Early Wednesday morning, January 14th, we set off in the Outback with Elder and Hermana Kauer south to Curacautin, on the Victoria-Lonquimay Highway 181 east from Victoria toward the cordillera.
The weather was perfect, and the drive to Kilometer 71.8 pleasant.
In Curacautin we stopped at Karin's restaurant, where we had excellent salads. Karin has a German heritage, and you can see her collection of customers' keychains hanging on the wall.
We stayed two nights at Cabañas Newenpüllü, newly built and comfortable. We booked at Booking.com , then paid a cash deposit at the BCI Bank in Concepcion.
The cabaña had a nice little kitchen and living area with cable TV,
. . . two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and the other with a bunkbed and twin, and one bathroom. For Movistar cell reception you had to go to the main Bed and Breakfast lodge, in case you wanted to talk on the phone, which we didn't.
After arriving and arranging our belongings, we explored the Camino Victoria-Lonquimay, including side roads. We saw few people, and all the views were spectacular.
Volcan Lonquimay in the late afternoon sun.
A pretty little Christian church
Superb Aracauria Araucania, Chilean monkey-puzzle trees, now in the late blooming stage of piñon nuts, an important staple of the Pehuenche Indians of this area. The nuts will be ready by April, we are told.
The picturesque Curacautin River
Elder and Hermana Kauer
Elder Kennington asking a passing family about the surrounding countryside and the people who live in it
Salto la Princesa, Princess Falls, a geosite of the Kutralkura Geopark located within the Araucarias Biosphere Reserve
Lupines by the side of the road
Two farmers hauling grass hay in an oxcart
Túnel Las Raíces, constructed in 1939, the second longest tunnel in South America. We were told this tunnel took 20 minutes to drive through, and it only had one lane, so we just took pictures of the entrance. On the other side the Argentine border is a journey of about two hours.
In the evening the fireflies came out. Of course you can't see them here, and any picture of them just looks black, but it was a treat to see them gently zooming and bobbing about, winking with soft white light in the cool mountain air, next to the stream near our cabin.
In the morning we followed the lodge owners' recommendation and took the 30-mile gravel road to Parque Nacional Conguillio. We stopped by Laguna Captren for a hike part way round, an easy and beautiful walk.
Shrubs of Fuchsia Magellanica, the Chilean Chilco, in stunning full bloom.
A family of waterfowl enjoying the marshy end of the laguna. I think these are Caiquen, the "Goose of the Magellan."
I don't know what these four-petaled red flowers with the scalloped leaves are called, but they were beautiful.
The plants live on the bark of the trees.
Beautiful white flowers, but I don't know what they are.
Elder Kennington had quite a time navigating a narrow, deep, gully-wash of a 6-kilometer dirt road from the laguna to the famous Volcan Llaima and Lake Conguillio nearby. He was hoping we wouldn't have to turn the car around while driving through it.
The volcano from a distance
As you got closer to Volcan Llaima, the countryside gave way to dry black lava soil.
Lago Conguillio, where you could see a few hardy sunbathers along the shore. The water itself was not that cold. Large buses of tourists were coming from the southern road (a bus would not have handled the trench road very well) and a restaurant was under construction.
Not far from the lake was a camping area full of families enjoying nature. The Peruvian Lilies, Alstroemeria, were growing wild along the roadside and under the trees.
The pretty drive back to our cabana, along the Camino Manchuria, which was suggested to us as a "shortcut." If it hadn't been for the detailed map of Chile on our handheld GPS unit, we might still be out there driving around.
Friday morning, on my birthday, we reluctantly packed everything up and got back on Ruta 5 and Ruta de la Madera to Concepcion. Elder Kauer and Elder Kennington had to stop at this roadside stand selling Mote con Huesillo, honey, tortillas, drinks and cheese, along with Merken spice. Elder Kauer bought a round of white, latticed, sour-cream flavored cheese which went very well with the apples we had with us.
We passed the Collipulli Viaduct for the last time.
On an earlier trip with the Pendleys, the Kauers had stopped at an unlikely-looking sign advertising "La Vaca Loca" -- The Crazy Cow -- which turned out to be a decent restaurant on the side of the road between Angol and Renaico. We stopped for an excellent lunch amid the hydrangeas.
One last shot of the blue hydrangeas. What a wonderful end to our mission, and another unforgettable birthday for me.