Day 223: Parque Nacional de Altos de Lircay

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Jun 01, 2007

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Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, May 3, 2007

I wake at six and eat breakfast in the dark on the veranda. I've booked a taxi to Talca for the 7.15am rural bus to the National Park Altos de Lircay for an eight-hour hike.
It's off-season; only two other hikers arrive with me this morning. But it's possibly the best time of year to enter the reserve. The beeches, lenga and Maulean oak are all shades of red and gold with green pines, all against a blue sky. It's cool but comfortable in the morning sun and out of the wind below the treeline. There is often a skittering sound in the leaf litter beside the path as a tiny lizard dashes out of sight.
After a few kilometres I follow a sign for El Enladrillado. The path is steep, zigzagging up above the trees to the peak of El Peine (2,448m), but the vista from the top is breathtaking. Beyond El Enladrillado is the snow-patterned Cordillera de los Andes, with the 'decapitated' volcano, Descabezado Grande (3,953m) and Cerro Azul (3,788m) most prominent. El Enladrillado (The Bricked) is a curious plateau of basalt 'paving' perched above the Rio Claro canyon. The winds are biting now, so I shelter for a picnic behind a boulder. A dark shape appears over the valley. It glides closer - something I failed to see in Peru. At last! A condor!
I've less than four hours left till the last bus to Talca leaves the park, but I still take the detour to Laguna Alto, as the name describes, a lake left at altitude by volcanic action. Then, I hurry down the slopes back to the treeline. A pair of black woodpeckers (the male with a distinctive red head and crest) court through the forest. A flock of tricahue parrots squabble and mass in the tree tops. After my dash I make it to the bus stop, 2km outside the park, with just minutes to spare. The others hikers I overtook missed it and face a difficult to find, and expensive taxi ride back to town. I estimate I hiked about 28km today. Back at Casa Chueca, exhausted, I read my route is recommended as a 2-3 day trek.
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