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.

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