Bitten Paws & Sledding Tours

After a handful of training runs we had our first enquiry for a one day tour. Most of the season was already booked up but the early amount of snow meant we could get started. Two Americans were the first guests of the year and they had a lovely day for it. Konrad, Inge and I took them out and apart from a few runaway sleds when they fell off and let go the tour was perfect.

I soon learnt that sleds disappearing without a person on would become a big part of the job! Several days later the first of the overnight tours began with Konrad and Inge taking a Colombian mother and son. Alex stayed at the cabin that night and I headed up there the following morning with a load of equipment. The snowmobile was fully loaded but it made easy work of taking all the kit up the mountain.

The smoking volcano from further down the mountain
The snowmobile with fuel, wood, dog food and my stuff

























I’d had a productive day and was in great spirits particularly when the tour returned and Konrad suggested I took the rested dogs for an afternoon sled ride, my first sled ride alone. Once they had all left I got the sled set up, put the harnesses on the dogs and connected the dogs to the lines. Just as I was about to set off two of the dogs began to fight. It isn’t too uncommon and we have to stop them quickly, on this occasion Tyron and Logan were not holding back but after a couple of attempts I managed to separate them. Tyron, who was losing the fight instantly bit me in the palm of my hand and even quicker realised what he had done and stopped in his tracks. Logan seized the moment and started fighting again! Eventually I got them away back in their huts along with the rest of the dogs but I wouldn’t be going dog sledding that day. If you want to see the photo of the damage, here it is. Not too bad but pretty inconvenient in the palm of the hand! It was already approaching darkness so there wasn’t much I could do except wait until the next day. Some of my more clumsy friends claim that a holiday isn’t complete without a new scar so maybe this is the one to remember from this trip. I hold nothing against Tyron for biting me, although he got a strong telling off you could see he instantly regretted it and I’d happily pack him in my suitcase and bring him back to England if it was possible!

Sunset from the cabin
Blurry photo of the moon lighting up the volcano





































The next tour was starting in just a couple of days and as it was a family of four I was asked to go along. With bandage and painkillers it wasn’t too bad and I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity of more sledding in the mountains! We were incredibly lucky with the weather, the first day on the lower ground was a little foggy but the following day we ascended up some of the volcano and had clear views in every direction. There was just the one cloud that sat atop the volcano which heeded as a bad weather warning. Luckily, we were back down the mountain and we returned to the cabin without so much as a drop of rain…this didn’t last for long as we were back up there on another tour in just a few days.

Some of the dogs on a stake out at the camp. The stake out is a chain between two trees where the dogs can be secured.
First night camping on the snow
Making our way up towards the volcano with its hat on
Looking back down the mountain, our cabin is somewhere in the lower side of that forest.
Another view from a plateau on the way up the volcano
My dog team for the tour
The dog I’m holding in this photo is Tyron, the one who bit me, but is still very much one of my favourite dogs
Merlin taking centre stage in one of my favourite photos so far
End of the tour




















































































































Another family, this time, of five arrived for an overnight tour but with torrential rain we all agreed we should sleep at the cabin rather than camp in tents. This was definitely the right decision, especially given that all three of the children spent a fair amount of the time crying. As this is my blog I can write whatever I want so I will not say that they were pathetically scared of standing on their own sled. We tried to fix this on the second day by the two youngest children riding one in Konrad’s sled and one in mine. I got the short straw with the 4-year old who still cried relentlessly for the duration of the trip. As we descended back down through the forest he should have been excited but just screamed for his mummy…I would be lying if a part of me didn’t want to drive into a tree…Another lesson I’ve learnt from being a tour guide is that the guests definitely play a big part in the enjoyment of a tour!

As I’m back to writing a month or so behind I can’t remember what happened and when but from looking at my photos it seems I spent some more time at the cabin, here are some more sunset photos to prove it.

Sun setting
Look, another sunset photo…
Last sunset photo for now I promise (the lights in the distance are from Villarrica, the nearest town to where I currently live)

I was already up at the cabin as the next tour group arrived. This was a family of four from Polynesia. A part of me expected some tribal looking characters to arrive but I slowly pieced together the information and I was right when four French arrived. I had been asked to go and make a trail the day before. This basically involves driving the snowmobile to compact the snow so the sleds go faster and the dogs don’t sink into the snow so much. As usual, I was treated to some amazing views and felt privileged to have a job that meant I had to drive a snowmobile in the mountains and on a volcano! The fog very quickly set in and I was reduced to turning around and following my tracks back to the cabin. I couldn’t see more than about 5 metres in front of me and it was a long journey back down!

Shimmering lake on my trail making day
Here’s one of the little valleys the trail went through, I had to shovel snow to cover the rocks. It isn’t all fun and games you know!
Yes, I may have posed for this photo…as you will see in a later blog post, spending long periods of time alone isn’t good for my sanity…

















































By now, Alex the Swiss volunteer had left under mutual agreement between her and Konrad and Inge so the three of us were being kept very busy. The three of us took the French on a tour and again, for the most part, we had very good weather. Without wanting to sound boring, it was more of the same amazing mountain ranges, beautiful blue skies, smoking volcano and great dog sledding.

During the tour…
On breaks, we join the sleds together which keeps the dogs from fighting with each other and also stops any of the sleds disappearing without anybody driving it!
Sun setting on the volcano. This camp site is close to the cabin so we were able to bring some of the equipment on the snowmobile. This means lighter sleds and faster sledding!
Back at the cabin with the dogs away. This is Athena, my lead dog for that particular tour.










































































In between the one or two night tours there were also several more one day trips. We had French, Americans, English, Brazilians and Chileans. I don’t have any photos from the one day tours for two reasons. One is that generally we do a standard route with them which I’ve now done on many occasions. The other is that because all of the guests are experiencing dog sledding for the first time, I’m usually too busy to stop and take photos! The next overnight tour was a mix of two Chilean women, a Chilean couple and an Australian woman. It was the first time we’d had a mix of people who didn’t know each other before but it worked well. Again, due to the abilities of some I was kept pretty busy on that trip but here are a couple of photos.

More dogs and Volcan Villarrica
By now the dogs are settled into the season and most of them take the opportunity to lie down for a rest during our breaks. At the start of the season they would be barking and trying to run continuously!
I’ve decided I’ll end my posts with a photo of a cute dog taken from around the time I’m writing about…say hello to Fortuna!


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