Since arriving in Puerto Varas, Chile, a few days ago, the mammoth spectre of Volcan Osorno has been haunting me. The ancient behemoth has been hiding behind the clouds, peering out sporadically to give me some idea of his glory, before disappearing again. I’d had enough, so today I decided to go out and find the big bludger and climb all over him. Serves him right for being a big tease.
It was cold and cloudy as I made my way towards Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park on the bus, and I could catch only glimpses of Osorno out the window. Things weren’t looking good, and I feared my run of bad luck with volcanoes would continue, but I kept going. When I jumped off in the tiny village of Petrohue, there was still no sign of the volcano, but the mountains and lake were truly stunning.
I took the Paso Desolacion (“The Path of Desolation”), which winds around the base of Osarno, without reaching the summit – probably a good thing because customs confiscated my ice pick. As I began climbing higher, the swirling clouds parted for just long enough for me to make out the shape of Osorno. I’d see a flash of something white and pointy, then it would be gone. He was proud and regal, yet shy and unwilling to expose himself to me – I guess it would be similar to encountering Prince Charles in the changerooms at the polo club.
When I finally stopped for lunch after 13km of pleasantly inclined rambling, something magical happened. The clouds slipped away, the sun shone brighter, the birds sang louder (not really, because I don’t think I saw a single bird the whole time, exceptfor a fat chick taking a selfie) and then there he was in all his glory. Volcan Osarno exposed himself to me, and I saw every rock hard ridge and gleaming crevasse. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. I was so impressed that I almost dropped my empenada!
The sight of Osanrno up close is incredible, and I’m glad I was able to see the big fella both lurking in clouds and basking in sunlight, as it gave me a greater appreciation for his magnificence. Having the time to just sit there and take it all in, marvelling at the beauty of the world, and thinking about all that has happened to Osarno over thousands of years was brilliant. I really felt like I was in an incredible place, and at one with the planet.
Just then, I heard an ominous rumbling and smelled the frightening scent of burning sulpher. Osorno hasn’t been active since 1869, but I knew what it meant. I turned to run from the pending eruption, with thoughts of boiling to death in lava running through my mind, when I saw a hefty bloke standing nearby with flies dying all around him.
“Sorry,” he said as his cheeks turned red. “I must’ve had a bad completo last night.”
The only way to truly see Chile’s volcanoes is to get out there and experience them for yourself. Photos don’t do them justice, and tours don’t allow the time or the peace needed to connect wih them. You need to climb them, fall down them, get lost on them. Only then can you gain an appreciation for just how awesome they are. These massive chunks of rock are some of the most fascinating things you’ll ever see in your life – at least, I know that’s true for me. As for me and Osorno? He’s taking me out for pisco sour and dancing tonight. Wish me luck…
INFO ON FINDING THIS HIKE:
I apologise for veering dangerously close to travel blog territory here, but I had a bit of trouble trawling the internet for info on how to get to this hike, so I’ll chuck it up here for anyone having similar trouble. From Puerto Veras, buses leave hourly (or there abouts) from the stop at the corner of Del Salvador and San Francisco. They’ll say Petrohue on the front, take around 90 minutes to get there, cost 2000 pesos, probably be incredibly packed, and drop you off within spitting distance of the trackhead. From Petrohue bus stop, walk towards the lake, cross the lava river (it’s cooled down, so don’t worry), and you’re there. Enjoy your hike!