Friday, January 23, 2015

More Lakes and More Volcanoes - Chile!

The inspiring beauty of Chile's National Parks continued as we headed a little south to the "Lakes District", but still not quite to Patagonia. The area is dominated by active volcanoes and aquamarine lakes. Some of the volcanoes shoot into the sky with a perfectly conical shape, while others have blown their top (as recently as 2008), leaving ash and lava-rock as far as the eye can see.

One park in particular, Malacahuello, was pretty much a giant, black ash-field. It was sort of depressing and bleak, as we biked along the road through the park (pic below). The cold, biting wind, contrasted with the blazing sun and intense heat radiating off the black terrain, was a weird sensation.

Biking in an ashfield. Malalcahuello National Park dominated by the Lonquimay volcano

We visited these parks right before the summer rush that starts in January. At Parque Nacional Conguillio, we camped, paddleboarded, hiked, and swam in complete solitude. We savored every minute of it because we knew hordes of tourists were coming our way (which they most certainly did).

Driving through Conguillio

The view while hiking around Lago Conguillio

The view above Lago Conguillio

Always playing some sort of a guitar - real, fake, or imaginary. Lago Conguillio in front of Volcan Llaima

Volcan Llaima from the paddleboard

Arco Iris ("rainbow") - a small, crystal clear pond created by a lava dam after one of many eruptions in the park

In Parque Nacional Huerquehue (it took us a week of repeating the word in order to pronounce it: where-KAY-way), we arrived during a major cold-front and ended up hiking in the snow. We didn't mind, as it felt appropriate to be "walking in a winter wonderland" at the end of December.

Haven't done a walk like this in at least 3 years!

Our favorite was the hike up to the top of Cerro San Sebastian.

A view from atop San Sebastian of the 2 largest lakes in Parque Nacional Huerquehue

As we neared the top of the mountain, we spotted a gorgeous blue, hidden lake off the backside, flanked by Araucaria trees. From a distance, they looked like palm trees.

The secret lago, San Manuel, that appeared as we neared the top of San Sebastian

Lunch at the top! You can spot some of the volcanoes surrounding us in the far distance

During this time Scott celebrated his 44th birthday. While visiting the quaint town of Curacautin he got a new shirt and a watermelon. What more could a guy want? We don't often buy new clothes, so when we do, it's a big celebration. This blueish, purple-y hoodie will always be called "my birthday shirt". He has worn it everyday for the past month, but it's still pristine enough that it's reserved for post-shower happy hour and indoor use only. (BTW, it has been washed a few times)

Christmas came and went while we enjoyed some awesome views from our campsite right off the road as we headed towards the border with Argentina.

Camping overlooking a deep gorge next to some baby Araucaria trees

We spent a few days hiking in Villarica National Park, without a person in sight. Pics below.

This peak looked sort of like a mini-Machu Picchu

Everywhere you hiked, you could always see the hulking Volcan Lanin

Scott definitely nailed this jump

Our next stop - the new year in Argentina.  A new country for us.

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