Saturday, 5 December 2015
A Walk to Lago Paraiso
This was intended to be a short walk on a sunny day before an afternoon of relaxation in the hot springs at Aguas Calientes.
Fuelled by muesli, and after an 11 km drive up a dirt road, we parked on the wrong side of a deep drainage ditch (no damage done) and set off down the track towards the lake.
The forest was lovely but the views were limited. A Magellan Woodpecker flitted above us in the trees. The sometimes muddy path led past rampant bamboo to a massive log bridge with sunbathing lizards.
We decided, after a couple of kilometres, to take a route marked with black dashes on the map - an unsigned path. This led to an unexpected meadow where the cows looked as surprised as we felt.
We were expecting to reach a track linking Lago Paraiso with Lago El Palmar. But we reached a river. Despite the fast flow, we got across with the aid of a tree trunk. We emerged near a farmstead, but there was no sign of the track that we had been expecting. But we soon discovered a narrow path leading up to Lago Paraiso from a roadhead at Lago El Palmar. There was no track.
This path was the best bit of today's walk. Beautifully constructed through deep forest passing under immense trees - Mañío, with bark like that of plane trees, and even taller Coihue trees, to name just two of them.
The area has an indigenous Mapuche-Huilliche community, with small, remote farming hamlets in the Siempteverde ("Alwaysgreen") forest. But it wasn't all green, thanks to stands of bright red Fire Bushes. There were lots of small wooden bridges to guide us across side ravines. Water boiled down the torrent we had crossed earlier.
Eventually we reached a closed cabin and some picnic tables beside Lago Paraiso, our objective. There were fine views across the lake to the 1500 metre summit of Cerro Feo. The walk up there would be a good one.
We thought that from here it would be an easy walk back to the car. Wrong. First, another river crossing. Sue experimented with a steep log that had a few steps cut into it. That scared her and she nearly fell in. Eventually we found a way across via a combination of fallen trees.
A very rough path then led over a col and down past large trees with what looked like Liliputian forests at their base, to the point where we had left it earlier. We met five people on their way up to the lake, and two more near the start of the walk. Otherwise nobody.
We'd been out for about 5 hours and covered 14 km with 400 metres ascent.
Lunch had been 'ship's biscuits and peanuts' so we were pleased to tuck into some cans of sardines when we returned to the cabin at 3.30 and Sue had been for a chat with a CONAF lad we saw yesterday, to fill him in with some 'route advice' as he has to give advice to walkers, and he hasn't walked today's route himself.
(Can you tell, the unplanned 'cabin' accommodation and lack of a shop has led to minor catering inadequacies.)
Aguas Calientes means 'hot waters'. Our cabin occupancy allows us free entry to those hot waters, and this afternoon we took full advantage. We made a better job of cooking ourselves than cooking our lunch!
Duly poached (medium rare) we returned to domestics (hot water is good for filthy clothing - volcano dust gets everywhere) and a pasta meal from our camping box, rather than sit in an otherwise empty restaurant and receive our food in a rather odd order - yesterday my starter and main course arrived together and Sue had to wait until I'd finished them before she got her meal. She did eat a fair amount of my starter though!
Some advance planning was then achieved and we (ie Sue) sorted accommodation for the next three nights, which is a slight relief as the next three days are apparently a holiday weekend.
Starting down the forest path
The first and most impressive log bridge with sunbathing lizards
Flowers of an ivy like tree creeper
Sue, smugly dry after walking across the log above a torrent - I shuffled across and got a soggy bottom and wet feet
Lago Paraiso and Cerro Feo
The log that freaked Sue, before she turned back
The outdoor pool at Aguas Calientes (can you spot Sue?)