Lonquimay en los ojos de un viajero en moto

Michael es un motociclista qur recorre Sudamérica y hace un registro en fotografías y textos -en inglés- de cada lugar que visita. A mediados de febrero de 2014 pasó por Lonquimay, travesía que ha titulado “Caminos de montaña y valles escondidos”. (Ver contenido original) Su viaje comienza en el Volcán Lonquimay, donde toma muchas fotos del paisaje volcánico, pasando por Lolco hasta Troyo y de ahí hasta la ciudad de Lonquimay encontrándose con la Fiesta del Asado de Chivo. Su viaje por la comuna termina en Galletué e Icalma, para después continuar viaje por Melipeuco hacia el sur. A continuación sus anotaciones y fotografías, el paisaje local en ojos de un extranjero.

Feb 14, 2014
La Sombra – Lonquimay

… A few kilometers up the bucolic Cautín valley I turn left towards the Cordillera de las Raices and then left again to the gate of Malalcahuello National Park. Past the gate, the shade of the tall, ancient araucarias ends suddenly and the road enters a barren moonscape of volcanic ashes, dominated by the naked slopes of the Lonquimay volcano.   Forlorn bushels of dry, yellow grass are dotting some lower-lying areas,  otherwise the lift poles and buildings  of the Corralco skiing station are the only disruption to this huge monochromatic canvas of sands and ashes. The sandy road continues to climb to a pass at approximately 1800 m altitude. Several volcanoes can be seen from there: Lonquimay right across, Tolhuaca a bit further to the Northwest, Sierra Nevada de Lonquimay and Llaima to the South. Not to forget the glaciers of the Callaqui volcano shining in the distance across the Ralco lake.

Lonquimay volcano, Mallalhueco National Park

Lonquimay volcano, Malalcahuello National Park

View of Llaima volcano

View of Llaima volcano from Malalcahuello Natl. Park

View of Sierra Nevada and Llaima

View of Sierra Nevada and Llaima volcanoes

Callaqui volcano

Callaqui volcano

Tolhuaca volcano

On Christmas Day 1988, a side vent erupted on the Northeastern flank of the Lonquimay volcano, releasing a massive stream of lava into the valley descending towards the Bio Bio river. When the Navidad crater finally stopped spewing  in 1990, the entire upper half of the valley was buried under a layer of lava between 30 and 60 meters thick.  Filling the valley wall to wall, the vast lava field is almost looking like a chocolate brown glacier.

Navidad crater

Navidad crater

Lava stream from the Navidad crater

Lava stream from the Navidad crater

Lava stream from the Navidad crater

A sign is pointing down a staked-out path into the void, indicating the trail to the verge of the Navidad crater. Too bad I left my hiking boots with my stuff in Bariloche! I put on my sneakers and descend on fine sands and cinder towards the shallow bowl laying below. Some might find this almost plant-less, nearly monochromatic volcanic desert boring or even depressing, but I’m fascinated!

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The ascent on the other side is much less comfortable, a climb on coarse, loose, sharp-edged slag. As the path is getting steeper and steeper, the treacherous ground is giving way under my feet. Finally I get on all four paws to have extra insurance against sliding back all the way. Probably I could have made to the crater despite my insufficient gear, but I’m not keen on slipping and cutting my hands on the sharp edges of the slag.  Clinging to the slope I rest for a few minutes to take in the views across the lava field below, then I return to safer grounds and to the car.

View from the slope of the Navidad crater

View from the slope of the Navidad crater

Past the last mirador, the he road narrows to begin a steep, rocky, winding descent towards the mighty lava field below. I’m amazed by the play of colors, shadows and surface structures surrounding me…

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Apparently the lava was too thick to fill the valley straight from wall to wall like water would do. All the way down there is a narrow gap between the steep, 30 to 40 meter-high margin of the lava stream and the equally steep slope of the mountains bordering the valley. At the bottom of this crevice, the road is following the margin of the lava stream all the way to the front where the destructive flow finally came to a definitive halt. Generally very narrow, the gap is widening on occasion, leaving room for small patches of grass feeding a handful of cows or for little ponds of crystal-clear water shimmering in intense shades of turquoise and emerald.

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The front line of destruction

The front line of destruction

A little further down the valley, the road is passing through privately clearly marked by closed gates that need to be opened and closed by passers through. This section of the road isn’t in the greatest of shapes, but thanks to the dry conditions it’s passable just fine. However, I wouldn’t want to try this circuit without all wheel drive after a heavy rainfall, let alone during winter time.

This is cow country!

This is cow country!

On the road...

The road…

The tiny hamlet of Casa Loico is the first human settlement on the entire trajectory. From there it’s a steep up and down along the shores of the artificial Ralco lake until the road is crossing the Bio Bio river over a new concrete bridge. Past the bridge the road is joined by the track coming from Nitrito, the place I couldn’t to reach yesterday via the Bio Bio valley from Ralco. At the crossroads I pick up a farmer from Nitrito on his way to Troyo for some shopping and official business. Born and raised in Nitrito, he is now one of only four remaining inhabitants. As a child he went to school in Troyo, staying there all week and walking five hours each way on Friday and Sunday to spend the weekends at home with his parents in Nitrito. Once again he confirms to me that my car would not have passed the road from Chenqueco to Nitrito. Even if I had somehow mastered the steep inclines, I wouldn’t have made it through the knee-deep water of the river crossing.

Near Casa Loico

Near Casa Loico

Ralco lake near Casa Loico

Ralco lake near Casa Loico

Bio Bio valley near Troyo

Bio Bio valley near Troyo

From Troyo I continue to follow the Bio Bio river sometimes closely, sometimes from high above, until I reach the mountain town of Lonquimay – just in time for the beginning of the town’s biggest event of annual event. The three-day fiesta del asado de chivo is featuring roasted goat, locally crafted beers and local popular music. The town is packed, but I still find a decent, moderately priced single room in a hotel right down the road from where the action seems to be. You may guess what I had for dinner… 😉

Feb 15, 2015
Lonquimay – Playa Negra (Lake Caburgua)

Smoke is rising from the main square of Lonquimay into the blue morning sky as about 50 barbecues are being fired up and legions of goats are being prepared for the big roast. The first beer stands are already open. I wonder if the drunken guy being escorted off the square by two policemen was an early starter or a holdout from last night.

Fiesta del asado del chivo, Lonquimay

Fiesta del asado del chivo, Lonquimay

Fiesta del asado del chivo, Lonquimay

 

I already had my share of delicious goat meat last night and resist the temptation to stick around for yet another helping. I follow Route 181 out of town for a few kilometers, then turn Southeast onto the gravel road towards Laguna GalletuéAlong the way I notice a gradual change of vegetation, indicating my proximity the drier climate East of the main cordillera.
It’s warm and sunny and I can’t wait to go for a swim in the lake, but apparently the only access to the water is by paying the fee for one of agro-campings set up by the farmers owning the land along the shore. Almost 10 US$ (charge per vehicle per day, regardless of the length of stay and the number of people) appear a little stiff for a quick dip in the water…

Laguna Galletue

Laguna Galletué

Laguna Galletue and Llaima volcano

Laguna Galletué and Llaima volcano

I have more luck on the shore of Lake Icalma, where I find a nice and accessible beach,  only to be shared with two sheep quietly grazing right next to me.

My private beach, Lago Icalma

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