Chile: Monkey-puzzle in the snow

Bamboo in the rain.

Bamboo in the rain.

While spring was making its way south in Chile we were doing the same. Somewhere along the way, in the Araucaria forests just north of the lake district, we overtook it and stepped back into winter.

From Curico we had made our way further south in Chile to Temuco, spending one rainy day in the small town of Talca on the way. Talca is the kind of place where you’ll find nothing open on a Sunday, particularly a rainy Sunday. Temuco is bigger, the biggest town in southern Chile, but mostly void of sights so we spent just one night before catching a small bus into the countryside towards the mountains in the east. Edel had found a nice Swiss farm-hostel (Suiz-Andina) on the internet, located just between the Malalcahuello-Nalcas and Conguillio national parks, and luckily they had space for us when we showed up at the door. Very cute little place, and with a great chef cooking three-course meals in the evenings – we stayed four days but could easily have made it longer…

Araucaria branch.

Araucaria branch.

The day we arrived we did a short walk near the farm called “Hänsel and Gretel” (it came complete with a “Hexen-haus”), leading through fields of bamboo and trees covered in lichen. When we woke up the next morning it was snowing heavily – nice big fluffy Christmas-card flakes – and everything was covered in white. We had planned to set off on a longer trek into the national park this day, and while we got a bit of conflicting advice from the hostel (one person advising against it as we wouldn’t be able to see any trail-markers, someone else selling us a map) we decided to head off. The El Coloradito trail leads towards the foot of the Lonquimay volcano, the first little bit runs through farm-land before the path climbs up through ancient Araucaria forest towards the mountain. Araucaria is the strange Monkey-puzzle tree, very pre-historic looking and even more spectacular when the whole forest is covered in thick white snow. It kept snowing most of the day, and indeed we didn’t see a single one of the yellow trail-markers on the way – consulting the map and GPS occasionally when the trail was less visible…we lost it completely a couple times and ended up river-hopping or stuck in thick bamboo, but that’s all part of the fun. It took us less than half the amount of hours on the way back actually. Very beautiful forest, and strange to see bamboo in the snow – bent over in big arches over the trail from the weight of the snow.

Araucaria forest.

Araucaria forest.

When we reached the tree-line we turned around – there was nothing but pure white above and the peak of the volcano was hidden in clouds. Lower down on the way back the snow had melted a bit, and we could start to see some of the trail-markers. Everything looked completely different – green and muddy instead of white and fluffy.

Enchanted forest in Malalcahuello.

Enchanted forest in Malalcahuello.

Hexen haus!

Hexen haus!

The second morning we rented bikes to go and see a couple waterfalls back along the road to Temuco. There was a lot of downhill on the 13 kilometers to the falls, and we weren’t looking forward to the way back up. The falls, Salto del Indio and Salto de la Princesa, were very impressive with all the snow-melt at the moment. The next day when we woke up to pack our bags everything outside was covered in snow again – we did the short “Hänsel and Gretel” trail once more (which was all our legs were good for after all the uphill biking the day before) before flagging down the bus back to Temuco and keep working our way south.

Snowy branches in Malalcahuello.

Snowy branches in Malalcahuello.

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