Dated: 09 Dec 18
I’m pitched on the shores of Villarrica lake in a secluded spot but essentially in the town centre. I don’t mind urban camping but it comes at a risk of being debunked by the Policia and pestered by the locals. Its worth it though because the views are sublime. Across the water rising out of the flat landscape is the volcano Villarrica. I’m in the town of Villarrica, they aren’t very imaginative with names. What I quickly realise is that this scenic secluded spot attracts a certain clientele, not drug addicts and vagabonds such as myself but young lovers. Around my tent are couples in sweet or not so sweet embraces. I attract the odd whisper followed by a giggle as I get about my chores. Its laundry day and there is the perfect rock in the water to act as my wash board.
I first spotted the volcano in the morning and some eight hours later I’m finally near-ish the base, well its still 80km to the summit. It sits at just under 3000m but despite this not so impressive height it seems ginormous in the expanse of flat land and its white summit is in contrast to the rich green vegetation of its surroundings. There is a chain of similar volcanos dotted about the region. From its top I can jut make out wisps of smoke or at least I think I can, I’ve never had the chance to visit an active volcano and I’m slight dubious, am I wishing a passing cloud to be putrid fumes from the depths of the earth or is it actually an active beast? A search engine, the destroyer of imagination, shall be used to decide if I am hallucinating or not.
The occasional dog walker totters by my campsite and one seems to have taken an interest, on his second pass he comes over. A friendly chap with a little French to match my petite française. It concludes in “mi casa es su casa” in an invitation to stay at his (I’m fully aware that that isn’t French), as I said he has very little. Now that sounds grand but I’ve literally just blown my mattress up and it is a pain in the arse to squeeze it back in the unnecessarily snug bag. So I politely decline.
A short while later he walks past with a wave and then again. But he is persistent and apparently that is all it takes to get me into a bed. Persistence. His warning of the police moving me on and the fact that in the morning I will have to decamp anyway which will involve squeezing the life out of my mattress, I decide to accept his kindly offer.
On my way through the streets a loud wailing siren breaks the tranquillity, I won’t be needing the internet to find out if it is an active volcano the eruption alarm drill is obvious enough. A short while later after my ear drums have recovered I knock on the door to a ramshackle of a building, he shows me into a small cabin in which he clearly sleeps, there are three bunks one definitely slept in. Oh joy it looks like we are bunking together like a couple of kids at a sleep over. This is not what I had in mind. But I had jumped the gun. I’m promptly shown into the main casa and introduced to his brother, who is in fact his sister, like his French his English isnt so good.
Sprung on the sister, she quickly sets about making me a cuppa and produces some bread and butter. It is a small kitchen space with an amazing steel cooker, not unlike an aga but in miniature. The flume must run up through the rooms circulating the heat. Pigeon conversations as I think of them when there is very little common tongue quickly become tremendously tedious which is why I tend to shy away from built up areas; like a hermit I sometimes shy away from people. But an atlas does provide a fantastic means of pictorial conversation and we whittle away some time by examining the pages and pointing with accompanying smiles and nods.
He is a bubbly character, often bursting into song when wondering about the house, energetic at times he seems to be on the cusp of spontaneous dancing. With a shock of white hair high up on his head, wide eyes and an infectious smile of slightly crooked teeth. He produces a children’s English book with more smiles and nodding in which Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse team up to teach English. It proves a useful tool in our conversation, that is until he starts just point and things and announcing spoon or fork in English; but always with that smile.
What do you call a male spinster who really isn’t what we would normally call a bachelor? Him and his spinster sister live together they are in their 60s with a lovely German Shepard. A bachelor, a spinster and a German Shepard sounds like the opening of a bad joke.
That night lit up in the moon light the pyramid that is the Villarrica Volcano looms in the distance its snow caped summit reflecting the moons pale silvery light. She is in fact Chile’s most active volcano having last erupted in 2015. I can’t help but be a little disappointed that in the cratered summit I cannot see the glow of the lava within.
I decide to take a closer look and seeing as I may never be in this neck of the woods again I better scale this smouldering mound. After all I’ve never climbed a volcano before and there is a chance I can tick off an item on my bucket list, seeing molten rock….lava. But its not meant to be; I’ve not even put on my crampons or swung my ice axe before the weather swoops in obliterating the peak and the trek to the crater is called off. Typical, the weather has been gleaming all week but the moment I actually need clear skies the clouds make their move. I am bitterly disappointed but will just have to come back.
To perk up my mood I am ushered on a night out and make a discovery, my new career, and there isnt a desk insight. Excellent. I get chatting to a professional surfer, living in Hawaii and touring the world year in year out sounds perfect; plus if all the women are as stunning as she it is a life I could put up with. We are chatting away and things are going well (so to speak), perhaps I will be summiting twin peaks that evening after all; as I have this thought or something similar the chap sat on her right, as if my telepathy, pauses in mid conversation, glances over with a sly smile whilst casually linking arms with the lady in question before carrying on with his story. The alpha claims his mate.