After living in the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey for the past three years, my family and I have had our share of browns and were eagerly wanting to fill our eyes with a million shades of green and our ears with the soul-stirring sounds of lake water lapping against a shoreline, river water gurgling over a rocky landscape,
rainwater pitter patting on a rooftop, or the swooshing sound of a watery mist as it gently billows across the landscape. Where can this be had? Well... an eight hours drive south from the city one punctures into a land of volcanoes, vast glacial lakes,
ancient towering trees, rushing rivers and copious amounts of water that laps, gurgles, pitter-pats, swooshes and then some... as it bathes the temperate rain forests of Chile's northern Patagonian Region.
Although Pucon is a bit north of Northern Patagonia, it is still doused in plenty of liquid... resulting in those million shades of the green that we were so looking for. This is also the land of another kind of liquid... the Kunstman lager... a German brewed beer recipe that the areas early citizens brewed up with the knowledge they brought with them from the "Old Country"... as this section of Chile was settled by German immigrants, that the mostly Spanish Chileans has enticed with settlement packages of free land, nails, a few oxen, planked boards, a bag of nails, etc., so that they could tame an area that looks more like the Bavarian Alps than the dry mountainous lands of much of southern Spain.
Nestled amongst glacial lakes and towering volcanoes there is a town which is known as THE place to go for outdoor recreation within Chile.
The opportunities for nature activities are endless... some of them being the draw for my family and I being pulled into the somewhat chic, yet mostly scrappy town of Pucon.
Pucon is a place where one can sit with a friend in an outdoor cafe, sipping on a flavored cafe lattes, while staring out over a crystal clear glacial lake to one side and a smoking volcano on the other. After getting juiced up they can meander through the town stopping in at what seems an endless supply of adventure shops and sign up for canyoning, sailing, a hike up the volcano, fly fishing for trout or salmon......... or whitewater rafting, which we did. The rafting was all that they promised it to be... exhilarating, beautiful, challenging and a hell of a lot of fun!
We took in a variety of activities in the region... one of our favorites, at least Deb and I, was the day long hike in Huerquehue National Park. The hike is a day long adventure that brings one up thousands of feet into a high alpine valley interspersed with crystal clear lakes, bamboo forests,
numerous ferns and other lush understory growth,
flocks of parrots, endangered fauna, massive beetles, cascading waterfalls, curious lizards
and most interesting of all an ancient stand of araucaria (monkey puzzle trees) a tree that is a living fossil that has virtually remained unchanged since prehistoric times
and the even older alerce trees, South America's tallest and oldest trees, sometimes reaching around 60 m/200 ft, with the oldest found to be around 3600 years old... giving it a second place finish to the world's oldest trees, the Bristlecone pines in California. Our hike up was filled with numerous climbs to lookout points that were stunning, as the aerial perspective cast a land below of lakes, forests and rivers punctured by snow capped volcanos piercing through a blanket of green. After traversing a few of the spur trails, to take in neck craning views of veils of waterfalls flowing off overhead cliffs, we arrived at the top of the Los Lagos lakes trail...
a meandering path that leads one up and down the rolling hills of a high valley of lakes set in a temperate forest. We spent many hours hiking from one beautiful lake to another... marveling at the spectacular landscape, while eagerly looking for a few of the creatures that inhabit this paradise. Along the trail we met up with a woman who works in Yellowstone National Park... she asked if we had been lucky enough to hear or see any Magallanic woodpeckers, a massive bird that lives only within ancient forests in the Southern Chilean and Argentinian Andes. Luck had it, as we crossed paths with the red headed males and mostly black females on three occasions during our hike... one where a red headed male splayed open the bark of a tree within 20 feet from Deb and I. I told her we had and that I would send her a few pics that I had taken... She left us with an email address and headed deeper into the sanctuary... eagerly looking for a glimps of this ornithologists trophy.
I could continue to flesh innumerable appendages of my memories within the "lost-in-time" land of Huerquehue... but... I won't, as some memories are better left sealed... and left deposited for future withdrawals. Other highlights of our time in the area included:
Hanging out at our cabin at LandHaus, a German couple's sustainable farm that they had forged from the forests... after they they fell in love with the land while traveling here many years past... leaving their abode in Germany for a new home... like earlier waves of German immigrants had done over 100 years before.
I need to say that the gourmet breakfast buffet
that was served in the wood paneled dining room within the quaint lodge is enough to bring us back to this place on a future journey. Aidan loved the farm dogs, chickens, cows, cats and sheep that meandered and grazed within the green pastures surrounding the family farm.
Swimming in the brisk waters of the nearby Lake Caburgua... especially when the clouds hung low on the surrounding mountains... letting loose handfuls of raindrops the size of Chilean pesos.
Driving the twisted and narrow roads up and over endless hills and mountains... sometimes stopping and trading spots with our 13 year old son Carsten, who continues to remind us that he is only a "few" years from getting his drivers license. He did an awesome job driving... and left with the confidence that if he could drive the dirt roads around Pucon he could drive anything!
Spending hours slipping from one aquatic pool to another at a local hot springs
straddling a rushing river... while watched the sun slip behind the mountains... interrupted only by the occasional flock of Chilean ibis flying just overhead.
Jogging into the past as I traversed through tiny dirt roads leading to isolated homesteads neatly tucked into small clearings carved from the dense canopy of surrounding forest... with the constant sound of rushing rivers, streams, creeks and rills draining the pitched landscape.
Resting... relaxing... and refueling after a whirlwind year of leaving our jobs and friends at our home in the Middle East to starting a new job and setting up a new home in South America.
With school out for the summer, and most of our tasks completed, we decided to head to Patagonia for our first real travel adventure in Chile. Summer in Santiago is nearly perfect, with almost every day being sunny and warm... with the occasional hot... and every evening cooling down as the refreshing air from the glacial beds that surround the city tumbles down the mountains, bathing the metropolis in a refreshing blanket of ahhhhhh. With so much sun, also comes a million shades of brown... and not only the various shades of tan that start showing up on the Santiaguinos scuttling amongst it's rays, but the browns of the surrounding hills and mountains as the ground bakes away for some 5 plus months without a drop of rain falling from the sky... and with almost zero humidity and few bugs... well a description of PERFECT often spills out of many peoples mouths.