Snow days. Those blissful 24 hours that children are given when layers of white powder give way to closed school gates and impassable roads. Being from the UK, these were rare but we've all had them. The excitement of diving out of beds at first light desperate to see the ground covered by more than frost. Hastily tuning in to community radio (the only time that Radio One was given the brush-off), praying to hear your school listed amongst those that would not be teaching today.
We do not come from a country that spends its winter months unable to see what lies beneath the snow; we are still fascinated by it. Deep inside, we're still the kids that would prefer to spend the day building snow men and going sledging, throwing snowballs until we can no longer feel our fingers.
We didn't think that we would get to experience this on our Latin American adventure, but then we didn't plan on going this far south.
As the cold, bleak days in Santiago gave way to spring and sunshine, we chose instead to return to Chile's winter and venture towards Patagonia. To Pucon and the remarkable Huerquehue National Park.
How to get to Huerquehue National Park
Buses leave the local terminal (in the centre of town, next to the JAC bus station) at 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is 3600 pesos per person for a return journey and it should take around an hour each way.
The only buses back to Pucón leave at 2.10 p.m. and 5.10 p.m. from the park entrance.
Unfortunately, these return buses are not ideally scheduled for average hiking times. To make the 2.10 departure, you'd have to jog up and down the trails to make it back in time, whilst the 5.10 inevitably means hanging around in potentially chilly conditions (bring a book).
We did the one-day lakes trail, however there are a variety of single and multi-day trails within the National Park, depending on the season. Camping facilities are available.
Entry fees depend on the season - low season entry for a foreigner costs 2,500 pesos, in high season this increases to 5,000.
We were lucky to see the park under the cover of snow (we hiked in early October) but it would still be a beautiful, and cheap, activity from Pucón throughout the year. If hiking in the winter, ask in advance at your hostel about conditions and to ensure the park is open. We hiked in waterproof trek shoes and wore several layers; make sure you're adequately prepared for the weather conditions. There are limited options for snacks or food within the National Park, especially in the winter months, so bring your lunch along.
Thanks to Chili Kiwi Hostel for recommending this great hike!