With the big walking day done in this Bear Grylls but-not-fake journey we wake to a blissful morning in our new tent, new sleeping bags and new everything. Ok so we’re not exactly in survival mode; has Charlie made the green tea and granola yet? It’s so hard to get good help out here. Today we plan to walk out the other side of the national park to Rio Blanco to where we will, we hope, find hot thermal springs to add a little bit of icing on this cake. For now though walking can wait, where’s my tea?
Saddled up we venture out of the valley depths to begin an ascent all over again. Having left behind our entire campsite but for chocolate and water we veritably bound up the sharply eroded pathway to wind our way ever upwards, again. In the lower reaches of the valley the dense brush encloses us in the space left by the grander trees retreated to higher perches. Surrounding us on all sides are precipitous ridges of jagged stone dotted only intermittently by large monkey puzzle trees and small slivers of snow. The silhouette of the trees with bare straight trunks reminiscent of marching soldiers along the highest road, alone. Altitude here determined which plants grow where, the monkey puzzle trees the undisputed kings of this forest land.
But before long we begin our descent again farewelling the domain of the big trees and exiting the confines of the park borders. Tall straight trees dominate our vistas still albeit not quite like in the upper regions yet it’s worth the occasional stop-and-look all the same. Down and down we go through ever evolving landscape, it seems to change every ten minutes or so. Outside of the park boundary the relatively limited range or flora gives way to a wider range of introduced plants, or should I say weeds. The weeds are guiltily a little nice I have to say, the forest stops and we are in a relatively open field littered with wild rose. With two old farm buildings long since left to ruin it’s clear that ready human activity in this space is a notion long forgotten. The expression ‘beaten track’ comes to mind, here the track is not beaten any longer, nature has reclaimed the fight.
Walking through our time capsule of a farmhouse it’s clear by the derelict road leading in that there’s not likely to be anything but walkers in this area for some time. We’re passing gates and walking over makeshift bridges to the waning influence of the national park, before long we’re winding down a very functional road to Rio Blanco and the much anticipated hot springs. The energetic bound of earlier today is as distant as the national park flora, we plod into the grounds of the hot springs to the sight of Germany one and two from the Pucon hostel. It seems the embarrassment of that evening will hang about us for a little longer yet. A quick chat and we’re off, these tired unfit legs need a rest.
I think our bodies just passed away and we’re now in heaven. The hot springs here are fed by a small trickle of blisteringly hot water and fed through intermittent natural pools, each one getting a little bit more moderating cold water. So it’s a game of pick your temperature from scorching to hot, and here I was fearing that it might be a little bit of a lame tepid warmth, couldn’t be more wrong. We settle in for the second coolest and soak away the tiredness in a landscape designed for relaxation. A broad alpine stream rollicks along beside us and we’re flanked by grand mountains. Not a sound invades our peace beyond what nature and just a few other campers deliver, the warmth of the water slowly ebbing its way beyond the limitations of our skin and slowly unwinding our entire bodies, bliss. Yes it’s sounding like a day spa brochure and if not for the pristine natural surrounds we’d feel a tad guilty, but the uncontrived surrounds permit indulgence.
But all good things must come to an end, we have a campsite waiting back beyond the other side of the mountain pass. We have dropped elevation quite a bit today so the walk back offers more uphill fun meaning that we can’t stay as long as we would like to; but are we ever going to want to leave this place? I think not. One last lay down on the soft grass beside the springs shaded by a tree goes a little longer than planned; just a minute more.
The uphill commences, and it passes; the hot springs seemingly more restorative than we’d have ever thought. In the open fields of wild rose and lush grass we are assailed with the popular images of the Von Trapp family in The Sound Of Music, fresh air is so often underrated. With the majority of the uphills done by now we take our opportunities to dawdle, appreciate the views and soak up being back in the borders of the park. Unlike the Von Trapps, our journey is not a one-way event, we gladly return to our little home in the wilderness, a sanctuary in unlikely blazing orange
Unlike our first day here there’s no tent to set up and we’re not as nearly tired so no need for a nap, instead we layer relaxation and peace atop this detoxing wilderness cake. We also get back into a more usual routine, launching into a debate about what food must be eaten. It’s a short debate scouring over the limited ingredients we have, soup starters with noodles and tuna will serve for tonight. Some meals are more defined by the experience than the cuisine, in this case our tasty yet simple noodles are fit for a royal dining hall. Who said two minute noodles can’t be fine dining? To the setting sun we wonder how an editors cut of The Sound Of Music might finish; right now it seems that there’s only one possibility. The family escape all the evils of the world at the park border for an ever-after of bliss in the mountains, the happiest of ever afters ever penned, elegant and indelible.