After Grafton went back to San Francisco we took a couple of days in Bariloche to catch up on email, blog, and get supplies for our next trek. We also got to hang out a bit with our hostel roommate Maxi, an Argentinian from Cordoba who works in the oilfields. Or did before a "difference of opinions" with his boss. He expects to come to some sort of an agreement and new employment after doing a bit of traveling. We made a good dinner with Maxi one night and then hung out playing poker with him and 2 girls from the States. It was not the cutthroat game the photo makes it out to be. In the hostel where we met Maxi there also lived the adorable and very small nameless puppy pictured below.
Before our trek in Puyehue, Chile we camped in the valley near a beautiful waterfall called the Salto del Indio. The next day we bought homemade cheese and bread from Señora Olivia, following the sign she had hung out on the highway. We also indulged in her excellent empanadas de queso, made and fried in front of us in her living room while Los Simpsons cavorted on TV.
Our trek started in a meadow of cows and then continued straight uphill through bamboo and lenga forest for about 4 hours to where a refugio sits just above the treeline. A refugio is a basic cabin with bunk beds and a woodburning stove. We opted to camp since the cabin already had plenty of raucous backpackers, and we stayed in our tent pretty much all the following day through a relentless rain.
Wonderfully, the rain stopped the next morning and we made our ascent of Volcán Puyehue, where the rain had been snow and formed beautiful ice crystals. Our view from the rim of the crater was a bit cloudy but remarkable, ringed with peaks, including Monte Trondador near which we had hiked the week before.
At the base of the volcano we picked up our packs and headed off across landscape like nothing we have seen before. Volcán Puyehue last erupted in 1960 and the land off to the north of the mountain is desertlike, covered in soft light pumice and much denser pieces of lava. The Río de Lava sits off to the west looking (as our guidebook said) like a black glacier. There is not much growing there.
About 5 hours across this moonscape we reached a beautiful small river with hot springs, one of the primary attractions on this hike. Mike took a hot soak as well as a bath in the crystalline river. I found the hot springs a bit too vegetable to be completely appealing. We camped on a beautiful little plot of grass at the edge of the river and the next morning hiked out to geysers about 2 hours on. These were blowing steam and the accretions on the rock surrounding the fumaroles was yellow, orange, and greenish blue.
We walked back out to the refugio that afternoon and realized along the way what a blessing the day of rain had been. We had that 24 hour buffer between us and the subsequent wave of hikers and had had the trail to ourselves. There were many people hiking in that day, as always down here many Israelis. We met one Israeli we had gotten to know a bit on a bus a couple weeks earlier. He was in a group of maybe 7 others and as we had just left a couple other groups of Israelis behind at the hot springs Mike had the presence of mind to quip, "We're starting to wonder where Moses is." Our friend said, "Yeah, and we're in the desert right!" The 3 Israelis we camped near at the hot springs gave us the best coffee we've had in South America -- direct from Israel.
A Few Thousand Words on Insects on the Trail -- not for the faint of heart, these really are as large as they appear!
17 hours ago