After a good breakfast at the hotel I start rather late. To my surprise the sky is grey and some raindrops are falling. But soon enough it is warm and sunny again.
After a short stretch on a cattle trail, I walk some time on a dirt road, until I reach the Campground Huinganes, which would make a nice place to stay overnight. It even has a pool! The owner explains, where the horse trail begins, which starts from here.After Camping Huinganes the wilderness starts again
It is easy to follow the trail, which makes a good hiking route. The vegetation is surprisingly dense and reminds me on mediterranean macchia or californian chaparal.
Good trail in dense Vegetation
I follow the valley of Estero Huinganes and then ascent to a low pass. Soon after I reach Rio Arenillas where I manage to fall into the water by balancing the slippery rocks. Just refreshing at these temperatures! I carried 4,5 litres from Termas de Cauquenes, but to my delight I learn, that the rivers have water, so it is not necessary to carry much.
A good trail passes Casa de piedra, a rock which makes a good hide in bad weather.
Casa de piedra
I climb to another pass from where I have nice views in the valley of Rio Claro, which I will follow for a long time.
As the valley is quite steep in many places, the trail mostly runs high above on the shoulder.
Trail high above the river
In places the route was heavily overgrown and just recently cleared by nice people! I hope it continues like that, otherwise the hiking in this dense, thorny vegetation would be quite difficult...
It seems this trail is used frequently, at good camping spots I see fireplaces and beer cans...
Nevertheless I just meet two men, surprisingly not on horse, but walking as well!
Recently cleared stretch of trail
While I put up my camp on a flat, open place someone visits me: A large grey fox, more resembling a coyote appears nearby but soon is hidden again in the brush.
Evening at my camp
To my horror the cleared stretch of the trail ends soon the next morning, so there is a lot of slow bushwacking...
The trail is mostly overgrown
At some places I have to scout some time to find out were the trail continues, because I soon notice, that even if the trail is overgrown, it is still much better than no trail!
Sometimes I have to cross the river, because the route continues on the other side. Near the river there is a good number of ideal campsites, with shady trees. Although the trail has not seen much use recently, there are some old campsites.
In a shady grove I spot a bird of prey, which sits only about 7 meters away from me and surprisingly is not shy at all.
Raptor in a shady grove
In the afternoon the trail has completely disappeared and I need to find my way cross country. To climb out of the valley is quite hard, because I need to negotiate a number of steeply cut side valleys.
Sea with waves?
Eventually I reach a pass at 2020 metres.
View back into Rio Claro valley
First the descent on the other side is rather flat and easy.
The descent starts flat
But when I reach a steep step with very thick vegetation, the most difficult bushwacking of my trek in Chile starts. I try to link some clearings I spotted from above, but at some point it is almost impossible to continue, so I have to return and scout for another route.
Eventually I find a faint cattle trail, on which I am able to descend without too much difficulty.
I had hoped that on the plateau down below the walking gets easier, but even there the vegetation is very dense. Although there is cattle and some tracks, there is no clear direction, so I circle around and don't make much progress.
More thick vegetation
But luckily I find a cattle track, when I need to descent steeply again, to reach the valley of a creek, where I find a nice camping spot.
Finally I find a nice spot for my tent
Jan has marked the gpx-tracks of today as not verified, so I proofed that it is possible to use this route. The hiking was strenous and sometimes difficult, but I am satisfied to have made it!
Next morning I soon reach the confluence of two creeks and continue on the right side of Estero Tierras Fovas. The trail disappears and I climb upwards in hope of avoiding the deepest thickets. On a ridge it becomes clear, that the other side of the river is easier to negotiate, so I descend steeply and finally find a good trail.
Early morning in the brushy valley
The terrain is still steep and difficult, but after I pass some fences the trail is easy to follow and I proceed rather quickly.
Down the valley
As I saw nobody yesterday I am quite surprised to meet a lonesome, proud rider with a packhorse. We greet each other and carry on without chatting, which is a pity, but my spanish is limited and I get the feeling that the mountain people often are rather timid.
Here at around 850 metres it is again very hot and tall cacti intersperse the thorny bush vegetation.
Spiky plants in the valley of Rio Claro de Rengo
When I see the swift Rio Claro de Rengo, I know that the crossing will be difficult. I walk upstream to find an appropriate spot and finally give it a try. But after a few steps I turn back, the river is far too fast and deep! Now I try downstream and eventually find a good crossing point where the water is rather shallow.
The powerful Rio Claro de Rengo
On the other bank there is a dirt road, some pastures and a homestead, but soon I leave the valley and ascent on a good, but steep trail.