15 December 2019
After what seemed like lunch in Bavaria at the tourist entrepôt of Pucon, we headed up into the beautiful Lake District at Parque Nacional Huerquehue.
Patrick White often wrote about the araucaria (or monkey puzzle) tree as a garden feature of his own childhood in Centennial Park, Sydney; and we had our own memories of araucaria as a feature of numerous stately and botanical gardens, not least of which is Werribee Mansion. Endangered in their natural habitat in the Lake District, we were curious to see how these tall, statured but rather prickly trees grow in Chile. “Araucaria” is in fact the name of both the region in this part of Chile and its indigenous people. It would be interesting to find out which nomenclature came first.
Needless to say? Araucaria trees in mountain-side forests are nothing like their stately garden cousins in Sydney or Melbourne. They’re much more grand, beautiful and fascinating treasures – covered in mosses and lichen, as they grow to a venerable age, their truck thicken and lose their prickles and the foliage only grows at the crown of the tree. This creates umbrella-like canopies across entire forests.
The Huerquehue National Park is of great significance because of the araucaria but was also especially delightful camping on the side of Lake Tranquilo, which we enjoyed kayaking one afternoon; while higher up in the park are extraordinary pristine mountain lakes: Chico, Verde and El Torro. We walked a fantastic trail that links all three as well as some lovely waterfalls.
Finally, Villaricca Volcano sits about it all. Frustratingly, the volcano was always covered in thick cloud. We were very excited that on the day we were driving out of the Lake District through Villaricca we turned back for one final look across the lake, and there was the volcano in full sight and splendour on as clear day. It was worth the wait!
In and around the Chilean Lake District
Ancient araucaria forest, waterfalls and a volcano at Huerquehue National Park
Clouds passing above Lago Tinquilco. View from Camping Olga