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I had great expectations when I crossed the border from Argentina to Chile.  I read so much about Torres del Paine.  When I first saw it, I knew it was as amazing as I imagined it.  Unfortunately crowded with tourists, but who can blame them?  It was mountain scenery like I never saw before, with vertical rocks rising 1km up.  I was lucky to get a good sunrise on those enormous towers of rock, when they changed color from red, gold to yellow, 36 photos in 1 hour proves it was I think the best view during the whole 10 months trip.  It took me 13 days to walk around the mountains, and every day was filled with amazing mountain scenery.  Glaciers filling whole valleys come down from Patagonian Ice Field, turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and wind-shaped walls of rock rising straight up.  On my last day there someone was cooking in v. strong winds (I had to pack my tent 4am because I thought I was going to fly away with it) and started a fire which consumed huge parts of the National Park and when the wind stopped the smoke spread everywhere and obscured the views, so I had to leave it.  I spent 13 days there anyway. Next I went to Argentina for a week.

Again I crossed the border to Chile, but quite unusual crossing.  First 15km walk along a beautiful green lake surrounded by steep mountains with glaciers, than another 2h to the border - Welcome to Chile sign in the middle of nowhere.  4 hours more down to one of the biggest lakes in Patagonia and there a boat ride across, 3h with fantastic views.  A short ride and I was in Villa O'Higgins, 500 people living where the unpaved road ends.  Next bus in 6 days!  Fortunately a lovely Chilean couple gave us a lift to a bigger town with a supermarket that sold everything from food to stoves and boat engines.

Next stop - Cerro Castillo.  I got off the bus, went walking, than pitched my tent and realized something was missing.  My camera!  I left it on the bus.  I had to pack and hitchhike 100km to where the bus was going.  Looked for the station, then they took me to the depot and there I found it, I had more luck than brains for sure!  I went trekking again but it rained so much I had to go back.  Again luck: a 4x4 was going past and gave me a lift, only than I saw what was waiting for me.  Every little stream turned into a river, and the river was totally out of control.  But Toyota just went through, water not far from the windows but it was unstoppable.  After this few more wet rainy places, as this side of the mountains gets all the rain in Patagonia.  The silver lining was meeting a bunch of great people, it was worth going there just to have friends like them.

The next trek was one of the best, 2 day walk to a hot spring and geysers, old lava flows and desert volcanic landscape.  Again I met great people.  The highlight was sitting in this totally natural hot spring until the night.  It was raining, 5°C, no wonder we couldn't get out of there until hunger forced us out.  It was total darkness when we run to our tents.  On the way back I took a detour to the top of a volcano, watched the sunset and run down like crazy 1km down to refugio.

Then we went with 1 friend to a seaside town of Valdivia, ate a lot of fish and stayed in the most unfriendly hospedaje.  We were watching TV in the morning when this old woman walked in, switched it off and said its check out time!  So we switched it back on, and she again off and started doing the beds saying new guests were waiting, but there was nobody.  And then they said we couldn't leave our bags there for a few hours!

From Valdivia I went to Pucon under the smoking snowy cone of volcano Villarrica.  I went trekking of course and I had 2 great days.  Only problem was water, even the permanent stream (according to Lonely Planet) was dry so I walked until the dark listening to my MP3.  And nothing!  Then I switched off the music and I heard water, it was only 20m away, hurrrrraaaaa!  The next day it rained, then snowed.  After 5 days I had to cut my trek short and descend to the valley, low clouds and snow made it difficult to find the way.  Back in Pucon I run into friends I met before,  so I joined them and it was exactly what I needed, a place like home with friendly people.  We hired a car to visit nearby lakes, and after they left I went rafting on the Trancura river, graded 4+.  In places the raft desappeard under water, and at one point we had to get out and jump down the waterfall.  It's great fun!

My last Chilean adventure was climbing active volcano Villarrica.  Most people coming to Pucon climb it, so I decided to give it a miss.  Then I changed my mind, but unfortunately it has become very active and they closed it. FORBIDDEN!  Prohibido!  When I heard this I decided to definitely do it.  I left 1.45am and walked all the way from Pucon to the crater in 9h!  Almost 3km ascent.  I new if someone sees me they will not let me enter without a guide, and guides can not go to the crater, so I had to go by night.  Bloody dogs were making so much noise everyone new about me.  On the way, one guy run out with a huge torch, another set off fireworks!!!  or something that made a lot of noise, at first I thought I was being shot at!  After that, I saw a big explosion when fire shot up from the crater, scary.

Anyway, I got past all real and imaginary checkpoints, watched the sunrise, put crampons (and pampers) on and started the last climb.  Volcano was angry, making threatening noises from time to time, and one really big with a lot of smoke.  I got to the rim of the crater.  It was covered with ash and stones, reminding me next time something hot may land on my head.  I put on the mask I and took photos.  It was so scary, it shook and made noise like thunder but very close, gases escaping, stones flying but far enough not to hit me.  It was normal I think, but the fact I was there alone and I just didn't know what it was going to do next.  I went up to the left to see inside the red hole, 1 photo.  I didn't want to push my luck so I run down as fast as I could.  All happy walked down sipping pisco sour to keep tiredness away, there was a reason to celebrate.  Got down to the forest, but what a difference from when I saw it last 2 weeks ago!  Now it was full of colors, red, orange, yellow, I've been waiting to see lenga forest in full glory for months.  Perfect day, total satisfaction, and finally I was ready to say good bye to Pucon and Chile.  photos