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Dust, waterfalls and lakes in southern Chile

The purpose of my trip to southern Chile is to scout the area and see what great locations I can bring clients to in 2020 when a total solar eclipse passes through the area. Well, I saw plenty today. I had done extensive research before coming and had a pretty good idea of what is here and where I should go each day. About 15 minutes into my planned course I saw this dirt road along a beautiful river, so of course I had to check it out. I wanted to head north of Pucon to some large lakes but we were suddenly heading south with no other roads around and I didn’t feel like back tracking. The road went for miles along the river offering occasional views of the volcano but mainly fenced properties. It seems that every property, even in town, is surrounded by a fence. They have some grand entrances and some of the fence posts are thicker than utility poles back home.

After driving for an hour on the dirt road we finally came to another road and I pulled out my Google map to see where we were. I had marked several waterfalls on the map and we were fairly close so we went that direction on more dusty, dirt roads. There was a sign to one I didn’t have marked and the picture on the sign looked pretty cool so we drove down another dirt road to check it out. We got down to what looked to be a parking area and several signs in Spanish and nothing in English. I could make out enough words to know that somebody wanted paid but there wasn’t anybody around and no other cars. A guy came out of a house up the hill and he broke into fast Spanish. I didn’t have much idea what he was saying and my cohort Bob didn’t have any clues. I finally figured out the waterfall was a 15 minute hike up a narrow trail and he wanted about $3 each. It turns out that most of the waterfalls around here are privately owned, or at least managed, and you have to pay to go look at them.

The hike was a little steep in places but not bad, even while carrying camera gear. When we could hear the falls I knew it was going to be worth $3. There were railings and steps down to an overlook that had a couple of viewing platforms with railings made from small tree branches. The falls was fairly large but the way the sun was hitting one side of the gorge it didn’t make for great photos but I was fairly happy with the shots I made.

We stopped at a couple of waterfalls I had marked on the map and they were the same, we were the only ones there and the person collecting money didn’t speak any English, but we made. The last one we went to was a huge falls and you hiked to the base of it. The wind was blowing all the mist from the falls right where you wanted to be to make pictures and I went back to the car to get my raincoat so I wouldn’t be drenched after going to the end of a boardwalk. The sun was shining bright from right above the falls and with the heavy mist it wasn’t possible to make a shot. On a cloudy day with the wind in the other direction it will be a great photo, but not today.

Last night while watching the sun go down I talked with a guy from Argentina who told me there was a big road race the next few days with 3,000 runners. He said they were running up toward the volcano. I knew I didn’t want to get caught up in that mess and my plan to head north fit in perfectly. My detour to the south was a different story. On my map I had located a thermal pool I wanted to see and we headed that direction right into the race. We didn’t see 3,000 runners but we were driving on a very dusty road and kicking dirt in their faces. I went as slow as I could and eventually there was a fork in the road and I went the direction that they weren’t coming from. The bad part was I didn’t know exactly where it went. It headed deep into the Villarrica National Park and the dirt road became a path that wasn’t much wider than the small rental car. At one point I was spinning the wheels in loose rocks getting up a hill. I had to back down and take a second running start at it, made it up around a corner and the road was basically two ruts in the dirt. That was far enough. I turned around and went back and kick up more dust in runners faces. 

I got back to civilization and went toward the large lake that I originally planned on visiting today. I had read about a beautiful white sand beach on one side of the lake. Like a lot of lakes back home, access wasn’t easy. To get to the beach I drove through a narrow residential area that had no parking. There was an access path to the beach between houses and I found a little spot to stick the rental car. It was a beautiful, sunny days, this is summer after all in Chile and the temperature was in the mid 80’s with a nice breeze and no humidity. There were quite a few people on the beach but it was expansive. It turns out it to be a place that would be great to have a picnic, relax and enjoy the scenery but wasn’t a tremendous photo location. I made some shot but didn’t stay very long. I drove to a little town that has what looks to be the only other beach on the massive lake but this beach wasn’t nice sand and you could drive right up to the water. Fun but not what I hoped for photography wise.

I took the scenic route back to Pucon to stop at a set of three waterfalls I had read about. Again, I had to drive a dirt road that wound between a house and their back. There were some pylons in the road and as I approached a very old lady came out to collect our fee. She wasn’t overly friendly but pointed me towards the falls. The first one was next to the parking around and again it wasn’t the right time of day to be there. There was a sign pointing up the hill to the second and third falls. I hiked up the path a ways and then got into the switch backs and noticed my heart rate has accelerated. This was a pretty good climb! As I puffed up the trail there were some tremendous views of the valley and the volcano in the distance. Well worth the hike. The second waterfalls had a couple of viewing areas with railings but you couldn’t get a clear shot of the falls, so I didn’t even shoot any pictures. I decided to take my chances and check out the third falls, hoping it wouldn’t be as far as the second one. It wasn’t too far but it was very cool. It wasn’t a large waterfalls but the scene couldn’t be nicer. The only sound you could hear was the water and everything was green. It would be a great place to go and just ponder. 

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