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Travelogue 5, which finds us trekking across the volcanic and thermal plains of Puyehue.
here comes the latest edition of the travellogue. we just finished a fantastic trek in the moutains and a couple of days exploring rainforests and are buzzing with energy. the weather is great and i can't wait to get out again.
so let's begin where i left you last time:
finally the weather breaks and we wake up to blue skies and sunshine. while waiting for our bus i wander down to the shore of lago llanquihue and i get a full view of vulcano osorno with its snowcapped top in its full beauty - real picturebook material! we are all packed for a six day trek and when i get a chance to put my pack on the scales in the office of the bus company i read an astonishing 17 kilos, jalal has got 21 kilos on his back - sweaty times ahead
as usual when packing i start quarrelling with jalal about the amount of food to take. it always looks like a ridiculious heap of things for two people to eat, not to mention the weight. but once we are a couple of days into the trek it goes so fast und it is me who is most hungry. so jalal is not impressed by my veto and packs it all in, which will surely earn him lots of kisses and praise later on.
we get on the bus to osorno and then change to a smaller minibus version to anticura. after doing a couple of short circuit walks to the waterfalls of the area, we settle for the night at an idyllic campsite, run by conaf. next morning we make our way to the start of the actual trek which leads through the property of a farmer right up the el gaulle mountains to the foot of the vulcano puyehue. the owner is quite smart - as we enter the property there is a small toll-booth and we are asked to pay the equivalent of 10 euro per person. of course, as everybody else, we do so, as we are standing here ready to go with all the gear and the packs. this guy is raking in the money big time.
the path is steep and badly eroded by horses and rainwater. so it is a sweaty climb and my 17 kilos feel like doubling per hour. after 4 hours we arrive at the refugio on 1300m. the hut is rustic with 4 bunkbeds and a little oven. we want to camp so we find a sheltered spot near the woods. the clouds are very low and a mist settles in, turning into thick fog. soon the view is less than 5 metres and the world seems to have disappeared. i am happy that i, despite the good weather, brought my thermals and so i put all my clothes on and sit outside to write my travellogue. jalal goes off to collect firewood for a warming campfire - you can see we are back to basic archetypical structures soon enough the fire is going, i cook some food and we chat with a nice aussie guy and watching the night sky which is clearing up.
yes - morning is all clear and i am awed by the views already from this
place and don't know where to look first. all which was swallowed by
thick clouds the afternoon before, is now shining bright. happily we set
off to tackle the ascent of the volcano puyehue (2200m) which according
to our book is a simple stroll uphill of 30-40 minutes.
well, i don't know how this guy did it, but it is definitely far from a stroll. it is an hour of tiresome, steep climb only on loose pumice, with no footing and that in the hot sun. luckily we have left our packs on the path below. when we get to the top of course it is worth all the effort - there are no words for it - may be just grand! the views are awesome, i count about 9 volcanos in sight. we walk the edge of the crater, which is filled with pristine white snow and sit down to simply enjoy. i just love being above the treeline, it is such an exhilarating sensation for me to sit on top of the world and dip into this exquisite ocean of silence.
after a flying descent we continue our trek through a seemingly endless dalmatian-looking landscape - quite bizare. it is all high dunes of pumice, partially covered with snowfields in the most obscure forms and shapes. there is not a single cloud in the sky and for the next 6 hours the path leads us through uncountable snowfields and up and down dunes. then we cross what looks like a desert (and it is that hot) to arrive at the camp for the night. this place is called los banos and due to the geothermal activity of the volcanic plateau (last eruption in 1960) it features hot springs. so we set up our site and then jump into a pleasant 28 degrees water. the spring is nestled in the corner of a river flowing freezing cold down the valley. so i can sit in the hot and cool off in the cold, only to sneak straight back into the warmth. it is early evening and there is nothing more pleasant after a long sweaty days walk then to soak the ol' bones and muscles in hot bubbly waters - what a delight.
the nights get freezing cold up there, like in a desert i suppose. we put
in an extra day to have the half day return-walk to
los geisires and more
of the hot springs. the geyser are an impressive lot of hot mud and
smelly sulphur rocks in all colors - actually that whole site looks
we do this walk in sandals, which proves to be smart as we have to do half a dozen ice-cold river crossings, which leave our toes and lower legs numb for a considerably amount of time afterwards. on the way back the last two tabanas send me into fits - they are such annoying creatures.
in the middle of the night i wake up and crawl out of the tent. here i am standing still in admiration of the limitless space around me and the vastness of the nightskies full of stars above me. i can hear the sound of the running water, smell the sulphur of the springs and listen to the winds. i am filled with gratefulness to be part of this wonderful existence and at the same i feel humble about how little i am compared to all this and how minor my impact is on the going of the world. it is difficult to put in words - i hope you get the feeling. blissfully i get back into my snuggly sleeping bag and drift off....
next morning we get an early start as a long day lies in front of us as we descent down to the valley. the path leads us on a ridge towards the treeline. after a last turn with glorious views we dive into manheight bushes and bamboo grooves. the path is not very cleared so we fight our way through the branches and leaves, sometime i have to throw my whole pack at it to get through. slowly the path turns into forests full of fallen logs and more bamboo, which leave dangerously spiky bits sticking out of the earth, if they've been cut or broken off.
the forest seems to extend infinite, full of ancient trees, scrubs and flowery bushes. we go on and on, because we want to do as much as we can to shorten the following day. finally we arrive at lower rio contrafuerte where we intend to camp but then it is not clear where to pitch. we slog up a road and i am running out of fuel, means i am utterly exhausted - so we just go into a meadow off the road and put up our tent there. i am only thinking of getting food into my stomach, so i am not too pleased when a young chileno turns up, telling us that this is his property and we can't camp here - of course we can and it is only a question of the price for it
the last day of this trek is over twenty kilometer walk out of the valley to the little village of rininahue, situated at lago ranco, where depending on arrival time, we either spend the night or catch a bus to rio bueno, then to osorno and back to puerto varas. this turns out to be a delightful walk on a dirt road, passing diary farms, little hamlets, meadows with horses, scenic rivers and fields of flowers. it is easy marching and when we arrive at the village we meet the bus taking us out of this beautiful corner of the earth.
so that same evening we are checking back into our backpackers and after a long hot shower we go out for a big meal and make plans for the next trip. we decide to go out to a valley which is praised to be the yoshemite of chile - valley cochamo. the german DAD had been helping in setting this area up as an eco tourism area - low impact and local guides, accomodation etc. to have actually the money flowing into the community and not into some big agencies. there is also a company campo aventura which is situated right next to the lake cochamo specialising in horseback expeditions. we visit their office in puerto varas, the pictures look amazing. in the end we decide on a day of seakayaking and end the day in campo aventura with a candle light diner - it is valentine's day after all
this will be our first organised trip and we will have a guide for the
kayaking. they offer accomodation in cabanas but we opt for the campsite,
as we are planning to stay out there for a couple of days and some day
hikes. the weather is still fabulous and i am a bit concerned being on
the water all day in blazing sunshine.
i didn't need to worry - when we wake up the following day the sky is cloudy and it is raining cats and dogs - never mind we are on the water anyway so one can't get more than wet. we meet our driver and our guide for the day, ludowig a frenchman who lives and works here since five years. he is a pleasant guy who loves nature like we do so we get on straight from the start. the weather is suppose to clear up by midday.
on our way to the start of the kayaking we stop at a hotel to pick up more gear needed. while waiting we wander into the place which is a hundred years old, has always been a hotel and owned by the same german family. i am stunned when i enter - this is german history of an era of hundred years - furniture, grammophons, telephones, pots, glasses, magazines, books, pictures - everything you can think of put together in the most curious mixture. we meet the owner who is a scotsman raised in rhodesia. he bought it a couple of years ago and runs it now with his girlfriend. the place even has an originally fitted indoor pool and central heating - his comment: "the germans always knew how to live".
after this pleasant intervall we continue our journey with ludowig and juan to start our mission of the day: sea kayaking in the pacific ocean. when we get into the kayak the rain has stopped and we paddle off to explore the fjord, watching kingfishers, vultures and hopefully some sealions. we pass huge salmon farms run by norwegian companies. in scandinavia this kind of fish farming is not allowed any more because of the enviromental damage it causes. so the companies come to the third world countries to set up their business, bringing jobs and money and not being limited about the damage to nature.
we have lunch in a typical chilean smokehouse, called fogon, which is a wooden house with a chimney on top and a lower level in the groundfloor for the fire. usually above the meat, fish or whatever needs to be smoked is hanged up. we sit around the warming fire having snacks and wait for the last downpour to ease of. after a while we get back into the kayak to paddle on to the end of the fjord. now we are entering more open sea and ludowig explains how to ride the waves in a little kayak and how to cruise the bay to get safely ashore. we cross the bay of cochamo and the wind picks up quickly, sending bigger and bigger waves. we are planning to get into the mouth of the river and move a bit further in, but ludowig looks at the horizon and suddenly calls us to get to the beach - very reassuring. so we paddle in and while getting out of the wetsuits a little storm settles in - puhhh just in time, it doesn't look very comfortable on sea now.
the minibus takes us further to our destination the riverside lodge at
we have to leave the car at the road and walk another
five minutes to step into this paradise. even on a rainy day it is
outstanding beautiful. a couple from luxembourg has bought it from a
german and is running it for a couple of years now. it has no electricity
(therefore the candlelight diner), simple cabanas, a little wooden
restaurant, a fogon and gardens.
they own 10 hectares down here and another 80 hectare up in the mountains where they run a mountain lodge. and the most surprising they run a vegetarian kitchen, bake wholemeal bread and lots of other goodies. the campsite is next to the river with a little sandy beach. we pitch tent and are in for a three course treat in the restaurant - we are the only people there and believe me: it can't get more romantic than that
the next day is sunshine and blue sky - after a walk to the village i
spent the rest of the day on the little beach, sunbathing in my bikini
and splashing in the icecold river - ain't life brilliant. we spent the
following day with a day hike up the valley through wonderful virgin
rainforests and end it with another delightful diner.
after these two tranquil days we try to get a bus back to puerto varas. we sit at the road and no bus appears for two hours, so we start and walk. when the bus finally comes along it is packed to the max. we get on and stand for 2,5 hours in indian situation. the road is really bad, and the vehicle is swaying from left to right like a boat on the narrow cliff roads and i hope all the rosaries done by the old ladies help.
after arriving back we immediately book a bus for the next morning to
pucon, our next and sadly last station before our return to santiago. it
is a six hour bus ride up north. there we are planning to ascent the
active vulcano villarica (2800m) and
continue a six day trek around it.
it looks pretty wild up there - we will see.
so beloveds, that's it for today. i hope you enjoyed journeying with us a
bit further and you are all well and happy. again thanks for all your
mails - it is great to feel so connected.
all the best and lots of love
from ajara and jalal
editorial note: for all the german native speakers and the
deutschlehrerinnen: es muss natuerlich "heringe" heissen und nicht
"herringe" - das waere ja sonst "herr der ringe"
und das ist ja nun was total anderes.
for all the english native speakers: it is of course tents "pegs" and not tent "pecks" - but as my english friends know i am often confused about hen-pecking and handpacked :)))
i am hacking this stuff out in 2-4 hours creative writing sessions in internet cafes and i have only a rough handwritten outline. so no spell-checking or having it proofread by jalal (who can't read my handwriting anyway) possible - so please forgive all the obscurities and abnormalities in spelling or grammar that come along with the logues.