I decided to save the few days we spent in Pucón for a separate post, namely because this is the place that truly managed to bowl me over with its sheer natural beauty. I count myself lucky to live in an amazingly scenic city (Cape Town), where I am daily in awe at the sun rising over the ocean and painting the impressive, sandstone faces of Table Mountain in pink as it dips its red face into the horizon. 

Pucón was a different kind of beauty though, the cold making the air crisp and clear, the snow-capped mountains standing silent and resolute everywhere I turned. I remember the moment we came over the hill to the lake pictured directly below. We had left Santiago, a bustling city, and this was the first properly scenic spot I laid my eyes on in Chile. I couldn't take it in properly at first... It was one of those truly breathless moments; my eyes and mind scrambling to connect and make sense of it all.

Mark, Brent and myself spent one of the days there scaling the local volcano - a trek recommended to us by countless other backpackers we bumped into at the place we were staying, Chili Kiwi Hostel. It sure was an incredible experience, but also the most physically challenging day of my life. I consider myself a fairly able and keen hiker, but clap on some crampons, a backpack of gear, suck out some oxygen from the air and turn the temperature down to freezing (with a sun simultaneously baking you), and each metre you manage to advance takes about ten minutes (or more), requires a break, and slowly exhausts you in a way that I cannot describe. It was with some admiration that I realised our guides did this almost every day - from sunrise to sunset. I was glad I took my camera along on this hike, a risky move, but made possible by the Black Rapid straps we had been lent for the trip. In spite of the strain this day put on my body, I would be the first to recommend it to anyone.

Did I mention that the volcano we hiked up erupted about 6 months later?