Monday, January 28, 2019

HUILO HUILO BIOLOGICAL RESERVE: Volcanoes, Waterfalls and Towering Rainforests, Chile’s Lake District, Part 2

Huilo Huilo, Chile: On the deck at the top of the teleferico (aerial tramway) facing the volcano
On our second morning at Huilo Huilo we slept in again (getting used to the time change–five hours earlier than California), but got up in time to have breakfast and be at the stables for a horseback ride at 11:00.
During our horseback ride all the horses much preferred eating the daisies!
It was a warm spring day and flowers were everywhere. We rode through a field of daisies, lupins, Queen Anne's Lace, and wild roses, and then into a forest, before looping back through the flower field to the stables.

Before our ride we had taken a short walk to Salto Huilo Huilo, a magnificent waterfall located nearby.
Salto Huilo Huilo gives the reserve its name. In Mapudungan, the language of the Mapuche, Huilo Huilo means "deep crack" or "deep fissure"
The Spanish word for waterfall, salto, is from the verb saltar, to jump, and the masses of water were truly jumping over the brink to the river below, showing the power of nature in full force.
The tunnel provides access to the Salto de Puma falls through the thick foliage at the water's edge.
After lunch at a restaurant in Neltume (I had a churrasco sandwich–meat and avocado in a large roll) we drove to the trail head for another waterfall, the Salto de Puma, a longer walk ending in a path through a tunnel made of dried bamboo.
Salto de Puma. Although pumas, or cougars, are known to live in the reserve, they are rarely seen.
At the end of the tunnel is a dramatic opening to a platform in front of the falls, which thunders into the pool below..
View of the town of Neltume from the top of the teleferico. Neltume gets its name from two Mapudungun words meaning “To go to freedom” (NeltĂșn: let free, Men: to go there).
We then returned to the hotel for a short rest before going to the cable car (teleferico) station near the museum for a ride to the top of the mountain. For dinner we had pizza in the cafe at the Petermann Brewery across the road from the hotel--where one can also see the vats where the beer is brewed.
The path to the waterfalls goes through a cave formed by a lava tube.
On our last morning, after another sumptuous buffet breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and headed back to Temuco, stopping along the way for one last walk–this time to a lava tube cave and then to another waterfall.
Rapids below the waterfall
The path was marked as a circular trail and ended up being much longer than we expected, descending to the river level to see the waterfall, then hiking back up to the entrance past an electricity generating station.
And then it was time to get back in the car for our ride back to Temuco and our flight to Santiago.Our three days in Huilo Huilo had been full of activities enhanced by perfect weather--warm but not hot and clear blue skies. We wished we could have stayed longer but it was time to go celebrate Christmas with family. It was the perfect beginning to our third trip to Chile.
Adventurous hikers could follow the path behind the waterfall, but risked getting wet!
For a report of our previous trip to Chile, in December 2009, when we went to the far north and visited the Atacama Desert, click HERE for Part 1, and HERE for Part 2. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

HUILO HUILO BIOLOGICAL RESERVE: Volcanoes, Waterfalls and Towering Rainforests, Chile’s Lake District, Part 1

Volcano Mocho-Choshuenco rises above Lake Panguipulli in Chile's southern lake district.
It was the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere. Birds were singing and a profusion of wildflowers blanketed fields and roadsides as we made our way toward Huilo Huilo Biologic Reserve at the base of the Andes in Chile’s lake district. (Huilo Huilo, pronounced, WEEL-oh-WEEL-oh, is a private for profit natural reserve and ecotourism project in southern Chile.)
Huilo Huilo is in the Patagonian Rainforest
We had landed at the Temuco airport, where we rented a car for the two and a half hour drive–made a little longer by our stop to take photos at the dramatic viewpoint on Lake Panguipulli toward the snowcapped volcano Mocho-Choshuenco, rising 2413 meters (about 7500 feet) into the blue sky.
The road to Huilo Huilo follows the shore of long Lake Panguipulli
After checking in at our hotel, we spent the next three days exploring the reserve, hiking, horseback riding, and learning about the unique life in this southern temperate rainforest. Plastic wristbands gave us free entry into most trails and facilities.
A spiral walkway around the atrium of the Nothofagus hotel leads to rooms facing the treetops.
This was a family vacation with our daughter, her husband, and their two teenage children, and there were activities for all ages to enjoy. We were staying at the Nothofagus Hotel, named after the tall trees endemic to the area. The hotel, built almost entirely of wood, surrounds a Nothofagus trunk and resembles a treehouse, with rooms looking out into the canopy.
Cheerful yellow plastic birds mark the trails in the Huilo Huilo reserve.
From our deck we could hear the roar of the river a short distance from the hotel. Before dinner we took a short walk along the river path to Salto de la Leona, one of several waterfalls in the reserve where masses of water from spring snowmelt were crashing over the edge.
A full moon rises over the mountains in the east (the Andes)
At sunset we went up to the roof deck to watch the sun disappear behind the volcano. Later, we watched the full moon rise in the east, so bright that it eclipsed most of the stars.
A herd of red deer gathers at feeding time. In December (spring in Chile) the male's antlers are covered in velvet.
On our first morning at Huilo Huilo  we crossed the road and  followed the trails (senderos) leading to the large enclosure where a herd of deer (ciervos) lived and to another smaller enclosure with a group of wild boars (jabali). We were able to observe the animals up close via raised walkways and they appeared quite oblivious of us.
A lively group of young boars, still with their striped coats, were frolicking in the enclosure.
We then walked around a large pond and its border of giant leaves to the nearby Volcanoes Museum.
Mapuche woman
Silver jewelry made by the Mapuche displayed in the Volcanoes Museum. The Mapuche (meaning "people of the land") are the largest ethnic group in Chile and constitute approximately 10% of the population (more than 1,000,000 people.)
The Volcanoes Museum is filled with exhibits of animals, minerals, fossils, history of the indigenous Mapuche people, a reproduction of a copper mine, and, rather oddly, a carved mammoth tusk from China.
Stone markers in the Mapuche style outside the Volcanoes Museum
After a lunch of empanadas, the classic Chilean meat filled pastries, that we had purchased from a stand in the local town of Neltume, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the hotel spa. We were still recovering from jet lag--the time difference in December between California and Chile is five hours. At dinner that evening in Puerto Fuy, just a few kilometers down the road, Art and I enjoyed our pisco sours, the classic drink of Chile. Back at our hotel that evening Art, Jennifer and Humberto attended a free workshop–learning how to make the perfect pisco sour, or the Huilo Huilo variation, which adds blueberries to the mix.
Pisco sour workshop.
Plans for our next day included horseback riding and a ride on the teleferico (funicular) up the mountain. Part 2 of our visit to Huilo Huilo will post next week.

For a map and directions for getting to Huilo Huilo click HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A MOUNTAIN TEAHOUSE STAY IN NEPAL Guest Post by Caroline Hatton at The Intrepid Tourist

Nani's Teahouse in Tolka, Nepal
My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton went trekking in the Annapurna region of the Nepal Himalaya in November 2018. She took all but one of the photos in this post. For info about her books, visit

For the grand finale of a spectacular hiking trek in the Annapurna region of the Himalaya, our Nepali guide, Gyanendra, gave our group the option of staying at a small teahouse instead of a big tourist lodge. My husband and I and the other couple in our group all jumped at the chance.

Our guide, Gyanendra
(Selfie courtesy of Gyanendra)
When we arrived at the teahouse in Tolka, the hostess, Nani, welcomed us warmly. Our duffle bag was already in our room. It contained our night stuff (sleeping bags, towels, toiletries…). Our porter, Vishnu, carried it on his back all day every day, then delivered it to our room every afternoon.

Our hostess, Nani
We dropped our two daypacks in our room. These contained what we needed hiking all day: water, snacks, sunscreen, jacket, first-aid kit… same as when day hiking at home in California. We never carried lunch food, because every day, we ate lunch at a restaurant on the way.

Everything at Nani’s teahouse was basic but impeccably clean: rooms, beds, one shared toilet, and one shared shower. The shower water temperature was exquisitely hot at 42o C (~108 o F).
Room for two
“Would you like to see Nani’s goats and buffalo?” Gyanendra asked, bravely—he knew, after guiding our group for a week, that I love animals and can make him wait forever while I take photos. Two of us followed him up steep stone steps to visit terraced fields where Nani grows different crops (spinach, millet, chilies…). Above the chicken coop level, steps carved in the brown soil led up a slope that felt nearly vertical. I’ll never be able to go down this, I thought. But I didn’t say a word because I really wanted to see the animals.

I made it to the shelter where a baby goat and mama goat were busy sharing a meal of fresh greens with a buffalo. I took tons of photos. I would have taken more, but the buffalo kept giving me concerned stares, so I backed away, afraid I’d give it indigestion.
Nani’s goat and buffalo shelter
The sun was going down. It was time for me to go down too. But how? Slide down on my bottom? Instead, I turned to face the slope and climbed down, as if on a ladder. On the way, Gyanendra picked tree tomatoes and different chilies for dinner.
Front to back: tree tomatoes, balsam apples, chilies, egg
In the cozy kitchen, lit only by the wood fire under the wok and one electric light, Nani offered to teach us how to make momos, the popular, quintessential Himalayan dumplings. Filled with seasoned, minced vegetables or ground meat, they are steamed or deep fried, then served with chutney. One member of our group was thrilled to sink her hands in wheat flour and water to knead dough and roll it out to make momo wrappers. She minced vegetables for the stuffing and made momos, some balls, some crescents.

Gyanendra cut up buffalo meat and used a stone to grind seasonings for his secret curry recipe. As for me, my favorite part of cooking is inventing excuses to avoid doing it, such as the need to take photos. The two husbands peeked in from the open doorway.
Gyanendra cuts buffalo meat. Nani cooks vegetables.
Before dinner, Nani put away her goats to protect them from potential attacks by a tiger (bagh in Nepali) or leopard (chituwa in Nepali). Tolka is within the range of both wild cats, although it would be rare for either one show up. It would be more likely at night when there is no human activity.

When dinner was ready, the four of us guests were invited to sit at the kitchen table. The steamed vegetable momos had the finest stuffing of all those I’ve ever tried between Los Angeles and Kathmandu—tasty, rich with mixed, balanced flavors. And darn, now I’ll never know Nani’s recipe, since I was too lazy to help make dinner. The buffalo stew was delicious with rice, but too spicy for two of us with timid stomachs. Our two hardworking porters gladly helped eat it all up.

Up at 6 o’clock the next morning, we found Nani working quietly in the kitchen. “Go see the mountain,” she said, pointing up the trail, back the way we had arrived the day before. Two minutes away, from the top of the slope, where I’d seen nothing but clouds the day before, rose a snowcap gleaming in the rising sun: Annapurna South.
Sunrise on Annapurna South as seen from Tolka, Nepal
For breakfast, we sat at the outdoor table, facing the trail and the hills beyond. Our porters brought coffee, tea, eggs to order, big fluffy pancakes made by Gyanendra, jam, and honey.

I asked Gyanendra whether Nani grows enough vegetables for her needs. He said yes, and much more to sell. He and the porters bought from her, at prices lower than at home, soy beans, kidney beans, tree tomatoes, dried chilies, and buffalo ghee. They had ample room to carry extra weight back home, because all of us guests had minimized our overnight duffles. Each couple was allowed two duffles weighing a maximum total of 22 kilos (~ 48 pounds), but we had only one 10-kilo duffle for two.
At Nani’s teahouse, we found the differences with larger lodges to be fewer rooms, so our group had the whole place to ourselves. We saw how a local person lives, grows food, and cares for her animals. She welcomed us into her kitchen for a hands-on experience. But everyone ate the same starter and main dish for dinner that night, not like at bigger lodges where we could each order from a menu of a dozen starters and two dozen main dishes.  

We are glad we chose Adventure Treks Nepal, from the list recommended by Lonely Planet, to organize our trip. It included only the guests of our choice, one guide, and one porter/couple of guests. Before the trip, manager Gyan Karki always answered e-mails within minutes. During the trip, everything went smoothly. We had a Plan A, but the itinerary was adjustable day by day, with Gyanendra contacting all the lodging places by phone in advance of our arrival. After coming home two months ago, I still wake up every day eager to relive my adventures, reread my trip notes, review my photos, and share the experience of a lifetime.

For more info

Caroline recommends her trek organizer, Adventure Treks Nepal,

Visiting Nepal: the essential

All text and photos copyright Caroline Arnold

Monday, January 7, 2019

Broulee, Australia: Pristine Beaches and Friendly Wildlife, Guest Post by Tom Scheaffer

Broulee, Australia
My brother Tom loves to travel and is currently on an extended trip to Australia and beyond. Here is a report of one of his first stops in Australia, the beautiful beach in Broulee, on the coast of New South Wales.
Broulee Beach
In early December I left my home in San Diego and flew to Canberra, Australia, to visit friends. We drove from there for about two hours to Broulee, on the coast of New South Wales, south of Sydney. It is an idyllic seaside location with beautiful blue and turquoise green waters and amazing beaches with nobody on them.
Beach good for snorkeling
We found amazing places to swim and snorkel. The water was crystal clear and it truly was a paradise.
Broulee Island Nature Preserve is the island on the upper left
I went to the Broulee Island Nature Preserve, now connected by a sand spit to the mainland. This verdant nature area offers walks amid birds and rock pools. It is very untouched and the variety of birds was amazing.
The parrots and kookaburras came onto the veranda and we saw them within an arm’s distance.
King Parrot
This was an amazing trip that I won't forget. If you ever get the chance go to Broulee, Australia, you will find pristine uninhabited beaches and amazing nature and wildlife.
Tom and friendly Kookaburra