The curtain of clouds that had wrapped itself around snow capped volcano Orsono had begun to open as I stepped from my tent into the morning sunlight. I had fallen asleep to the sound of wind roaring in the trees and rain pattering on my tent roof the night before and the warm sun beaming over the Sierra Santo Domingo mountains just behind me was a welcome feeling and sight. I was camped on the shore of Lake Todos Los Santos, a huge lake surrounded by glacier laden volcanoes and emerald forests that sloped steeply to the waters edge. Two dogs lay next to my tent sunning themselves, one of which I was becoming attached to. I put my stove together and made a cup of coffee, ate a few cookies for breakfast and walked a few steps to a rickety dock and hailed a motorboat from across the lagoon. He picked me up in no time and I was on my way across the blue water to the mainland. I was headed up the Desolation trail, an ancient Mapuche (the people native to this part of Chile) path that would take me up behind the north face of the volcano, about a three hour hike. This I did. The trail started out through ancient forest. The Alerce trees that grow in these southern forests are up to 4,000 years old. Bird song settled to my ears like mist as I walked along the sun beamed path. Soon the forest fell below me and I entered the gently sloped waist of the volcano and the ground became volcanic sand and old brittle lava, open land except for patches of brush and trees, and views of the lake and surrounding mountains showed themselves. Up and up I hiked, the way getting steeper as I went. I tried to imagine what it was like a thousand years ago. Visually not much different, no signs of human occupation within view. That’s when I know I’m in a special place. So I continue until the elastic rubber band of time turns me around and slings me back down the hill, the views taking away what little breath I have left. I have a 3:30 ferry to catch that will take me on a two hour journey to the eastern end of the lake, to the small village of Peulla, just 20 miles from the Argentinian border, deep in the Andes.
The ferry ride from Petrohue, where I’m camped, to Peulla, is just two hours of heaven if you likes lakes and forests and mountains and waterfalls and the smell of infinity. The ferry carries about fifty people and is not big at all. There are families and retirees and a few people with backpacks who will continue on into Argentina. Peulla, the end of the ride, is a Shangri La, lying at the east end of the lake where a wide meadowed valley meets it, flowing down through the Andes, waterfalls streaming thousands of feet from cliffs on each side. Words are lost here. A small village powered by a turbine that lies along a roaring creek, no internet, a nice hotel, but basically looks like 1900’s village. I had an hour before the ferry left and explored everything I could, boarded the ferry for a scenic sunset cruise back to Petrohue, and barely found a boat ride back to camp as dusk closed the curtain on the fading light of the day.