Stepping Out: Araucanía Jones

above the hills, above the clouds

above the hills, above the clouds.

This past weekend I went along with my host father to the mountains. We went hiking and exploring on a two-day, overnight trip. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but there’s no way I could have predicted exactly what the next two days would hold. It was an adventure to remember! We headed out of town on the dirt road that led into the wilderness. It was just about wide enough for two cars, but we drove in the middle whenever possible to avoid the slant of the road. I quickly found out that the drive was the beginning of our adventure…

Have you ever been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland? This was kind of like that. Except, instead of being fixed on a track, we were on an open road, almost fishtailing on numerous occasions. Instead of lasting three minutes, the drive took an hour. And instead of going 15 kilometers per hour we flew a solid 85 (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, I’m alive)!

Anyhow, we arrived and parked the van. We walked up into the hills looking for a trail, but there wasn’t one, so naturally we made one. I have the scars to prove it. We climbed for a while, randomly stopping to take pictures, but when we reached the peak, it was breathtaking. The sky was such a pure blue, the trees so incredibly dense, and the view was stunning. It was definitely worth the hike.

My host father, whom I have now dubbed Araucanía Jones, is an animal. He’s 60 something years old but you wouldn’t know it by watching him scale mountains. He mows down trees like nothing. He doesn’t even look at the ground to see where he’s stepping. He doesn’t need maps either; he just remembers which way he needs to go, and heads in that general direction. He told me he’s traveled up and down all of Chile, and he doesn’t like going anywhere twice. That’s why we set out to climb this peak that he had never summited before. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to get to the top, but I’m not sure that it’d be possible without climbing (and lumberjack) gear. After all, we were in a national park, and most of the mountains were marked on the map, but this one wasn’t. Probably a reason for that! Nonetheless, we saw some outstanding landscapes.

I also discovered some new flora and fauna that I was previously unfamiliar with. Two of these, I swear, are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: the Araucaria tree and the Chucao bird. The Araucaria tree is covered with green spikes right when it sprouts out of the ground. It then grows incredibly tall and its wiry, squiggly branches unfold at the top. The trunk is then adorned with a green, spider-like silk that I believe is a natural product of the tree. It’s a super interesting specimen. The Chucao I never actually saw, but I heard it plenty of times. I literally almost laughed every time it sang out. It sounded so cool!

We camped over night and made some steaks, which naturally we ate with our bare hands (I mean, we are men). We then slept, both of us, on a single twin-sized mattress, in the back of the van. I didn’t sleep much… But morning came and we did some more exploring. He led me to a beautiful lake, a gorgeous waterfall, and a small lagoon that was a slice of paradise. The colors in the pond were out of a fantasy movie, so vibrant and vivid. It was such a beautiful place. I’m excited to explore some more of Chile, especially with my own personal guide, Araucanía Jones.

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