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Pulling an involuntary all-nighter in Pucon

I had a beer in the comfortable living room of the family at the Arrienda and went off to get my equipment for the trek the next day. I stopped off at Trancura and had a chat with the ladies there who roped in guys like me for their raft trips. One of the girls had been to the states and spoke about going to raves there. I wasn't sure what that was, but I enjoyed the conversation. Then at Sol Y Nieve I selected the boots I would use for walking in ice. These boots were stiff like ski boots and could be fitted with crampons. In addition, Sol Y Nieve provided ice picks and packs with snow pants, windbreakers, gloves, snow glasses, baseball caps, ear warmers, and gas masks, for breathing the sulfurous air at the top of the mountain. I had to buy sun cream and water and food for the trip, and turn up next morning in my polypros.

I had a meal at Hospedaje Graciela, one of Hans' recommendations, a nondescript place where a good three course meal could be had for 3000 pesos, plus 2000 for the half bottle of wine (that's where they got you). The meal was memorable: avocado a la reina (stuffed with chicken) and served with a pepper salsa, a big chunk of succulent salmon with rice and salad, and a desert of fresh peaches with whipped cream and cherry on top. I noticed from a sign out front that the Graciela was open for meals 24 hours a day.

I stayed there writing and finishing my wine till past 11 and was surprised on returning to the Arrienda to find the bar full and music blaring. I wasn't too happy to find that my quiet little atelier now resounded with the throb of overbearing base. Still, I was tired and gamely tried to sleep. But it was impossible, and it went on for hours, until finally at 2:30 the shouting and music from downstairs seemed to slack a bit. In the lull, I could hear the television. I figured maybe someone had just left it on, so I went downstairs to find the owner of the place lying on the sofa watching it. I went disgustedly back to my room and lay awake until I was startled from the edge of sleep by more music and voices. Now it was almost 4:00. I went back down and found the senora in the kitchen. Why don't people sleep here, I asked. Oh, no, she said, comidas todas las veinte quatro horas, toda la noche. I went back up a little worried about how this would affect my performance on the mountain. I decided I could at least relax my body while I could and I drifted involuntarily toward sleep again, but I was awakened again by more music before my alarm would have gone off. Some time during the night, I had already packed.

I had to be at Sol Y Nieve at 7:00. I walked over there under clear blue skies. The volcano was visible without clouds from almost anywhere in Pucon, glistening in the sunlight of the new day, a curl of smoke trailing off the snow at its peak. It would be a great day for hiking.

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Last updated: November 12, 1997