Pucon, Adventure Capital of Chile

Pucon is a small town of 20,000 on the shore of a large lake surrounded by mountains and a snowy volcano (reminiscent of Mount Rainier in Seattle).  It’s an adventure tourism center with rafting, fishing, sailing, trekking/climbing, skiing, horseback riding, and hot spring hopping all close by.  We were supposed to visit in the early fall, but the Chile earthquake changed our plans and we instead visited in July which is right smack in the middle of Chile’s winter.  My high school friend Ieva from Lithuania lives in town with her husband and son.  It was great seeing Ieva after eight years (the last time I saw her was in Vilnus), and meeting her new family.  They are renting a cute house with a woodstove as heater.  Walking through town at night, we smelled the sweet scent of wood burning from all of the houses.

The day that we got in was sunny and clear, so Ieva told us that we couldn’t waste the weather and we spent most of the day walking around town followed by an asado (bbq) for dinner.  Pucon has a beautiful black sand beach which is chock full of bathers in the summer but was just us and the town dogs when we visited.  There are also blocks of adventure outfitters advertising climbs to the top of the volcano, skiing, and other excursions.  Sarah and I are crazy for skiing, so we of course had to check out Ski Pucon, the small ski area on the flank (or skirt as they call it here) of the volcano.

We rented some 1990s era skis, boots, and orange ski jumpsuits, and got a lift up the mountain in a mini-van.  We actually had a fun day on the mountain despite the fact that the terrain that was open was pretty limited.  The area has 4 lifts and a handful of t-bars/pomas, but only two lifts and two t-bars were open when we visited.  I’m not sure if that was because it wasn’t high season yet (the kids get out of school next week), or due to the fact that the top of the mountain was in and out of the clouds.  The unopened lifts looked like they accessed some pretty fun black diamond terrain, but we were content with the blue terrain from the lifts that were open.  As we were skiing, the clouds below us cleared, and we were treated to an awesome view of the lakes and towns of the area.  It was quite a treat for us to be skiing in South America on the 5th of July!

As usual though, it’s the personal connections that we cherish when travelling.  The highlight of our short visit was dinner at Ieva’s in-law’s house, eating homemade sopapillos (traditional fried bread circles dipped in salsa or cheese and jam) and drinking freshly made pisco sours and red wine from a box.  (Wine in Chile is great and cheap, and even the “Gato” from a 2 liter box for $4.50 went down well.)  They even had a boxer named George W. Bush (whom I referred to as “El Presidente” to many laughs.)  We’re leaving Pucon with fun memories of visiting Ieva, meeting her husband, son, and in-laws, and with our adventure itch scratched but also re-invigorated.

–Gabe

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