Ruta de los Jesuitas / Paso de Vuriloche (GPT21) Part 1

16 February 2018
Paso Vuriloche

From Santiago the night bus brings me about 1000 kilometers to the south. Arriving at the chilly Puerto Montt bus station at 6.30 am I can’t say that I’m fit for a hike. First there’s a second bus, to Ralún, which is close to climbers paradise La Junta near Cochamó. Since it’s peak season I’m definitely not the only one waiting at the bus stop. Fortunately, the bus turns out not to be one, but two buses.

I’m back in Patagonia to hike an earlier skipped part of the Greater Patagonian Trail. Yeah!

Andes Crossing

This is the first part of the Ruta de Paso de Vuriloche a historical crossing from Chile through the Andes to Argentina, used by the native people to travel to lake Nahuel Huapi. Vuriloche translates to something like ‘the people on the other side of the mountain’.

Later, this route was used first by the Spaniards and later by the Jesuits, using the legend of the City of the Ceasars; a magical place where no one was ever born or died, to encourage colonisation and to spread the evangelical message. Thanks to Father Macardi and his expeditions from Chiloé Island to Lake Nahuel Huapi this trail has earned somewhat of a pilgrim status.

There are still pobladores living along the route. However, it’s mostly old(er) people living here, the younger ones have little interest in living at secluded places with little facilities.

I leave the bus somewhere along the road near Ralún. This huge bay is actually a fjord, once visited by Darwin and today it’s hiding in thick in clouds, Darwins’ clouds.

The first ten kilometres are, as usual, an easy hike: a ripio road leaving civilisation, followed by a few kilometres through a lush, damp and dense rainforest to Lago Cuyahué.

Meanwhile the clouds have disappeared and I’m treated to un-Patagonian blue skies and sunshine. At the lake I decide to take the afternoon off to recover from the bus trip from Santiago. After pitching Tarptent it’s time to relax, read and explore the site.

Ruta de los Jesuitas: labyrinth XXL

Although this trail has two very beautiful names and there are, for Patagonia, quite a few hikers, this is actually the terrain of the Pobladores and Arrieros, local people using horses. The next morning the path quickly disappears into a lot of cattle trails, a dark and muddy maze, where orientation is challenging. Friend GPS turns out to be very helpful choosing the right direction and trails.

The last days have been extremely dry and this usually very muddy trail is now less muddy and the rivers are easy to cross.

Knee deep in a slow flowing Vado!

Later, at Pampa Linda, I learn that after heavy rains, the water here rises fast and high, adding easily about one metre. And that not long ago someone was dragged by river – luckily the victim survived. One of the reasons this route is only hikeable in summer.

Erosion: walking through trenches

Today the trail leads me through dark forests, lush meadows and rivers and around wooden houses, most of them are empty and/or abandoned. Tábano’s, the annoying sunflies, accompany me whole day. And since it’s summer, mosquitoes too. Whaah!

Then, suddenly, there’s another hiker. ‘Do you carry a map?’, he asks. He’s out here with two friends and they lost their map. I hand them my mobile phone to show my digital maps, since I’m not carrying any paper maps. I offer to hike together and after some deliberation the accept my offer. They also tell me to hike at my own pace, but my thru-hiker pace turns out be way too fast. We decide to camp together so that I can help them on their way tomorrow morning.

Later, we meet an Arriero and he tells us about a possible bivouac. Unfortunately we can’t find the place and it is starting to get dark fast in the dense forest. Oh, and in addition to the lost map the Chicos’ also have a material challenge with two broken backpacks and quite a lot of weight. And I’m not allowed to help out.

It’s time to stop hiking.

So somewhere on the trail, there is just enough space for our tents. Next to the trail there’s a river with a pebble beach, where a campfire must be lighted – welcome in Chile!

Because of the heath and the Tábano’s and mosquitoes I want to start hiking early tomorrow, but ‘early’ is too big of a challenge for the Chilenos. We eventually agree on leaving at 8.30 am, let’s see how that works out…

The trail

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Ruta Paso de Vuriloche Andes Crossing   

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Ruta de los Jesuitas / Paso de Vuriloche / Greater Patagonian Trail 21

More on the GPT (and the most up-to-date info) at Wikiexplora and here’s a detailed discription about the Ruta de los Jesuitas.

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