Malalcahuello-Nalcas National Reserve

You walk up through the lenga and coigue forests, up past the araucarias growing at the highest parts, and then you get to largely bare volcanic dust and gravel. The trails continue, though the paths become less distinct. At regular intervals, one foot or another sinks 5 or 10 cm lower than you thought it would, as you hit one of the tuco-tuco burrows which seem to cover the entire area.

Here it was even quieter than Villarrica... I saw nobody for the first few days.

The maps are strange. The IGM map is accurate but shows few of the paths, and not many of the few buildings. The map they give you at the park office shows the trails they intend you to follow, but not much else. Both fail to identify certain geographical features - I spent some time trying to figure out where I was, on the rim of an obvious crater which was neither marked nor named, nor even shown in the IGM map's 50m contours. But what is most conspicuously missing from either of the maps is the ski resort, along with all its buildings, ski-lifts and tracks, which covers one side of the volcano Lonquimay.

Lonquimay itself has a path leading to the summit, but CONAF obviously. doesn't want to encourage people up there... Fortunately Lonely Planet told me about it. I followed the ski resort dirt roads to the top of the upper lift, and then the work started... The whole mountain appears to be made of volcanic dust and gravel, so while it's not especially difficult, it's a bit of a slog up, and potentially treacherous coming down again.

Still, I had beautifully clear weather, with fantastic views in all directions. The top of the volcano is a snow-covered crater. I shared the summit with one group of five and one couple - I didn't see anyone else going up or down all day. Below us, an excavator made repeated trips up and down the mountain, bringing up full buckets of gravel for construction work on the ski resort. It seemed fairly farcical, all that time and effort, when there was plenty of gravel already on the mountain, but I suppose they needed a different type...