Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 1: Parque Nacional Huerquehue

NEWS FLASH!! I over slept and missed the 8:00 bus to the park and the next bus was at 1:00. That gave me plenty of time to watch reruns of Two and Half Men and some lame cop show with Mandy Patinken.
The bus to the park was a local shuttle and more than a little worn around the edges but comfy enough. The journey was about an hour and my Ipod was fully charged. This bus everyone seemed to know each other, well except for me, and the air was chatty and full of laughter. I kept the Ipod off and just listened and enjoyed the experience. It was mostly older woman who I suspect went to Pucon for supplies. To no surprise as I have seen it everywhere in Latin America was that everytime we stopped the driver put the bus in park and helped unload the supplies. What made me giggle was that each stop which was usually a remote house, someone was also there waiting...with a wheel barrow to help. I love wheel barrows.
*** Why do we always drink pepsi or some other soft drink and eat Doritos when on a road trip. Why not juice and fruit. Just a thought**

Anyways, arrived to the park at around 2 which gave me 6 solid daylight hours. I had to get to my hostel, Refugio Tinguilco which was a 20 minute walk. A hand built wooden chalet type of building in the middle of nowhere. Patricio the owner gave me a map and directions to the Lake circuit and then finished with dont do the circuit. "Go to each lake seperately and come back to the main trail." Like usual I kind of heard what he said. He also told me you can drink the stream water and since I must have had a "go fu** yourself look on my face we walked the 20 feet to the nearest stream. He put in a cup and took a big old drink. So not to be rude I pissed in the stream. Seriously, I figured why not, I use to drink the water in Algonqin so I gave it shot. Ice cold and sweet enough. Now lets see what happens to my guts in 2 days. He gave me a pat on the back and said "dinner is at 8:30", we will start without you so dont be late. More about Patricio later.

The forest was every colour of green imaginable and the trail started like always..uphill. I was still suffering a bit from yesterdays volcano climb but this pear needs to toughen up. The was was easy enough but every 10 steps I jumped out of my skin. Why you ask, what could be so scary? Gekkos. The 3 inch green little bastards just darted across the trail from every direction. No matter that you know they are there you flinch just a bit when they jump out of the grass and scamper across thier trail with thier little gekko smirks. When I slowed down, as you should do, I notice there were brown, black with red stripe and of course the green devil gekko.

If a tree falls in the forest, who gives a shit if it makes a sound. It invariably blocks the trail. This Araucaria was massive, up to my shoulders. These trees are some of the oldest in the known world usually living up to 2000 years. They also grow everywhere. You will be on a trail looking at a granite out crop and sure enough these bad boys are clinging to the rock face at 6000 feet.
Over the top I went feeling every inch of my 5 foot 7 frame being laughed at by the forest. First gekkos and now a massive tree to block my way. Hopefully I would get attacked by a puma or a flock of crazed parrots so make the story more interesting.
There were a couple of nice waterfalls along the way. What made these a little different was the water did not just drop vertically off a cliff. It ran down a rock face at about a 40 degree angle from about 100 feet.
I had the place to myself until about an hour and half in when I passed a large group of germans heading back in the opposite direction. After various Holas, buenas tardes, hola, hola, Bien dia etc etc I was again solo in the forest.

*** Weird Mental Insight #1***
Whenever I am on a trail and I pass a large group heading in the opposite direction I always and I mean always think of a specific scene from the movie Platoon. A company of soldiers are heading out of camp and into the bush. There is thunder and lightning in the forground and one of the soldiers is singing "And I'm going to Alabama with a banjo on my knee". Its a pivital scene in the movie as its the prelude to the final huge battle scene but holy crap this comes into my head EVERY FREAKING SINGLE TIME.

*** Weird Mental Insight #2***Since its out there here is another nuggent to share. Whenever I climb a smoking volcano or come across any charged, rugged and smoky landscape I think about WWI battlefields. Passchenadale, Vimy, Beaumount Hamel, Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, The Somme, any number of places.

I think someone out there with a PHD and $200 an hour would have a field day with the kaleidoscope of nueron activities going on in my head. I mean Platoon, come one!!

Now for something we are all guilty of and I have mentioned it before. I came across an old footbridge that was at the entrance to Laguna Toro. What do we all do when we are on a bridge? I stopped to look for fish. What's up with that anyways? This is trout country so a broke up some chips that I had in my pack and tossed them over. Instantly they were hit by what I could only believe were small brookies. I fed the fish from the bridge for about 20 minutes in front of Laguna Toro surround by hills of Araucaria trees with the odd volcano off in the distance and all was quiet. If I smoked dope anymore this would have been the place to fire one up. It was picture perfect...and there were fish!!

There are 3 lakes on this circuit. Poco, Verde and Toro. This is the view from the fish feeding bridge into Toro. This could pass for Northern Ontario and I had the place to myself. The water so clear that when I walked to the bank on the right I could seriously see fish swimming 30 feet out and how ever many feet down...remember I did NOT smoke that joint. I heard the odd howler monkey and squacks and screeched of the Austral Consure parrot were everywhere. Like everything else they are green with just a touch of blue but oddly easy to spot only because they dont shut up.

After a short stop at poco I found my way to the largest of the lakes, Verde. Green lake its as appropriate as it gets. I had about 2 hours of sunlight left and the trail was easy so I just parked it and sat for a while. I looked at my trusty map when I ready to leave and figured the curcuit was the way to go as it joined up with the fish bridge at Toro..and off I went.
After about 300 metres the trail got narrow and was overgrown with my buddy the bamboo. This trail was not well travelled but it was the trail none the less. Suddenly like the smack across the head that I needed I heard Patricio saying "Go to each lake then return to the main trail the same way you came. Going back to my "Remember what people say to you" theory I stopped, yelled at a few trees for laughing at me and retraced my steps back to the main trail. I was taking my own advice and the sun was shining. Now just dont fall into a pile of shit.

Walking downhill is harder on the knees then walking uphill, discuss.
I nice slow pace took me to a couple of miradors (lookouts) that gave a spectacular view of the southside of Volcan Villarrica across Lake Tinquilco. I again sat and had a "Holy crap I am in Chile" moment.
Getting back to the hostel in time for drinks I finished a couple of Astral Yaggin Darks in about 5 minutes and was ready for food.
Just a quick note, after drinking from litre bottles through 2 countries, knocking off a 375 ml, heck even holding a 375 ml seems silly. Bring on the Big Beers!!
Dinner was with Patricio, an elderly Hungarian couple Peter and Anna, a german couple Peter and Anka and a couple Americans Nina and Jack. It was good fun, lively travel conversation and stories of adventures. Patricio was a great cook and better host as he keep the good chilean wine flowing.
I was attacking San Sabastin in the morning and wanted to get up early so off to bed I went. Who knows what time it was and it really did not matter.

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