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Sunday, February 13, 2011

VALLEY'S AND VOLCANO'S

By the time we reach the gorgeous seaside town of La Serena the desert has started greening up. We finally have a double land motorway with tolls. So time to take a few scenic detours up into valleys where vineyards stretch high up into the hills. They look amazing against the dry mountains. Our second detour is a bit more difficult than anticipated - very narrow, twisting & steep for hours. We are quite relieved to stop for the night at a Nacional Parque full of more geogylphs.(Global Roamer 1 would not have made it!) After that the toll road seems more attractive.
Next stop the city of Valparaiso. We manage to find a semi guarded spot on the beach and head off to explore. It is very cute & very steep, but a few hours in the city is enough for us, so we head off. Back to the beaches, forgetting that we are nearer cities and it is holiday time....there are lots of locals camping & sadly leaving their debris behind. Definitely time to head inland to some national parks. We put in a lot of miles to get past the the cultivated countryside so we can get to the mountains.
Our first is Parque Nacional Laguna Del Laja. We arrive late and camp in an amazing spot on top of a lava flow beside the lake. The volcano is right behind us. The next morning we drive right around the lake nearly to the border of Argentina ( no we can't go yet, we still have fruit & veges to eat) so we retrace our steps and continue to our next parque.
This time through lots of forest plantations and open countryside. We are looking for Malalcahuello, but with no signs we have to ask for help. We finally get there and drive through heaps of amazing Monkey Puzzle trees and come out to find ourselves beside the volcano. My book says that there is a hour and a half walk to the crater...so we are hunting for this. We follow the road straight up the side of a volcano ( We both rate this as the MOST AMAZING drive yet) As we climb up we could see right into the crater of the neighbouring volcano...no need to walk at all (How lucky am I!!) We followed the mountainside for quite a while continuing down beside the massive lava flow and through more foliage. It was definitely a one way road. Not even sure where it went to, so we turned around and headed back, only meeting 3 other cars who had to reverse back to let us through. We slept down below in the Monkey Puzzle trees. The next morning was gorgeous, so we repeated the first part of the drive.
The next park was down a lot of bad dirt roads surrounded by lots of trees....Parque Nacional Congouillo. Here there are lots of beautiful blue-green lakes and the amazing (& active) Volcan Lliama. From here we head to Villarrica - a huge lake rather like Taupo in NZ, with it's own volcano towering over it. Around the lake there is some very expensive real estate and the resort of Pucon is pumping. Way to busy for us, so we continue to Lican Ray (yet another lake - I forgot to mention that we are in the Lake District) and camp beside the lake with yet another volcano behind us.
Just a few more lakes, and lots of little villages full of wooden houses - many in various stages of deterioration. It has started to rain. Tired of lakes and rain we head over the Andes to Argentina....actually this was the plan. Because of our delayed start we are taking the faster route south to pick up our cruise mid February.

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