Gray ash squirmed under each racing step. The wind pushed my hat forward, like a donkey after a carrot I sprinted forward. Over the howl of the wind I heard Zach scream, ‘’drop the bag’’, mid stride I wiggled free of my over weight day pack.
Only a few days prior, the crafty wind captured my beloved Machupichu hat and sent it flying into Lake Laja. Heartbroken, Zach and I stood on the shore throwing rocks at the floating hat and cursing it for stealing my heart only to run off with another. As we cursed, Ben a warm blooded English lad, undressed down to his action figure clad briefs and walked into the frigid water. My hero emerged discolored and shaking uncontrollably while the wind hissed with disgust.
The thought of letting Ben down drove me forward, I sprinted up the mountain of ash. I ran with all my heart and in one last ditch effort dove forward recapturing my sole hat.
At the crest of the barren ash deposit I stopped to catch my breath. I looked up only to be blitzed by a panoramic of; Volcanoes, lava fields, distant snow capped peaks, lush Monkey Puzzle Tree forests and wind whipped Gypsies.
We hiked on through the moonscape created twenty-two years and six days prior when Parque Nacional Malalcahuello was disturbed by a violent eruption. Volcano Lonquimay rocketed debree into the sky, lava ozzed out the side of the volcano while ash rained down on the surrounding country side.
The flow of lava swept across the forest disintegrating everything in its path, now two decades later all that remains is desolate rock. We sat on the summit of the Navidad Crater sucking in sulphurous fumes leaking from the earth, eating lunch while admiring the views of red lava rock ricocheting off green mountain slopes leading to white peaks. A single puddle of blue graced the vast vista as we snacked on crackers and chocolate.
Tired, full of snacks and sulphur we slipped and slid down the ashy volcano. Giggling we played in the patches of snow and ran like Zombies down the steep ash banks. Zach, Mike and I discussed the possibilities of snowboarding the volcano and pondered why the three chair lifts only went a third of the way up.
Happy and high on life we drove out of the park. Monkey Puzzle Trees faded into hardwood forest as we passed snowboard and ski rental shop and a pizza bar. The road descended from the forest to a vast valley sprinkled with groves of vibrant Luppins.
Since that day The Gypsy Train has been hiking a great deal. We are slowly leading up to long overnight adventures in the wilderness of Patagonia. We are getting stronger, smarter and more excited for bigger endeavours.