Chile // The Lake District //

Parque Nacional Conguillío

The grey peak of Volcán Llaima (3125m) looms over the horizon about 80km east of Temuco. Wrapped around its neck is PARQUE NACIONAL CONGUILLÍO, a park the volcano has been doing its best to destroy with belch after belch of black lava. The northern sector is lush, high forest, with steep cliffs covered in spindly armed araucaría trees often draped in furry lime-green moss. In the south, however, the volcano has wreaked havoc. The road from Temuco passes over a wide lava flow, consisting of either rolling plains of thin dust or walls of spiked, recently congealed rock.

Volcán Llaima is actually one of the three most active volcanoes on the continent; its last serious eruption was in 1957, though as recently as 1994 a lake, Laguna Arco Iris, was formed by a fresh lava flow that blocked a river.

The northern route into the park is through the village of Curacautín (97km from Temuco), entering the park at sector Laguna Captrén, while the southern road from Melipeuco enters at sector Truful-Truful, and from the west, a little-used dirt road runs from the village of Cherquenco past the Centro de Esquí Las Araucarías.