Thursday, 3 December 2015
A Walk to Refuge El Caulle
Nadia and Armin's breakfast spread on a communal table was magnificent. There was muesli, fresh banana juice, brown bread, ham, cheese, mashed avocado, jam, and slices of two different fruit tarts, with liberal amounts of tea and coffee.
Thomas was again good company, but the young couple who had kept us awake briefly with their loud voices in the other half of our semi-detached cabin turned out to be Russian. We found that out by looking at the registration book that all visitors have to complete. We could have guessed that they were of the only nationality that consistently 'blanks' us. They are from an alien culture.
As usual, all the Chilean people we met today were delightful. Helpful, smiling and obliging, from the petrol pump attendant to the Park warden.
Our first port of call was the small lakeside town of Entrelagos. Less charismatic than Puerto Octay but with a much better supermarket and a petrol station.
Anticura was our next objective. £5 for two lattes and £2 for access to some waterfalls. At the café we met Helen, an English lady who has lived in Santiago with her husband for more than ten years. They are here on a business trip, trying to advance the use of renewable energy such as geothermal, solar and wind. We discussed Valparaiso. Thomas had denigrated the place last night and advised us against visiting. Helen confirmed that the city does suffer from graffiti, broken lifts and other problems, but she assured us that the people are friendly and the buildings are interesting. So we will visit as planned.
The waterfalls were forceful affairs, unlike yesterday's graceful cascade. Worth a visit though along lovely heavily scented paths, before lunch on a bench.
Then we drove back along the road to a track to a restaurant that doubled as a CONAF (Park) office. We signed in with Santiago and his yappy dogs, and spent another £10 each on access across private land. This is pretty normal here and makes us think how lucky UK residents are to have their wonderful public footpath system.
By 2.30 we were hauling our packs up the 1000 metre climb to today's destination. A flock of honking Ibis in the fields encouraged us on our way. Before long the track inclined to a steep path through woodland. Catkins dripped from the trees. Ubiquitous dog orchids waved us past with their silent turbines. We took a short break every half hour or so.
After about 8 km and at around 5.30 pm we emerged from the woodland to flatter ground below the cone of a volcano, Volcán Puyehue, at around 2250 metres, about 800 metres above us. We dropped down a little to the Refuge and a meadow at 1450 metres, with picnic benches and a thunderbox toilet.
The Refuge El Caulle is an unmanned shelter a bit like an upmarket Scottish bothy. An Israel man, Shohan, drifting after four and a half years of army service, had installed himself inside and was expecting others to follow. But it was a lovely afternoon. Gary, a biker from Southport, and Ray (Dutch) had already pitched their tents, having arrived earlier and gone up to the summit. We joined them by erecting our Nallo tent and the five of us spent the warm evening cooking and mingling until the sun left us and darkness descended at around 9.30 pm, by which time the local Caracara birds were being very curious and attentive.
Outside Hostal Zapato Amarillo
Two waterfalls at Anticura
Setting off towards the Refuge
Dripping Catkins on the ascent
First view of our destination
Setting up camp, with Refuge El Caulle behind.