moaned. He definitely seemed to have enough. No 10 m before our prepared end we got to a halt again. One of our bridges collapsed because of the front wheel so the rear would not find any hold no more. Also backing up was no option without getting into a dangerous tilting angle.

That was when Sonja heard two motocross bikes coming uphill. And on one of them rode our Guardian Angel Louis. He recognized our situation and took part in it. In no time whole trunks were moved and a new bridge was in place, he also took Sonja’s position and guided Markus over the new bridge. Under Nistos weight also the new bridge gave way and a front wheel was already airborne, but Louis just waved vigorously and three meters more, Nisto was safe and sound, horizontal on all four. Also for the last passages Louis guided us and in no time the remaining gorges and a desolate bridge with several missing beams were mastered. Thank you Louis!

 Arrived in Pucon; after all this excitement we allowed ourselves a Campground with hot showers and a day to relax. But the next adventure was just ahead of us. In Guatemala we missed the chance to climb an active volcano. A second time we would not make that mistake. So we have been seen climbing 1400 altimeters spread to only 5 kilometers partly with crampons and pick. If we torture us, then we do it right. After four hours we stud at the crater rim. The roaring from the inside of the crater is indescribable we have not heard anything similar. At times we had to take sleeves in front of mouth and nose as gases cut of the air supply. But the view into an active Volcano is indescribable. Boiling magma was spitting up in regular intervals, and extraordinary experience we won’t forget that soon. We would have liked to stay longer, but as you know when it’s at its best one should leave. And who can say he was tobogganing down an active volcano on his bum? So the way back was great fun and took us only one and a half hours.

 Since all good things are three, we wanted to approach another volcano. Therefore we chose the Volcano Llaima in the Parque National Conguillo. Unfortunately, for us it was already over at the entrance since experts are expecting an outbreak any minute. That’s why we drove a big circle around the park and enjoyed some other wonderful landscapes.

In the next week we visited Santiago de Chile and Valparaiso. On the way we still saw quite a few collapsed bridges and huge cracks in the road; reminders of the devastating earthquake from February 27th. After some short visits we went on for the Reserva National Pingüino de Humbolt. We wanted to take a boat trip to these Penguins; however we almost stumbled over a dive base. Unfortunately we didn’t bring enough cash, so Sonja was dropped off on the island while Markus dove into the cold wet. Unfortunately it was all foggy so as soon as we got back, we continued to the interior.

Over the Andes from Chile to Argentina respectively from Argentina to Chile we wanted to continue north. If the almost 5’000 meter high passes are still open at this time of year we could not figure out and our information was all but certain. So we just head on anyway; if our plan worked out and we managed to get to Argentina you can read in the next report.

Till soon

Sonja and Markus


Here it goes to the pictures…

Here it goes to the underwater pictures…

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