Friday, April 12, 2013

Cascada Chachin & Hua Hum

The morning of our second day in San Martin found our weather to be much of the same with gusty winds and intermittent but heavy rains. Undeterred Mariano selected another route this time though not quite as far as yesterday which will take us past the small village of Yuko, Lakes Lacar and Nonithue, up to the border area with Chile known as Hua Hum. However our main objective is to do the short hike to Cascada Chachin. The waterfall comes from the snow melt that creates the Chachin River and Lake Queni. At this point, from an elevation of about 625 meters, it cascades over a stretch of the Andes into Lake Nonthue. A total round trip of 96 km or about 60 miles but still on dirt roads made muddy and slippery due to the rain. We bundle up in warm clothing and make sure that we have a spare towel for drying the dogs who are quite excited at the prospect of another day of jumping through puddles and going on walks. On the way up, we pass many cars coming in the other direction. One waves us down and tells Mariano that the road ahead is horrendous and that we will need four-wheel drive. I suggest turning round but Mariano thinks the jeep can make it and decides to give it a try. Making our way through puddles, ruts and past the small occasional landslide we drive past the pampas or plateau and up into the mountains, stopping only to give the dogs a quick walk. After making the turn onto yet another side road even more rutted than the last, we eventually came to the trail head leading to the falls. At this point we are only about 4km from Paso Hua Hum at the Chilean border. From here we have to walk and fortunately for us, the rain has stopped and the wind abated. Also the dogs are allowed on the trail with us. Stopping along the way to check out the different types of trees like the Maniu which only grows where the rainfall exceeds 3,000mm per year, fauna, ferns and some incredible fungi, we made our way slowly up the trail. The old trees with huge masses of entangled roots that mark their place in the mountains help show the natural state of the area. Occasionally there are openings between the trees where the wonders of the lake and mountains beyond are revealed with incredible views. After only 20 minutes or so, we reached the viewing platforms for the falls. The falls are quite amazing but more than that is the silence, broken only by the sound of water. It was as though we had arrived at some secret spot known and revered only to the indigenous Mapuche. It was at that moment I was glad we had persevered. What a place. On the way back to the car, I kept turning 360 degrees to absorb the magic of the area. On the way back to San Martin, we were all glad we had kept to our plan and made it. Cascada Chachin is definitely worth the trip.

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