Huerquehue National Park

Huerquehue National Park is clearly a popular holiday destination. February is peak season, and campsites are full of people. Prices are high, too. In Chile, you see no end of people in small groups, walking to campsites with unwieldy baggage, their rucksacks never large enough to fit everything in. So they carry sleeping bags or mats and they have pots, kettles or shoes dangling off their bags, I've seen guitars and bongos, thermos flasks and giant bottles of coke being carried. I've seen people with what look like tool-boxes, someone dragging along some sort of container on wheels, people with multiple rucksacks, some with shopping bags or hold-alls. Ultra-lightweight camping has not arrived here! The thing to do is clearly to have open fires. Most campsites have places to make fires alongside every pitch, as well as lots of wooden picnic tables and benches. While my meths-burning stove and lightweight tent are a bit different from the norm, at least most campsites are not dominated by cars and caravans as is common in Europe. I do like being able to stick tent-pegs in earth which hasn't been compacted down by a hundred vehicle tyres.

Situated in the Araucania region, Huerquehue is replete with plenty of examples of its emblem, the araucaria tree. They grow predominantly at higher altitudes, and while they seldom seem to occupy the whole area of the forest, they tend to grow way taller than other species, such that they dominate the forest canopy. You can often spot them from far off, their lonely crowns supported high above the rest of the trees in the area.

I was fortunate that my couple of days here were really sunny. The many small lakes around which the most popular paths lead reflected the lush green forests and modest heights of the surrounding crags.

A day's trek through the park brought me to the Rio Blanco / San Sebastian thermal springs. The campsite had pools and baths of varying temperatures, some really quite hot, and most of them steaming in the cooler evening air.