So I got up and rushed around to run errands before hopping on a bus from Pucon to Puerto Varas. I needed to photocopy the Bariloche, Argentina info out of the hostel’s guidebook (because I didn't have the Argentinean book - only Chile), eat breakfast, buy lunch, shop the bus companies for prices, and get a picture of the still unseen volcano Villarica.
The sun was out for the first time in days, and I saw the top of the cone of Villarica when I stepped outside. It was as clear as day - its whiteness rising upward from the earth's crust dramatically and close; my chest tingled and I shuddered at the thought that I was so close to death, not because the volcano was going to erupt - far from it considering it had last erupted in 1971, but more because I placed myself in a position where escape was nearly impossible if it did erupt. I've been in situations where death felt real, yet I always knew there was a way to get out of it and, that if I did die, then it wouldn't be from a lack of trying to stay alive. This was different. The chances of getting swallowed by lava or choked by toxic gases were slimmer than me getting hit by a bus, except the fear, as it always has been with me, isn't about the actual dying; it's about not being able to do anything about it while death swallowed me whole. The volcano was right there. There. I could point at and know that I was staring at something ominous and deceitful. I know this because my first two days in Pucon were spent photographing the conical hills to the north with the firm belief that, with all the clouds covering the entire area, at least one of these hills, with their rutted ribs where lava had clearly once flowed, was Villarica. It was shocking to see that the clouds had completely hidden the giant directly to the south, and I felt foolish for leaving my camera inside the hostel.
My errands took longer than expected. One of the bus stations was a fair distance away and it was difficult to find (as was a photocopy store), so when I had finished buying my ticket, eating breakfast, buying lunch, and photocopying the travel book, I had 15 minutes to pack. There was no time to even say goodbye to the friends I had made at Hostal Refugio, and that made me a little sad. Unfortunately that wasn't all that made me frown. My camera was ready to fire away when I stepped outside, but when I looked to the south and aimed my lens up where the volcano was supposed to be, all I saw was white, except it wasn't the snowpacked slopes. Clouds had covered the tip of the mountain once more. And while I could still see the base, which I hadn't even known existed to the south until today, no one wants to see a picture of a wide, snow-white base topped by a wider cloud-white top. The moment was ruined.
The ride to Puerto Varas was somewhat smooth. It wasn't until I got on the bus when I found out it didn't stop in town. In fact, it dropped me off at a freaking toll booth on the highway. But that turned out OK because a microbus came by a couple of minutes later and the ride into town wasn't that long anyway.