Antuco and Laguna del Laja

Laguna del Laja

Laguna del Laja

Parque Nacional Laguna de Laja. What I had expected to be a pleasant trip into Chile suddenly sounded rather frightening, as visions of volcanoes, icy peaks, blistering winds, and yetis danced in my head (yes, yetis!). I wasn’t much for adventure, being more the “ooh, let’s go look at that flower!” type, rather than the “drive faster, my heart isn’t yet in my throat” type. My boyfriend on the other hand was the latter type. Yea, we’re like oil and water, but it works, kinda like peanut butter and chocolate (assuming you like Peanut Butter Cups, and I don’t know how you couldn’t). So we’d get to do some of my things while we were in Chile, like visit museum’s and the former houses of dead poets, and we’d do some of his things, like climb freakish mountains that shouldn’t be climbed by mortal man.

So here we are sitting in the station, waiting to depart on our 8:30 bus to El Abanico, a town close to the park. I assume El Abanico means ‘don’t climb that big mountain, there’s nothing but trouble up there’, but my Spanish has never been very good, so I could be off on that one. An hour and a half later and we get dumped at a T intersection in the road. The paved road went in one direction, the dirt road towards the park shot off of that like a sore finger, telling me clearly that ‘you don’t want to go this way, we left it unpaved for a reason’. Sadly that was the way we wanted to go, so we hitched up our things and began our dirt road walking. Usually what passes for an easy trip is an active thumb stuck out into the middle of the road, yet everyone else seemed to share my views on this mountain climbing business, as there wasn’t a car or soul to be seen along the road. So we continued to walk along, passing obtuse signs that lead us down dead end paths, and around in circles, until our 4km walk to the base had turned into an 11km jaunt around no man’s land.

Antuco Volcano

Antuco Volcano

At last we reached the base, at which point the real fun began. The trail started to climb upwards rapidly, and did so continuously for the next hour. I huffed and puffed, like I was gonna blow Little Red Riding Hood’s house down, while Cecil talked my ear off the entire time. After an hour we crested the valley wall and stared ahead at the craggy face of 3585 metre Sierra Velluda, a snow capped prickly finger of a mountain jutting out of the ground, with so many waterfalls falling off it at various points that it looked like the cliff had been shot multiple times and was rapidly losing its watery life blood. The inviting little patch of green at its base quickly faded into oblivion as it rose up, being devoured by muted hues of mountain coloured forlornness.

Not to be outdone (though it was in height), the 2985 metre Volcan Antuco rose to our left, beckoning to us with a snow capped cone of its own, though this mountain had not been shot apparently. Our trail would lead us across volcanic scoria that had filled the valley since the last (and I was hoping last really meant LAST) eruption. The way was marked by bone white sticks, bleached from years in the sun, and you can imagine how fitting I thought those were. On the other side of this volcanic upchuck lay a copse of beech tree, the perfect place to rest up, pitch a tent and eat some food, which we did. The night sky was amazing, though all I could think of was whether or not I would float up into that sky and form my own constellation after my inevitable death on this mountain, like Draco in Dragonheart.

The next morning got off to a magnificent start, as I saw a house sized chunk of snow and ice remove itself from the glacier and careen its way down the mountain. I don’t know if it because of global warming, springtime, or if it simply didn’t like the health benefits it was getting being a part of the union of glaciers, but that chunk made a spectacular split from the mountain. Cecil soon awoke, sleeping through the tumbling ice chunk like he does through his snoring, and we began our continued hike.

Laguna del Jaja

Laguna del Jaja

We picked our way up the cliff face, skirting along a small stream that we later saw were the rivulets of melting snow further up the cliff. We made our way around the snow and eventually reached the rim of the valley far below. I now got to experience glissading first hand, which is the Art of Sliding on a Really Big Snow Covered Mountain on Your Butt. It was quite fun I must say. We had lunch after this trip down the mountain, then made our way further along, eventually reaching the Laguna de la Laja. We estimated that we had gone 39km in a completely non-linear fashion in the last two days, and that a beer back in Santiago would be a spell nicer than walking along a dirt road for the entirety of the next day. So we camped out by the road and eventually found a truck which we could hop aboard (entirely with the driver’s consent, I assure you).

A few hours later and we were back in El Abanico, signing up for a bus that would take us back to Santiago that night. 6 hours later we were back in Santiago. Going from climbing a mountain to being in a modern city in the span of 12 hours is quite an experience. We got ourselves cleaned up, then headed out for the long awaited beer, all the more sweet since we were still alive. Not that I had any doubts. Really.