Between the volcanic sand-filled valleys, full-fledged night (yes, night) rainbows, and neon green alpine vegetation, it is hard to not imagine that you are on another planet. The moonscape of the volcanic region we were able to explore was beyond any of our expectations; it left us speechless. The powerful energy in these places is so palpable it practically verberates through your soul. As we relax and recuperate by the lake in Pucón with Volcan Villarrica in the background, we are continually thankful for being able to witness such spectacular sights.
We began this adventurous 11-day journey from Lago Lolog in Parque Nacional Lanin. Our first few days were spent soaking wet and chilled on our way to Laguna Verde. Our dry climate bodies are not used to the humid chill factor! Luckily, this hike had refugios along the way – not the El Bolson style refugios but rather small, vacant, cabin-like shelters – which provided much needed relief from the drenching climate. We spent an entire day cuddled up in our sleeping bags oscillating between napping and reading, and Trinity even made a short-lived fire from the few pieces of dry wood available. Between the attempted mice attacks and our new, yet rather silent, friend Guillermo (he arrived, looking like he fell in a lake, later in the afternoon), we were plenty entertained. The next day, the magnificent waterfall-graced-volcanic pass made the rain entirely worth it. Then, Laguna Verde greeted us with a campground full of fun. A group of five Argentinian guys invited us for an asado complete with music, Fernet, fire, and dancing, followed with mate and a wonderful 70´s remix party in the morning.
Continuing on through the park we anticipated hiking to a guardaparque office, taking a boat across Lago Epulaufquen, hiking a bit on a trail and then swimming across a small restriction in the lake to arrive at the main road going through the park; the next day we would hike on a trail traveling up the east side of Volcan Lanin to the road which we would then take to cross over into Chile. Oh, how things never go as planned. The guardaparque (noted as so on the park’s official map) turned out to be Marcelo, a single man living on his family’s land inside the park. Despite the fact that Marcelo desperately wanted to keep Shelley as his wife, his hospitality was gracious as we thoroughly enjoyed a delicious asado dinner, mattresses to sleep on, and a gorgeous horseback ride. During the horseback ride we discovered we were able to swim across a different and closer restriction in the lake (and realized that Marcelo had discreetly withheld information about the trail, possibly in order to keep us around a bit longer). We “escaped” the next day via swimming – not without garnering many bizarre looks from onlookers. Our next road-block came in the form of the actual guardaparque. After a valiant attempt at stating our cause as to why we are completely competent enough to do the hike around Lanin, we were ultimately denied due to the fact that the trail is now closed. We are becoming quite experienced with the National Park’s bureaucracy.
Luckily, we are masters at flexibiltiy these days so simply began the Chilean part of this leg, the 5-day Volcan Villarrica traverse from Puesco to Pucón, a few days early. The next three days were filled with cracked-out weather but incredible scenery: blue lakes, white lakes, marshes, volcanic rock, black ridges spotted with green, vibrant red rocks, and snow-capped volcanoes all around. Unfortunately, we saw eight dirt bikers (and their tracks) scarring this delicate and unparalleled alpine moonscape – quite upsetting. On our fourth day we were presented with very unfortunate weather conditions which led us to the choice of: do we hike above treeline all day in the windy, frigid clouds with no view or walk the 9km to thetermas (hot springs)? We chose the latter. The termas were simply divine; the natural pools, cascading waterfalls, tiki torches, and hand-carved wooden everything made us feel like we were in a tropical, jungle paradise. Oh wait, we were. The day was spent soaking in the natural hot springs, eating fantastic raspberry streusel, and being so glad that we were not hiking in the misty-rain-fog conditions.
Now in Chile, for what will be our last time, we are stocking up on peanut butter and hoping that the package I sent from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas 4 months ago will miraculously make its way here. Our friends at NOLS have made an impressive effort in trying to help get this package to me. In the meantime, we will be planning our next adventure north and still not quite believing that this is our life!
Bright as the full moon:
- making good decisions: spending rainy days inside cozy shelters or in termas, making forward progress via swimming, and saying yes to asados
- an absolutely complete night rainbow…mind-blowing. We didn’t even know they existed?!
- finding out that someone is actually more of a klutz than I am (poor Guillermo…). In our day of hiking with him he bent both his trekking poles and dropped his boots in a river!
- in the first 6 nights of our trip we only used 1 of our packed dinners! We are very economical…
- Shelley is entirely capable of having 15 husbands by the end of the year simply from her penetrating eye contact
- Rocklettes – far superior to M&Ms
- waking up to ABBA and falling asleep to Phil Collins
- attacking the mice with our trekking poles
- so much mate love! We had almost forgotten how much we love mate
- powerful theme music in the misty mountains (great hitch-hiking experience).
- finding out that the pompous parky’s name was Gaston – so fitting
- feeling entirely comfortable as the town “park bums”
- watching the faces of the post office employees as they try to decipher the mess of my package
- various dogs and cats attaching themselves to us (well, Trinity) and then us naming select favorites; we love them all but especially Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and then later the all time best, Gnarls Barkley
- continuing to beat the proposed hiking times – sometimes by more than 50%
- sleeping in until 11:30 and feeling great about it
- experiencing Mapuche foods: humitas (tamales), merquen, and mote (sweet barley drink)
- sailing on Lago Villarrica
- delicious vegetarian meals! How we miss our veggies…
- not having any noteworthy “lows”