Chile, South America

GPT3 Ríos Claros: beware of the bear

31 januari 2018
Oso Chile

‘No absolutely not! You’re sola. You’re una chica. No. Alone, here in the mountains? No. There are Pumas! It’s a big trip. You’ll have to walk all the way’.

Suddenly I encountered a closed gate. Something that happens here all the time. Hanging from the fence were all kinds of ‘no trespassing’ sings. Again, something not that special around here. The Greater Patagonian Trail actually isn’t a trail. It’s no more than connected trails, roads and tracks. Connected as in only connected on maps, on my GPS and on the computer. And since the GPT isn’t a trail and hiking in Chile on private property isn’t a matter of course, this means interesting chats with owners, the local people or whoever I encounter.

As I’m hiking here an arriero appears from the other side of the fence. I ask if I’m allowed to continue my hike. He asks about my plans. To keep it simple, I say I’m hiking from this village to the next village. His answer is the above.

Roadside Maria

After his ‘no’, I tell him I’ve been hiking from Pucón to here. Sola. Through La Cordillera. Without any problems. ‘I carry maps and a GPS’, and I show him some pictures. ‘You should walk back to the road and take the bus. The route through the mountains is way too difficult. Also because you’re a Chica’, he responds.

‘I would really, really like to hike through the mountains. If it’s too difficult or dangerous I’ll return’, I try. Now he’s getting impatient. I believe he asks me what I’m going to do. Join him back to the road or walk through the mountains? ‘I’d like to hike through the mountains, is that allowed?’. ‘You shouldn’t ask me for permission, ask the residents’, he says. You should have told me right away, I’m thinking. ‘Well, in that case I’ll ask the residents. Have a nice day and adiós’, I say.

Cactus GPTThe resident isn’t too happy about my plans. ‘There’s a Puma and he has eaten two sheep!’ My Spanish does not reach far enough to answer that an attack by a Puma is extremely rare. We chat a little and I ask again. ‘What did the arriero say’ she asks. ‘He said it’s fine’, I lie. ‘Well, you should go then’.

In Europe there are proverbial bears on the road. Here, in Chile, it’s the Puma.

This isn’t the first time I’m having a conversation like this, having to use all my courtesies, persuasive powers and a creative interpretation of the truth. With this permission I’m hiking a new stage of the GPT. Te remainder of the afternoon I don’t encounter anyone (or anything) except for a fluffy.


Fluffy: pretty impressive, nothing to worry about.

That evening I camp at the foot of a climb, which I’d rather hike in the cool morning when the Tábano’s are still asleep.

Charcoal kiln

Charcoal kiln

Somewhere the next afternoon, while I’m taking a break in the shade, another hiker passes me. It’s Virgil from France and he has some kilometers to go, with Canada instead of Santiago as his terminal. ‘Ah, you’re la chica de Holanda’. We spent the afternoon hiking together. How nice it is to finally share some trail stories!

That evening we camp at a site used by the arrieros. Here, in the north, there are no puesto’s, but there are sites with a campfire place, a table and chair (or a stone or piece of wood) and usually with a lot of waste lying around (mostly empty wine bottles and beer cans).

Besurta GPT

A lot of litter laying around at this stage.

I tell Virgil about my encounter with the arriero yesterday. No, he doesn’t experience things like this out here. On the other hand; I’m offered a lot of rides and help.

The next morning I leave the site early. It’ll be a warm day and I’m happier hiking in the cool hours. Virgil is a fast hiker, he will catch up with me later today.

Morning wrestling in a monstrous maze

The first goal is a pass at 2050 meters altitude. To reach the pass I must first conquer a maze. One with prickly plants in a dense state,  this is a very unpleasant surprise. The plants are huge and I can’t see where I’m heading and if I’m bushwhacking a friendly bush or a monstrous bush. The tracks on my GPS aren’t of much help: the growth has changed too much since they were recorded. While I’m struggling through the vicious fauna, the plants eat my Christmas socks, cling on to my hair, hit me in face and cuddle with the unit (sleeping pad).


This is friendly monstrous growth.




When the maze finally lets me go, I look -ehm- scruffy; my arms and legs are bleeding and my socks are destroyed. The remaining trip, up to the pass and, after this, down to the next valley is easy compared to the monstrous maze. That doesn’t mean this is an easy hike.

Paso Río Claro

A few hours later, there’s a short repetition of the maze. This time it’s blackberry bushes. Yeah!

Just after the mini maze there’s a brook with a swimming hole. It takes only a few seconds for me the get in the fresh water to cool down and to clean my dusty self.

That afternoon an endless descent, with endless, vicious, short climbs over a sandy and dusty path awaits. My runners are worn out and are shy of falling apart. They’re a challenging combination with the dry, rocky and sandy trail. Virgil has now overtaken me, we walk together for a bit. Then, he disappears with his fast, young legs.

Flowers GPTAt the end of the day as I reach the next river, I do not intend to take one more step – oempf!

The next morning I walk out of the area: twelve fairly easy and fast kilometers. The first road I reach is empty. A few kilometers later, on the next road, there’s a bus stop without a timetable. Within a few minutes I get a ride to the town of Rancaqua, the last stop before reaching Santiago.

Cactus Chili

Greater Patagonian Trail: Ríos Claros


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Lf Hiker | E.Pointal contributor

GPT3 Rio Claro Trail   


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GPS Rio Claro Greater Patagonian Trail

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