Laguna del Laja
When next morning I get on the bus in Chillan, to go back to the mountains, I am surprised about the number of people travelling. But later I realize, that they all visit the Hot Springs at the Valle Hermoso resort, at the last stop, the Hotel Termas de Chillan, I am alone.
For some distance I follow the same route like two days ago, but at around 2 in the afternoon I leave the known trail behind.
After staying high for a while the well used, dusty horse trail drops steeply across dense Nirre above a steep grey gorge.
At about 1800 meters the first taller trees appear and when I reach the ash coloured dark river, I am in beautiful forest, where I pitch my camp and enjoy the mild evening.
The river is coloured by volcanic sediment
After an easy crossing, the trail climbs steeply out of the gorge. To my surprise I meet a lone, old arriero on horseback at this early hour who is accompanied by his dog. Later I reach his home, the puesto Coihueria at the edge of a large meadow on a plateau.
Leaving the gorge early in the morning
It is a pleasure to walk across the majestic, primeval forest with some very large trees on the still well used trail.
When the trail branches I don't look on the GPS and follow the seemingly more used path, before I realize after a while, that it leads into the wrong direction...
At least I get a nice view into the valley!
Steep mountains and dense forest
Back on the right trail I climb up to a forested pass at 1800 meters where some cows graze. In the understory grows dense bamboo, not easy to cross, but I am on a good path!
Pass at 1800 m
On the way down into the upper valley of Rio Peucos I follow a dusty, well used trail, while a lot of Gadflies try to get on my skin...
The broad upper valley of Rio Peucos
As it is very dry, I am quite surprised when I reach a swamp where I need to take care not too sink in the mud...
Avoiding the mud...
Land of contrasts: After the swamp the trail climbs steeply across rocky terrain to get above a narrow gorge.
Rio Peucos Gorge
Finally I descend back to the River, which is easy to cross.
Upper Rio Peucos
On the other side of the river the ranger post Los Peucos is situated, with campground and hot springs in the vicinity. As I am here in the Reserva Nacional Nuble, I prefer not to be seen, because I suspect, that the reserves are still closed because of the fires...
And I am lucky, and manage to sneak around the large area with some huts. Clearly there are rangers around, but I see nobody. And I am right, on the other side of the clearing I get to a gate which is closed...
Just some seconds and I have quickly climbed it and continue now on a stony dirt road.
Rarely used vehicle track down of Los Peucos
Information on the ranger post
For the first time of my trek it seems like a thunderstorm is approaching. I hear distant rumbles and the sky is overcast.
Some distance from the road I find a hidden camping spot, have a bath in the river and do later a short evening walk.
Is the thunderstorm coming?
But I am lucky, it stays dry, and I enjoy the warm evening in camp. The retreating clouds and the setting sun create a very unusual atmosphere.
Next morning it is quite cool and I start in long trousers. Apparently it has rained heavily at other locations, because the rivers are yellow with sediment...
Early morning on the track
Again I meet nobody on the track, but the walking on the broad road is quite boring.
18 km roadwalking...
Around noon the clouds are coming in again, and I hear distant thunder. Grey, dead trees killed by a fire, cover the hills.
Here raged a fire
Finally I find a sign with hiking directions lying on the ground, and a faint trail starts, first across rather dense brush.
Start of a hiking trail
It looks like the thunderstorm will strike soon, therefore I make camp early. But just some drops are falling, and early in the evening the sky clears.
The thunderstorm has spared me again...
I am quite happy to have put up my tent early, because that gives me time to explore the beautiful Roble forest just with camera and binoculars. I spot a number of birds, even Magellan Woodpeckers, but of cause it is not so easy to photograph animals in the forest...
When I start hiking early next morning a good path climbs across dark, mysterious forest to a pass at 1750 meters. I can't get enough of these beautiful, old growth forests!
Ascent to a pass in the forest
I observe two Magellan woodpeckers close by for some time, they seem not to be bothered at all, the male wearing a shiny red cap, the female is just black. They are extracting larvae from a dead tree.
A pair of Magellan Woodpeckers
I descend into an open, grassy valley, Laguna del Lajas, still seven kilometers away, becomes already visible. Some cows are grazing and an impressing bull is guarding his herd. Luckily he doesn't think that I am a threat...
Towards Laguna del Laja
When I reach the lake, for some time there is no water! The bay I circumnavigate is completely dry, probably because of the powerplants, which use the lake to generate electricity!
But finally I got a nice view over the large Laguna del Laja, with Volcan Antuco towering high at its southern End.
Laguna del Laja with Volcan Antuco
Soon I leave the hills above the Laguna and walk into a valley which leads to a beautiful situated lake.
The good trail leads to a lake
Normally it would be much too early to make camp, but as this is almost paradise like, I can't resist the temptation, and pitch my tent on a meadow at the southern end of the lake.
I have a swim in the not too cold water, and enjoy the atmosphere of the mountain lake.
A nice swimming spot
After cooking dinner on my wood stove I stroll around the lake. There is quite a lot of life, cormorants, ducks, and smaller song birds.
Back at camp the sun sets and coloured clouds are mirrored in the still water. A perfect end to a relaxing evening!
The next day is another highlight of the trail so far! But first I have difficulties to find the trail again, after leaving the lake. I need to rely on the track I loaded on my GPS. Just when the route starts zig- zagging steeply upwards, the trail becomes visible. From the lake at just 1450 metres I climb to 2030 metres in quite a short distance!
The views from above are just gorgeous!
The forest reaches quite far up the rocky mountain flanks
The lake where I had camped
At the southern end of Laguna del Laja the rounded top of Volcan Antuco and the steep, glacier covered Sierra Velluda loom.
Laguna del Laja, Antuco and Sierra Velluda
I walk towards the high volcanoes
The trail stays high on a broad ridge and offers constant brilliant views although it is a bit of up and down...
A superb trail
After staying on the ridge for a good while, I traverse the upper slope of the mountainside with Rio Polcura below in the valley. For the first time since weeks I spot two Condores circling above.
Beautiful mountain landscape
The weather finally seems to change. A strong, cold wind blows and the clouds are coming in.
I think I might find a sheltered camping spot at a lake, therefore I descent. The shore is rocky and windswept, but I find a tight spot in the scrub, which offers at least some protection.
The weather is changing...
It is unusual cool and cloudy, but first only some drops are falling, later they turn into heavy rain, and I stay in the tent. The zippers don't work any more, but I still stay quite dry inside...
Although I am walking right now on the main trail of the GPT, today was the third day in a row on which I saw no other human being...
In the morning it is still raining, therefore I just start around 9, in a brief dry spell...
As I left the trail to get to my camp, now I need to find the path again, which proves not so easy, because just some meters higher I am surrounded by dense fog. Somehow I manage to climb back to the ridge, where I get on the trail again. Soon the conditions deteriorate further. The visibility is almost zero, buckets of whipping rain are thrown on me, and especially on the west side I must take great care not to be blown over by the violent gusts. From Jan's track I know, that at some point the trail ends, and starts again further on, but in the fog I see almost nothing of a path. Without GPS it would be impossible to walk on today! But anyway, I make some progress, although the going is tough and very slow. In wind and rain it is so cold, that I don't dare to have a break, but move constantly to keep my body temperature, which is not so easy. These are difficult conditions and probably it would have made sense just to stay in the tent...
For a long time I walk around 2100 meters, but then the steep descent in a rocky gully starts. Very carefully I manage not to slip on the wet boulders. Further below I get on horse trails, which sometimes branch. At around four in the afternoon I reach the forest, rain and fog lessen and I know that I have made it!
The misty, wet conditions make the forest appear as if out of a fairy tale!
Fairy tale forest
I pass a puesto where I greet a couple and then get on a broad, windy dark plain, which reminds me a little on Iceland!
Before I get to the gravel road, I pass a gate with a sign that clearly prohibits the entry to the area I just crossed...
On the base of Volcan Antuco, there is a kind of ski resort, but seem to be quite deserted right now. But I meet a young, friendly man, who likes trailrunning, and accompanies me to a kind of Hostel, where I get a four bed room for myself, and later be treated with hot food and tea, a very nice finish to a quite hard day!
|"Ski resort" at Volcan Antuco|