Yesterday the cute park ranger at the national reserve had told me she’d be there early today as I’d been planning to show up at the gates by 8 at the latest. Unfortunately I’ll be the dick who won’t be there on time and got her to work early for nothing, as there was a street party of sorts outside my window until some time around 1, and howling/barking dogs picked up the slack after that, keeping me awake until 4-ish.
When I do get up I grab a quick breakfast and then start hoofing it over to the park, taking about 45 minutes to do so. Apologize to the park ranger – she doesn’t care that much it seems – and ask her where I might be able to find water inside the park, i.e. at campsites. There’s only one place in the park and it’s within site down by a small jetty and campground, but she says the river and the lake have had their water quality recently analyzed and they’re both clean enough to drink from. I’m skeptical and don’t really want giardia but she insists it’s among the most pristine water you can find in the world.
I head down the trail and it’s initially really easy – it’s like a driveway. In fact, it is, it’s the driveway to the embarcadero. I walk out onto it and look into the water. I know visuals don’t mean squat when it comes to clean water, but this water looks really clean. At the end of the jetty the water’s probably six feet deep but I can clearly make out every single rock. Up to about two feet of depth it’s like looking through a window.
A shot of the ranger station from the jetty:
There’s a small campground with a couple people walking around but I don’t see where the trail is so I say hello. The guy works at the park but doesn’t speak English, but a 20-something chick in a tie-dyed shirt says “I speak English!” She points me in the direction of the trail, it’s just on the other side of the campground.
The trail surprises me a bit. It’s supposedly “easy”, and although there aren’t initially any seriously large inclines, it’s a series of constant and fairly steep 15-foot inclines and declines with a loose surface. It winds up and over some large rocks, providing some views of the river valley ahead.
The path winds inland and between the large, rounded rock faces are mini-valleys of grass and a few marshy patches. The vegetation thickens up a lot, in places almost covering the path.
Up onto more rocks, down through more marshy patches, repeat a few times. One rock face stands out among the rest and I climb up onto it for a shot.
I want to take a second to pull off the boots and chillax but I’m swarmed by horseflies. A couple of them manage to take chunks out of me. Shhiiit! No long sleeves in my bag, no bug spray either. I throw the boots off and bust it down the trail to get away from the ruthless bastards. There doesn’t seem to be an escape though, I go for five minutes but they seem to get thicker and thicker.
After another dip into lush greenery, an even larger rock face presents itself. Stairs have been built on this one and I see a group of people ahead of me heading up them. I catch up to them fairly quickly and it seems they’re locals, an extended family, and don’t speak much English, but I manage to Spanglish out a question about the horseflies (they’re still all over me). I’m not sure if it’s the water or the food I’m carrying that’s attracting them, or if they’re just bad. They’ve all got long sleeves on and say it’s much, much worse in February, shrugging. I try to ignore them and snap a couple more pics:
I try my best to pick up the color of the water as well.
Start descending down into the next gully and I’m absolutely swarmed by flies, one in my eye, two on my neck, I transform into a rage of flailing limbs. Alright, fuck this shit. These little pricks have managed to take all the fun out of this. I turn around and start hoofing it hard back to the trailhead, not even stopping to take any more pics.
I “check-out” back at the ranger station and head back to town. Disappointing I didn’t even get to the lake, but I just can’t deal with those little bastards. Most importantly, I learned a lesson for the Villa O’Higgins-to-Argentina trip: get some bug dope and get a long-sleeved shirt.