An excursion to Northern Patagonia

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Wed 1 Mar 2017 02:43
Julie wanted to see the flat topped mountains of Patagonia. I wondered where these were and hoped she wouldn't be disappointed. 

Rain, rain, rain. We were getting a taste of how wet Valdivia might be in the winter. Bags packed and in the boot, Angie, Julie and I set off south once more. We stopped in Puerto Varas to buy Angie a pair of waterproof trousers, and for a slice of cake from the café my brother recommended (he went to the one in Pucon so perhaps a different ambiance).

When we fuelled up at the petrol station, it was still raining, if anything it seemed to be intensifying. At the end of Lake Llanquihue, the police were turning cars back, the bridge on the road to Petrohué had been swept away. We turned off towards Ralún. As we crossed the bridge over the Petrohué River, we were awed by the brown and seething mass spilling into the Reloncavi Estuary. 

There wasn't far to go to Cochamó, where we were planning to camp in Ida and Ciro's garden. Angie had dozed off in the back and Julie and I were arguing about latitude and longitude (which was which) and still it rained. "Maybe we could stay in the house ..." ventured Julie. I thought ''ardcore-Angie' might object but she agreed wholeheartedly to the idea. 

As far as Ida was concerned, there was no other option than sleeping in the house. As always, she greeted us warmly. In the kitchen we met Giovanni (Ciro's eldest son) and Helena (Giovanni's partner) who were visiting until the morning. It was great to see them again. Helena told me, patting her bump, "We are going to call him Franco Giovanni." I was vaguely embarrassed-stroke-amused-stroke-horrified.

Ida explained later. Helena wanted to call the baby 'Hugo' but Ida felt it didn't go with Giovanni so had suggested 'Franco' which everyone liked. I pointed out that in Spain, 'Franco' wasn't a popular name. "Ah, I hadn't thought of that" she said, aghast.

The next morning the sun was doing its best to break through the clouds, and the forecast was for no rain. We were in luck. We drove down the track which leads to the start of the path to La Junta. We would see how far we got. Unfortunately, the track had been washed away a few kilometres short of the end and local residents were busy rebuilding it. Maybe the rain had been worse than the norm after all. We abandoned the car by the side of the road and started walking. 

The path was very wet. In many places, small watercourses had burst their banks and were streaming down the footpath. It wasn't long before Angie's and Julie's feet were soaking but they didn't complain. The fabulous landscape of deep green forest and thundering waterfalls shrouded in mist and steam looked its best.

Even more waterfalls than ever

We got to the big river. I knew we wouldn't be able to ford it as we had with the horses but I remembered signs for a bridge. Only, I didn't know what kind of bridge ... Two boards held up by rusty cables spanning the rushing foaming whiteness below. Angie blanched, she doesn’t like heights and this kind of structure is her worst nightmare.

Julie was pragmatic, "let's just go back now" but Angie was determined to go further. She ignored my protests and marched down to the river. Luckily she didn't need much convincing that it would be too dangerous to wade. There was only one way forward ... the 'tightrope'.

Angie bravely crossing the bridge

We didn't get as far as La Junta but we enjoyed our walk anyway. Julie seemed content to swap 'flat topped mountains' for the amazing bryophytes and lichens of Chilean Patagonia.

Trees ‘dripping’ with lichen


Bromeliad Fascicularia bicolor