A beautiful summer is coming to an end in the Chilean Lake and Volcano District. It is time to remember the great adventures lived during this appreciated season. For me, the outstanding experience during the last months was the unique trekking on the Pacific Coast at Mapu Lahual.
First of all, I would like to introduce you to the territory we will dive into during the next paragraphs.
Mapu Lahual is an indigenous parks network along the Pacific Coast of Chile, located around 1000 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile, and 100 kilometers North of Puerto Montt.
The 60.000 hectares count with a high diversity (many of them endemic) Patagonian Temperate Rain Forests. It is worth mentioning that the area is recognized as a hotspot or world-class natural heritage (Mittermeier et al, 2004). Here, you can find the last major expanse of primary coastal forests, coastal olivillo (Aextoxicon Punctatum), centuries-old larches, lonely beaches and rivers with transparent waters, as well as marine and river ecosystems free of pollution.
Mapuche Williche Community
The Williche (or Huilliche) are indigenous people who belong to the Mapuche community. In Mapudungun, Williche means “people from the south”, since they are located to the south of the largest Mapuche group, which lives in the regions of La Araucanía and Los Ríos.
The Williche were exclusively semi-sedentary hunters and gatherers until the 13th or 14th century, before they also introduced limited horticulture. The rich game population, fishing and the gathering of wild pine fruits continued to provide the most important subsistence basis.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, under the influence of the Spaniards, they switched to agriculture (wheat, potatoes) and cattle breeding (llama, cattle, horse). In contrast to the other Mapuche peoples, the Williche lived monogamous.
The Williche owned large canoes to cross rivers and lakes. They must also have had some knowledge of metallurgy as copper jewelry was found on them.
The ethnic religion corresponds to the Mapuche religion. According to surveys, 10 percent of the Williche still profess the traditional religion, another 10 percent are non-religious and 80 percent are officially Christians. However, the Huilliche Christianity is strongly mixed with traditional elements and the important rituals of the Mapuche still have a central meaning.
Currently, it is estimated that there are only about 20 speakers of Tse süngun, the local variant of the Mapuche language, typical of the current province of Osorno. One of them, Juan Eligio Cumigual, over 80 years old, lives in the community of Manquemapu, being perhaps the southernmost native speaker of the Mapuche language.
An unforgettable trekking
Without any doubt, the overwhelming natural beauty of the Mapu Lahual park and the hospitality of the local Williche people made this trip an unforgettable one.
We started our trip in the south, at the small fisher town of Manquemapu.
On the way to the small cove, we passed by white sand beaches, where we spot a group of Chilean dolphins. These small and curious dolphins are only found o the coast of Chile. They were jumping with the waves and gave us a perfect welcoming party! What a great beginning of this adventure!
Arriving to the locality of Manquemapu, we parked the car and crossed a hanging bridge by foot. On the other side of the river, a friendly women welcomed us and showed us our campground. On the walking trails we could see many blocks of larch shingles. The larch, or “lawal”, is the characteristic tree of the local forests. In this community, they still use this appreciated wood to export shingles and handicrafts.
After setting up our tents, we started a nice hike towards “El Galpón“, a hidden beach. The waves invited us to jump into the cold pacific ocean. While taking a sunbath to dry our wet bodies and hair, a family of Chilean dolphins visited us. They were jumping around in the big waves. We felt so lucky about this natural spectacle!
Starting the trail “El Troncal”
The first morning on the pacific coast welcomed us with a typical rain shower. Nothing that could minimize our enthusiasm about the upcoming trekking. Today our goal was getting to Caleta Condor. 17.2 kilometers of Valdivian rainforest, steep mountain trails, river crossings, wetland, ancient larches and beautiful lookout points were waiting for us.
As the first few hours of the trekking were leading through deep rainforests, we did not feel affected by the slight rain. Then, as soon as we got to the first plain, the rain stopped and only a slight wind accompanied us.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch at the river side, we had to climb another hill. Yet, our big backpacks felt a little heavier with every meter, but the abundant nature and nice company were worth any effort. Almost at the end of the hike, we could catch some great views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
With every step we got closer to the beautiful white sand beach of Caleta Condor. The sound of the ocean filled us with energy and we run the last meters to the beach to jump into the welcoming waves.
Famous Caleta Condor
A personal dream came true! While I was traveling to Chile for the first time, I read about the cove of Caleta Condor. I was very much interested in getting to know this hidden place, only reachable by boat or foot. While swimming in the refreshing sea, looking at the small cove with its private beach, I could not believe having reached this spot six years later. Caleta Condor is well known by adventure tourists. Not only it offers an impressive beach but also scuba diving, fishing or seafood gathering, kayaking and a good local gastronomy.
Huellelhue Cove, “the place where you swim”
After a cosy night in the tent, listening to the waves, we took another swim in the refreshing ocean. Then, we got ready for our next hiking day. First of all, we took a tipical wooden fishers boat, crossing the Cholguaco river. On the way we could appreciate evergreen forests, whitesand beaches, small wooden houses, birds like great egret (ardea alba) and many others.
Our friendly local guide Lucho led us uphill, where we got spectacular views over the pacific ocean. We were walking through forests of olivillo (Aextoxicon Punctatum) and had to find our way through dense formation of native bamboo jungle. Here is where we appreciated our professional guide, who knew every corner of this abundant rainforest.
After a tasty picnic, we continued our way downhill. We could not believe our eyes when we reached the several kilometer-long whitesand and lonely beach of Rada Ranu. An unforgettable feeling overcame us when we drop our backpacks in the sand and run towards the smooothy waves of the pacific ocean!
Afterwards, we had to cross only a few more kilometers on the beach and through beautiful wetland. At the end of the day, we reached the Huellelhue river, where some friendly locals waited for us.
On their wooden boats we crossed the river and got to a perfect camping spot. Dinner was ready and we enjoyed fresh seafood in a cosy local house. Tonight we set up a nice campfire and shared funny stories.
As well as Caleta Condor, the small locality of Huellelhue is only reachable by foot or boat. Huellelhue or “Weyelwe” means “the place where you swim”.
Course to Maicolpue
Another day in paradise! This morning we woke up with a sunray reaching our tents. The river and surrounded wetland were covered with a silvery mist, which turned the area in a mystical atmosphere. Again we jump on a fisher boat and crossed the Huellelhue river for about 40 minutes. What a great way to immerse ourselves into the local way of life!
With our new local guide José, we started walking through wetland until getting to the base of the next hill. A steep uphill trail through ancient forests followed. We all felt great as the backpacks got a little lighter and our legs were already used to the efforts from the first hiking days. As a result, we reached our lunch spot faster then expected. Finally, we got to our last beach called Tril-Tril. A very small cove with only a few holiday houses. Here we enjoyed our last swim in the ocean and felt so greatful about the passed days in pure nature!
Our last night dinner was a five-star experience in a local cabin. We were attended like queens and enjoyed the homemade bread, smoked sawfish, natural juice, fresh salads and a tipical „pebre de ulte“(mix of seaweed, tomato, onion and coriander).
What an amazing way to finish this spectacular experience of hiking along the pacific coast. I have been hiking along many beautiful trails around the world but this trekking was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me!
Born and raised in Switzerland, I turned my hobby into my job and worked as a Travel Agent for many years. Always exploring hidden corners around the world. In 2014, I traveled to Chile for the first time. What started as a single-women-adventure turned into a life-changing-trip.
My objective was to travel from Santiago de Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina. By hitchhiking or using public ground transportation as close as possible to the local culture and nature.
During this trip, I met my actual boyfriend and father of our little daughter. After years of living in between of two countries, I decided in 2016 to move to Chile and to start my life here. I am still very happy about this decisions, I cannot imagine a better place to raise my child. The abundant nature, wise culture and adventurous friends fill my heart every day with happiness!