Curb Season

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything but it has in part been due to power. With the sun becoming more slanted by the day, plenty of clouds & trees around and the fact that we have to run Starlink on the inverter nowadays, we are tight on amps. One of the parts of the 12V conversion broke so we have to wait till we can return with a new one because you can’t buy anything here for it. Today we had some sun so here goes…

Well, after nearly 5 months exploring Patagonia, we had to leave it because after all… winter is coming. While it’s been great to have some warmer weather now and slow up the inevitable, it also means we’re getting to more populated areas which is kind of scary given the lack of cities over these months. It’s generally not our thing and it’s also stressful in the truck. It’s been a little up & down but mainly up.

It was really nice to spend some more time with Euan & Vanessa whom we met on the Huemul Circuit backpack trip. Because they have a van and are traveling Chile too, we’ve been able to meet up several times to hike together.

We all really liked the town of Pucon, a small, cheery tourist town that provides the support system for the area’s parks & recreation. We pulled into a campground and stayed a few nights just relaxing & doing some projects on the truck. It was just what we needed and the campground even had 2 ambassador German shepherds who liked to hang out with us. Jon & I took our bikes out one afternoon to ride around and we also went out one night with Ivan for a pretty good dinner. It’s cool to be able to walk into town from the campground.

We’ve found that in Chile, some very fine, beautiful parks are free or close to it and then others have a sizable entry and are just so-so. We explored Huerquehue NP which had a big star in my Moon travel guide and it was one of those so-so parks. The first day was nice weather wise but the trails were just OK. We stayed overnight in their parking lot and did a hike in crappola weather with V&E. We can tell the parks we like by the amount of pictures we take. Not much for this one but here’s one from the first day!

We met up with Vanessa & Euan again to do a hike to Sollipulli volcano. Sollipulli is an ice-filled volcanic caldera and volcanic complex, which lies southeast of the small town of Melipeuco in the La Araucaría Region. It is part of the Southern Volcanic Zone of the Andes, one of the four volcanic belts in the Andes chain. The volcano has evolved in close contact with glacial ice.

As with many park roads, the access can be a challenge. The road up to Sollipulli trailhead is steep as and requires 4×4. Ivan had to drive back down to give V&E a ride leaving their van at the bottom. In the meantime, Jon & I picked a whole bunch of blackberries on the roadside. Its fun to harvest things!

This hike was a real beauty. One of several we’ve done recently that stand out. This was all volcanic looking on the way up with huge Araucaria trees dotting the landscape. Then at the top, there is this ice filled caldera- crazy! It’s like a flat glacier caught in a bowl. Never seen anything like it. It was cold at the top, a stiff breeze blowing over the ice, so we couldn’t linger for long. We came down off the crater to eat lunch in the sun. It was a great day.

All of us really wanted to go to Conguillio NP but you need a permit and all of the slots were taken with the Easter holiday. So we split off from each other and Jon & I headed around to the town of Lonquimay stopping first by a border crossing to Argentina. Because we made tickets to return to the US in early June, we tried to get an extension on our truck import permit. After and hour of waiting, we were told no, we would have to leave Chile and come back to get a new TIP. We’ll have to do that last minute in May so it won’t expire before we return from the US. This means we will need to cross the Aconcagua pass in late May which is uhh…. winter! Great! No stress here. So we continued on to town feeling a little frustrated. We parked up on the square, took our bikes out and rode a really nice rail trail through rural farm scenery with a glacier in view. That made us feel better.

At the other end of the 20km rail trail is a trailhead to Laguna Espejo. Early the next morning, we drove to that end and started the hike by first fording an icy stream. After that, it was a lot of uphill to the laguna and then a scramble up over steep rocks to the toe of the Sierra Nevada glacier. It was a spectacular day with incredible scenery. There were tumbling waterfalls everywhere, bold rocks, ice, wildflowers and hardly a soul there. We made it down in one piece and discussed once again, what we’d do if we didn’t.

After a very long tunnel, the town of Malalcahuello opens up. Interestingly, there’s a ski area there that is one of the best places in the world for randonee (where you hike up and then ski back down the mountain on special skis). That would have been neat to try actually but it’s not winter yet! Instead, we had buckets and then rivers of rain over 2 full days. We camped with Ivan one night and then he drove away the following day to explore the coast and find better weather. We still had a couple things we wanted to do in the area once the rain stopped. It was a sad goodbye because we weren’t sure if we were going to see him again before we each go our separate ways for a visit home. Over 3 years now, we’ve been together more than apart. We’ve packed in a lot of memories and look forward to making more.

Jon & I moved to a campground to plug in because it was a pure crap day. Unusual for us, we spent the whole day making plans and doing stuff on the internet. Starlink has been life changing in that we don’t have to worry about data and how much we use. Wherever we are, we have internet. But it does use the power! Now that Easter was over (sadly, no easter basket) I had thought that we could enter Conguillio park from the north side with a permit. But, researching it more, I realized that the road was too bad and narrow for us to take it.

So we did an about face and retraced some miles back around to the southern entrance of Conguillio NP. Because the rain hadn’t stopped, we felt like we could at least be productive by driving to get positioned to enter the park the next day. Conguillio park protects a beautiful volcanic area with that moonlike scenery you’d expect from big blasts and lava flows. We camped beside the lake and even got our packrafts out to paddle out to a hidden waterfall.

We met up with Vanessa & Euan again to hike to a viewpoint of the Sierra Nevada and it was another great day.

Over the past few weeks Jon has noticed a vibration sensation when he depresses the clutch, vibration in the shifter and a harder than in the past time getting into reverse and first gear. So we headed away from the tranquil beauty of the mountains to the west coast city of Conception where a shop Jon had contacted could supposedly replace the clutch and get the parts. But of course once we got there, they said they wanted to just open things up and then see if they could get the parts. We call that the honeymoon phase when everything is possible and then the reality is usually different. After a crap day at the shop and most of another day regrouping and trying to find the parts elsewhere in this less than beautiful seaside city, we left the area for the mountains. We both felt quite blue and claustrophobic and couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

We headed to the Altos de Lircay reserve which turned out to be a true gem. After hiking to a viewpoint that evening, we felt better and planned a long hike for the next day.

It turned out to be a perfect weather day and we did a 17 mile steep loop in the park through a bonanza of scenery. First a pass, then a lovely laguna, then an open plateau, then a vast viewpoint, some neat volcanic scenery and then miles back down through the trees back to the truck. Can you see what makes us tick?

A couple of days later, we met up with Ivan again and have been exploring Radal Siete Tazas NP. First, we had to drive through a massive herd of sheep!

We walked some paths to some pretty waterfalls (7 in fact) but have mostly just been taking it easy for these last days before parting ways again. Jon is making progress finding the parts and we’ve done some more planning. We have a nice wide open campspot too!

The little white dots are us!

It is feeling quiet in the parks and we’ve had to use the heat gun twice to melt the frost off the roof hatches before we can close them. Fortunately, when we come out of the mountains it warms up again. But that means we’ll be both getting the work done on the truck and also doing some maintenance ourselves. For now anyway….. it is peaceful.

Leave a Reply