Friday, January 2, 2015

Araucaria Huggers

We have spent a lot of time in the spectacular national parks of Chile. Our $20/person annual pass for the national parks was the best thing we EVER purchased in Chile. It's paid for itself 5-fold and there are still lots of parks on our list. One of the more unique national parks was Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta, a sanctuary for the Araucaria tree. English speakers call them "Monkey Puzzle" trees but for some reason, I can't bring myself to call them that.

Puzzling a monkey

The Araucaria tree, an evergreen, and the national tree of Chile, is only found in the central region of the country. The trees were harvested almost to extinction, but are now protected throughout middle Chile and Argentina. They can grow up to 140 ft tall and reach 3000 years old. That's so old, I can't even wrap my mind around it. Can you imagine what some of these old trees have lived through? Just to put it in perspective, Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas 523 years ago.

Hugging an 1800 year-old Araucaria - E I G H T E E N  H U N D R E D!!!!!
(This tree was in Congillio National Park)

Wikipedia describes them as "tolerant of coastal salt spray, but do not tolerate exposure to pollution." Maybe we were Araucaria trees in a past life.

The bark of the mature trees is the oddest thing I've seen (though we did note that the really old trees seem to have lost their big puzzles pieces, like the 1800 year-old above):

We stayed a couple of nights in the national park, and each evening, we hiked up to a nearby lookout to watch the sunset over the ocean, 20 miles away. We watched the moon rise behind us, highlighting the lofty Araucaria trees.

One night we hoofed our chairs, table, and dinner up to the lookout for a sunset dinner. That evening was really special, and it will stick in our memory for a long time.

To add to the excitement, we had a furry visitor slowly amble across the rock outcrop to join our party (pictured below). We've since researched the Tarantula, and learned that they are mostly harmless. When threatened, they will flick their hairs at the offender. These hairs can really mess up an eye or respiratory tract.

They call these Tarantulas "politos"

We continue to see Araucaria trees throughout the national parks, but this park had the best collection of the old, giant ones. If you thought we were tree huggers before, we've taken it to a whole 'notha level.

Practical Information For Fellow Travelers

Access to Nahuelbuta:
There are low hanging branches throughout the park. We entered from Angol and asked the ranger about the road to Canete. He said we could not drive the road because it is narrow and there are many low hanging branches. Our truck is 2.7 meters tall.

Camping in Nahuelbuta:
We accessed the park at the beginning of Dec 2014. We parked/camped (for free) at the trailhead to Piedra del Aguila for 2 nights without a problem. visiting during the high season in Jan 2015 and this was not allowed.

Hiking in Nahuelbuta:
The hike between the campground and Piedra del Aguila is the best of all the hikes for views and experiencing the large, old trees. The hiking trails are not well-signed.

No comments: