Parque Pumalin

From Coyhaique, I took a 12 hr bus up to Chaiten the nearest town by Parque Pumalin, which was recommended by several people along the Carretera Austral. The area is a temperate rainforest and is lush, green and beautiful. The park was created by a North American, Douglas Thompkins, who made his fortune with the clothing company Espirit and decided to protect this wild land before the Chileans exploited and destroyed it. While well preserved and with incredibly nice bathrooms, it seemed that someone watched Jurassic Park too many times. There were enormous wooden signs announcing the entrance into the park and the various campgrounds. I half expected to see dinosaurs around every corner. There was no reliable transportation from Chaiten and I had to hitchhike to arrive in the park.

hanging bridge leading to camping at Caleta Gonzaga

True to its identity as a rainforest, it rained for 2 days straight, most of my time in the park. In two of the 3 campgrounds, I was the only human camping, which was refreshing after camping in Patagonia with all the other foreigners. But, at some point, I went for over 24 hours without seeing another person, and I realized that I started to talk to myself. ¡loco!

In Argentina, I could always find denatured alcohol in the hardware stores for my ghetto but lightweight stove made of a tuna can and 2 beer cans. In Chaiten, they didn´t have this alcohol and they didn´t know what I was talking about. They had a pink solvent for burning and benzina blanca. I thought I remembered reading about trekkers looking for benzina blanca in a copy of a trekking book, and the benzina looked more flammable than the solvent and I was used to a clear not pink liquid. So....I made the mistake of taking benzina blanca as my fuel for 4 days in Parque Pumalin. Whoah! The first time I lit it, the flames leapt into the air over a foot high and quickly ignited all the liquid I had spilled next to the stove. Everytime I cooked, the huge flames left my stove and pot crisp and black and my hands were covered with black soot just from touching my pot. But, armed with oatmeal and polenta for my breakfasts and dinners, I had to use it.

One morning next to Lago Blanco, I found this guy inside my backpack. He later made it across the page of my dream journal.

Rio Tronador - heading up to Laguna Tronador

At Laguna Tronador, there were more than a dozen cascades emptying into the laguna from the surrounding mountains. After hiking up in the rain, the pristine lake was jaw-droppingly beautiful. One big cascade was behind my campsite; here are three views of it.

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