How do you climb the Villarrica volcano? The answer is: one step at a time, with instruction from professional guides who showed us how to use our ice picks to support our steady advance up the wet snow trail. The way up requires good knees, as well as a significant amount of sweat and patience, although no technical knowledge. At the summit, the volcano decides how long you get to stay – in our case, we had only just changed into our windproof gear before a cloud engulfed the view, and the wind began to send noxious gases our way. Our guides rounded us up and started us on our exhilarating descent, swiftly gliding on small plastic sleds down a snowy trail almost all the way to the bottom. After all our efforts to reach the top we would have liked to linger, but nature spoke, and this time we really had to listen.
Next up: Crunch time
Max is not just our van driver – he’s a knowledgeable environmentalist, an organic gardener, a seasoned ecotourism guide, and he’s also our friend. Although the group of students changes each year, Max welcomes us as if we were old friends, even those of us getting to know him for the first time. On every step of our journey in Pucon, Max has been there to provide guidance, support and insight into life, ecosystems and culture in this corner of Chile. One piece of Max wisdom is that you can achieve great things through love, caring and respect, and that learning to value one’s environment starts with respecting the people immediately around you. Our dinner as a group was a celebration of the ongoing friendship that has become a valuable part of our students’ Chile experience year after year. Salud!
Next up: Volcano Climb
Los Ojos de Caburgua, or the Eyes of Lake Caburgua, are pools of water that form along the path of a river that appears to emerge from nowhere – nowhere, in this case, is actually an underground river that connects the series of turquoise pools, streams and waterfalls to their source, Caburgua Lake. The pathway alongside the “eyes” winds through native forest and up natural steps of tangled roots to various lookout points where we can capture the white-foam waterfalls with our cameras. But the photos are only a flat representation of a truly beautiful place which people will be able to enjoy for many years to come, thanks to interest from national and international tourists. We have made our contribution by paying a visit, thus showing the world that, in our opinion, Chile’s natural wonders are worth preserving.
Our two-night stay at Corral del Agua ranch was a welcome break from technology, with no internet access or cell phone service, and it was a chance to rediscover our more carefree selves in nature. Our activities included hiking to a nearby waterfall, sharing laughter and music around the fire pit, and riding horses through a field bordered by forest and grazing cows. At Corral del Agua, we focused on one of the important concepts of the Introduction to Human Ecology course; to want to preserve nature, it is important to care about it, and one of the best ways to learn to care about nature is through direct contact. So even relaxing, when we’re outdoors, is part of our learning and part of the work we traveled so far to do.
Next up: working on research project and visiting Ojos de Carburgua park.