Today it’s supposed to be raining. Even though the sky is covered with impressive, dark clouds, it’s not. I’m happy with the clouds. The trail is like a XXL cat litter box: white and dusty sand and small rocks. This stage is very exposed; there are no trees, there’s no shade and only where water flows there’s some colour to be seen.
Walking through the cat litter box is an exhausting exercise and my runners fill up the gravel, which is annoying.
Even though this is a tough hike: the empty and barren landscape is incredibly beautiful and I’m excited to be here!
After crossing a pass at 2700m. I descend to a river, here the trail follows the valley for a few hours. Again, the views are impressive (think: waterfalls, steep walls and dramatic landscapes).
Termas del Azufre
Today, just like yesterday, I’m aiming for a stay at termas. This time they’re the real deal! From a distance large steam clouds are marking the site.
Shortly thereafter the smell of rotten eggs take over and I’ve entered a green, yellow, muddy, smelly and bubbling world. At first this place seems unwelcoming: there’s an animal skeleton and waste laying everywhere. Together with the smell of sulphur and the muddy and steaming land it feels a bit unsettling.
Hot water flows fill different ‘nature’ baths.
Unfortunately, the water in the pools is either too cold or very hot. While I’m trying to reroute the hot streams to adjust the temperature in the baths, a group of men on horses arrive at the site.
It’s a group on expedition/a trip down memory lane. One of the men made this trip 50 years ago with his father. After the men have installed themselves an evening full of fun follows. I’m treated to Piscola and, of course, I MUST eat with them: completos with fresh avocado and tomatoes, yumyum!
Their packhorses can carry about 100 kilos, so the guys are carrying a complete basecamp with a lot of food and drinks. Guide Don Miguel, aged and owner of 20 horses, does not sleep in a tent; that’s way too hot! He sleeps like an arriero under the stars. That’s at least someone who understands the concept cowboy/girl-camping!
The next morning Don Miguel raises early to collect the grazing horses. Getting them ready for the trip is a project including blankets, a sheepskin, a towel and more. I continue my way towards NP Siete Tazas. It turns out to be a hike with impressive views!
The trail also turns out to be a tough hike. Don Miquel warned me yesterday about it ‘you’re going through a lot of sand’. Hiking, uphill through a lot of sand is extra challenging.
After an intensive climb to the pass…
…I descend towards Laguna Las Animas – arriving in NP Sieta Tazas.
Near the lake I meet today’s first dayhikers. From the lake a long and rocky downhill walk follows.
Somewhere halfway down the descent, I meet a Guarda Parque on horseback. We chat for a bit. I’m telling him I’d like to camp at the next campsite. Somehow something gets lost in translation and I understand that this isn’t allowed.
When I arrive an hour later at the place, refugio El Bolson (with views on El Diablo), I see all kinds of tents. Ha! It IS allowed to camp here! Again, I’m having a chat with the Guarda Parque. ‘Of course it’s allowed to camp here’, he tells, ‘and tomorrow buses leave to town from the park entrance every few hours’.
First task at the park entrance is to report at the administration. A few days ago, starting the sendero del Condór, the employee gave me a form with the explicit message to hand it in at the office at Siete Tazas.
The employee happily receives the form and immediately informs his colleagues at Altos de Lircay of my safe arrival. ‘This is everything?’, I ask. ‘I do not have to pay for this park?’ ‘No, that’s not necessary’, he answers. Usually (but not always) this is the case here in Chile; payment is only necessary on entry through the official entrance. Since I’m leaving the park (through the official entrance), paying is not needed.
A little later, at the mini-shop/restaurant/disco, I treat myself to fresh orange juice and an empanada while waiting for the bus to Molina.
Sendero del Cóndor / Altos de Lircay
El Sendero del Condor Trail
Read more about the Greater Patagonian Trail on Wikiexplora. Read more about the Sendero del Cóndor here.
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