Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 2: Parque Nacional Huerquehue

I just woke up from a post trek nap and I am shattered. 3 long treks in 3 days (there is the number 3 again) and thats it, no more. Its time to rest, east steak and drink red wine by the litre for a while. Last night a nagging cold, a hot shower, a decent hike and a great meal put me down for 10 hours. It was another stunning day here in the Lake District of Chile. After so many rain days in Central America Mother Nature has given me clear skys again. She sure knows how to keep things balanced.

Today however standing before me was San Sebastian. An 1800 metre mean looking tree covered monster jutting up into the clear blue with just enough snow near the top to let me know who is really in charge. I gave my thanks to Pachamama for allowing me to be on the trail, snapped on my pack and and off I went. The picture to the left is when I reached th Pampas which opened up and gave head splitting 360 degree views of the surrounding area. It was also the staging area for Sebastian. As you can see the trails are well marked but you still need to take caution. When taking a picture dont walk backwards. STOP and take the photo. If you need something from your pack STOP and get it. Tie up your shoes with double laces, look at the trail when your walking, if you want to enjoy the view, STOP and enjoy the view. Dont walk backwards for whatever reason and remember to walk slowly. There is no prize for getting there fast or first so take it all in and enjoy the moment.

Right from the get go the trail was loud with parrots, noisy ass sqacking parrots. When you first encounter them you get the camera out and go to town. They are easy to spot because they are so loud and if you move cautiously they dont take off in a fit of parrot panic. These are Canchana or Austral Conure and are very common in the area. I went all japonese with my camera for about 30 minutes then moved along. I had a long day ahead of me.  Now I would be lying if I said that after 30 minutes the joy of parrotdome still existed. I found myself yelling just to scare them and move them along. However that just added to the problem when 20 or 30 of them took off in a fit at the same screaming time. Thankfully they are lowland and me acting like a freaking trail blazing lunatic came to an end shortly there after. I think Pachamana was testing me.

I have learned to love walking sticks and will purchase some proper ones the next time I find a decent travel shop. They apparently take 30% of the stress of your knees so compound that over a day. I am finding that after a long day my knees are crushed but when I use a piece of bamboo or make my own sticks the pain does not exist so maybe its valid however a hot thermal usually takes eases the aches.
Down the trail I go and another test from Pachamama. I was taking one of many water breaks when slithering maybe 5 feet in front of me was a brown and green 2 foot snake. She was a beaut (In my best Steve Irwin voice). Rule with snakes, they always have the right of way..ALWAYS. I found out later it was not venemous but whatever.
After about 3 hours on the trail I reached the split. One way up to San Sebastian the other looped back around nice and safe.

Taking the Yellow Brick trail, clearing the forest I then wandering into the large open aired pampas I mentioned earlier. The views were ridiculous. The snow covered granite peaks of Sebastian to my left, Villarrrica to my right, in between 2 more snow covered volcanoes and behind me in the deep valley was Laguna Verde. Time to sit for a while.
It was blazing hot gaving me the chance to dry my sweaty ass shirt and daypack. When I removed the shirt I am sure I heard a parrot squacking. It was windy and hot enough that the shirt and pack were dry in 20 minutes.
A litre of water, an apple and a gatorade later it was time to attack the trail. I did have to keep alert as just after the pampas the right hand side of the trail opened up into a huge "trip the wrong way and fall to your death" canyon. A bit of an exaggeration (mom is reading this) but you needed your game face.
The trail became a bit steep and wet thanks to the snow that was melting. For those that do not know I have developed a bit of a fear of hights as I have gotten older. Not screaming in an elevator fear but I get crazy enough vertigo that my shoulders tense and I have frozen on the trail before (Inca Trail to Machu Picchu).  I am not paralized with fear and do know my limits and stop when I need to but I have showed signs of improvement. I found some great photo ops and the araucaria trees just blow me away.
When I came to one area where the trail rose steep enough for me to consider stopping and I actually took about 10 steps back down the trail. I stopped, drank some water and challanged the fear I was feeling. It was not dangerous so I turned around and just had to Give er! Thiry seconds later I was up over the hump and the trail levelled out. A simple victory but its the accumulation of these simple victorys the rule the day.

My new found energy and courage were soon put a new test. I had met my nemesis yet again, SNOW. This time however the trail was steep (the picture does not do it any justice). It was doable as one couple from the hostel did it (out of about 10 people), but they were 70 year old Hungarians who really knew no fear. On a side note we drank wine later in the night and they told me about the 1956 revolution in Budapest. They were just 10 but they were firing rifles at Russian tanks. Tougher than I will EVER be, even on my best day x 10.
I thought a few times, tested and the just gave in. BAH. I was spent. This was my third hard trek in three days and my legs were feeling it. If a matter of life and death, sure I would have pulled it off but there was still the matter of the 4 hour downhill trek back to camp. I retraced my steps to the canyon and found a nice resting place with my Chilean volcano views high above the pampas. I was having another "if I only smoked dope" moments when an eagle soared by...30 below me. Brilliant!

I can not put into words how exhilerating dinner was that night. I was sitting with Patricio Lanfranco Leverton our host. I learn through the evening was a student leader against Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet during the Chilean Dictator years. (google search this guy, pretty impressive stuff). Then there was Peter and Anna who fought in the Hungarian revoltion as children in 1956. Patricio was always open to talk about the days and told story after story eloquently and with great enthusiasm. Then Peter and Anna opened up. Holy crap a 4 hour comparison of the dictatorial years in Chile and the Communist rule of Hungary. I just shut the fu** up and kept pouring the wine. Listening to living history tell thier stories is a history geeks wet dream. (Sorry Bama).

No comments: