Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parque Nacional Conguillío

Our second stop on our trip south was at Parque Conguillío, one of the Lake District's best natural attractions, where we camped for the night.

The Conguillío National Park is dominated by Volcán Llaima which has shaped the park's landscape dramatically. The first 10km into the park are characterised by deep valleys scarred by jagged lava flows. The volcano last erupted in 2008-9 and the landscape is now dark and rock-filled where forests once stood.

Volcán Llaima, which last erupted in 2008-9,
and the landscape blackened by its lava flows.

The park is famous for its ancient Araucaria forests, and the Araucaria is the national tree of Chile. The name Conguillío derives from the Mapuche word for "water with Araucaria seeds". The English nickname for this tree is a monkey puzzle tree.

A giant Araucaria tree

The park has excellent camping and trail facilities and we enjoyed a walk through parts of the national forest. We walked to the first mirador of the popular Sierra Nevada trail and on the way back we saw a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers, South America's largest woodpecker. They are huge!

Part of the Sierra Nevada trail

We also visited Lago Captrén, a shallow lake which was formed when lava flows from Volcán Llaima obstructed the Río Captrén. The lake formed where there was previously a forest and now there is a large underwater forest, with the tips of dead trunks piercing the surface of the lake. It's quite eerie to see the large, submerged logs lying in the green water.

Lago Captrén, the underwater forest

A consequence of the volcanic eruption and its destruction of the landscape can be seen in the new growth in the park. Where there were once expansive forests, trees now struggle to grow and this has resulted in natural bonsai trees fighting through the volcanic rock. It's very cute to see the little splashes of life in the bleak landscape.

A natural bonsai

Our last stop in the park was at the Trufel Trufel waterfalls. We walked a small loop through the lava field and volcanic debris to see the beautiful river canyon and the waterfalls.

Río Captrén

Saltos de Truful Trufel

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