Saturday, 12 December 2015
Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay (Episode 2)
Despite a sloping tent, Sue's leaking airbed and the dawn chorus of whistling birds and munching cows, we managed to snatch a few hours sleep before breakfast in bed well after 8 am.
Thus we set off after 9 pm on another 'Blue Sky' day of Chile's unpredictable weather. We had several physical objectives, only one of which was achieved. Our main aim though was to enjoy our last full day's walking in the Andes. We succeeded admirably. This was a highlight of our entire trip.
After rising a couple of hundred metres in shady woodland, passing a small yellow flower with a brutal sting, we emerged into heat, with purple and yellow lilies that were new to us.
Views towards the coast stretched lazily into a distant heat haze wherein no particular features were discernable.
A small volcano that we passed on yesterday's mirador walk soon appeared as a shrinking pimple below us as we climbed higher. We also enjoyed good views across to the 2458 summit of Cerro Peine, one of our objectives.
As we climbed towards a ridge we found ourselves regularly pausing to admire the flora and fauna - exceptional on today's walk. Purple flowers with rock coloured leaves, skylark sized birds with white breasts, black and white birds of prey, fat lizards and grasshoppers scurrying and hopping about their business.
Above 2000 metres, patches of snow and a cool breeze. We were walking on the Sendero El Enladrillado, which took us up to the ridge and then down a few metres to a spectacular plateau that amongst New Agers and some locals is a revered site of UFO landings, a UFO landing pad no less. UFOs clearly like to land on high lawns! The area is called Enladrillado, which means 'brick paving', which is what it looks like.
Meandering across to the lily strewn 2225 metre summit of Cerro Divisadero, we got to appreciate this sizable plateau covered in multicoloured volcanic pebbles, enjoying views down to a new aspect of the Rio Clara, before returning to the Sendero Laguna - Enladrillado which should have led us to our next objective, Laguna del Alto. We had hoped to camp there but it's only permitted if you have a local guide, hence our adjustment to a day walk from the campground.
It was a lovely walk along a broad rocky ridge for over 4 km, with good views in all directions but in particular to the white coated volcanoes stretching into the distance behind us. After a couple of path junctions we descended a snow slope to a small tarn, from where Laguna del Alto lay a rocky 150 metres below.
Lunch as out of the wind as we could manage saw another tin of herring and a packet of biscuits bite the dust. Then we descended to a great viewpoint above Laguna del Alto. So good that we decided that the views we'd get at the lake would be an anti climax, so we turned around without visiting our second objective.
Back at 2150 metres, we headed north across Vega El Arriero to a path junction that would take us back to the long ridge we'd come along. A little further on would be the left turn up a route to the summit of our next objective, Cerro Peine, a 300 metre climb. But hadn't we already seen all the views, albeit from a slightly lower stance? Yes! So we turned down the path to the ridge and reversed the morning's route.
The path doesn't actually go over the summits as they are composed of a maze of huge chunks and pinnacles of solidified lava. So it was an enjoyable scramble to reach the highest of a series of unnamed summits. At 2459 metres it sported more fine views. We stayed there for some time, having displaced the resident buzzard, celebrating having reached the highest point of our entire trip.
From there it was a leisurely stroll with a magnificent Andean backdrop, to reach camp by 4.30 pm and enjoy a leisurely meal at the picnic bench. The king crab was especially tasty.
Today's stats - 19 km, 900 metres ascent, 7.5 hours, 6 people seen. A classic mountain day.
Pictures are difficult to choose today, but are shown chronologically and are hopefully self-explanatory.