When one or two people tell us we have to do this or that, we note it and see if it fits in. By the time the sixth person told us we have to raft "the Fu" we decided to escape the heat of summer and stop off in Futaleufu to take on the world famous river. Having rafted in the States, we were prepared to take on class IV sections but we were quickly persuaded to join a group for a more intense full day trip. The 20-foot waves and class V sections gave our arms a good workout. Unforgettable!
Los Alerces National Park, Argentina was our next stop. We couldn't get much information on the park from Chile, so we crossed to Argentina to plan our route. The entire western side of the park is protected but inaccessible by foot due to all the waterways (and only scarcely by boat). The thick bamboo and thorny bushes make the forest inpenetrable for bushwacking, and the trails few and far between. In order to get off the dirt road, we diverged from our typical through-hikes and opted for an out-and-back one night trip to Lago Kruger. We never imagined a worse day than our first day in Reserva Cerro Castillo was possible. Alas, now on top of the heat and horseflies, we were bleeding from the inescapable thornes swallowing up the trail. Our various ways to deal with anger and frustration became evident- I slip into a quiet zen state and go to a happy place in my mind, Trinity reverts to a 13-year-old cheerleader "wahoo-ing" down the trail, and Sarah develops a severe case of Tourette's where she swears with every step.
Around the half-way point to Lago Kruger we found a secluded beach where we dropped pack and ran into the water to sooth our itchy wounds. No way we were doing that again! Refusing to return the way we came, we spent two nights at this pristine beach- lounging under a willow tree taking in a spectacular view of Lago Futalaufquen. We would have stayed there indefinitely had Trinity not so boldly plunged into a nearby cove and flagged down a wakeboarding boat that took us to salvation across the lake. We were back on the dusty road to hike through the rest of Los Alerces.
Although the first day was absolutely miserable, Los Alerces National Park is without a doubt stunning: most notably its 2,000 year old trees and crystalline rivers and lakes. Due to the abundance of water, we kept coming back to the same word to describe it: tranquil. We just wished we had kayaks in order to explore it more! The few existing trails skirt alongside the dirt road and were occassionally hard to follow due to the plethora of cow trails leading in all directions, so we faced the dirt plumes and took the more direct route most of the way.
We were excited about a less travelled trek between Lago Epuyén and Lago Puelo. However, on the bus to Lago Epuyén we noticed a haze in the distance. As it grew thicker we learned that a forest fire had started only hours before, directly between the two lakes and in our path. As the sun set, the red sky framed the mountain silhouttes and cars had pulled over to take pictures of the burning hillside which was started by a 20-year old pyromaniac. This was unfortunately the second human-caused forest fire we heard about this week. The first being in Torres del Paine, on the front side of the park where we did the "W". We feel an indescribable grief for Torres del Paine. It holds a special place in our hearts and we feel fortunate to have seen one of the most beautiful places on earth.
We can't help but think that maybe the lack of trails in Los Alerces and the forest fire at Lago Epuyén are signs that we should have stayed in Futaleufu and spent the summer on the water. The bungalo style jungle lodge, five-day sea kayak trip and roll classes were all very enticing...
El Bolsón feels like a hippie beach town but instead of the ocean it is set in a wide valley of jagged peaks, which were hidden behind the smoke from the forest fire the first few days. Every other day they have a vibrant market of artisan crafts and every other restaurant seems to be a microbrewery. With the relief of rebooking my ticket, I hiked up to Refugio Lindo to surprise Trinity and Sarah, but was unfortunately a day too early and we missed each other. We reunited in El Bolsón for an asado with new friends at Hostel El Bolsón. I leave them for a week on the beach in the Carribbean and they will make their way north from El Bolsón to Bariloche.
Posted by Shelley
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