In general, the GPT tries to steer away from civilization and roads wider than a horse’s ass. This gives the impression of passing through uncharted lands to deliver landscapes not touched by humans.
This could not be further from the truth. The paths we travel have existed long before Jan Dudeck strung them together to create the GPT. They are typically well-maintained, as their principal purpose is to connect the livestock and the arrieros (and a bunch of other people, as it turns out) in these remote mountains with the rest of Chile. Though we happily use these trails, they are not made for tourists like us, and more often than not, we’re an attraction for the locals instead of the other way around.
Here’s a summary of who we saw during our two days on GPT09. Without exception, all were friendly and helpful.
- A salmon-fishing outdoorsman named Luiz who offered us a ride from Abanico to the national park when he saw us hiking on the side of the tarmac. He showed us a hidden waterfall and how to collect salmon bait insects from a stream.
- A Chilean family having breakfast at the parking lot of the national park. They enthusiastically took pictures with us, and the grandfather remarked that Veronika had the same blue eyes as his daugther Stephanie.
- A father and two sons returning from a quick hike in the national park. The father mentioned that the gletsjer of Sierra Velluda used to be much larger. Before climate change…
- Two employees of the department of agriculture who wondered if we had seen any cows when traversing the national park. We did not, which they approved: the cattle should apparently be kept outside the volcanic plains of the park.
- An arriero passed by when we were setting up our tent in the evening. Inquired whether we did not see a goat (we did not) and how long we did not see said goat (since 17:00). Told us we were welcome at the puesto of his brother a bit up north should the weather turn bad.
- Two carabineros (national police) that happened upon our camp early in the morning. Must have been surprised, as our tent was sheltered from view (and from the wind) by a hill slope. Asked the usual questions on where we came from and where we went.
- A boy, no older than 11, who was wandering on the path with his dog. We were hiking through a valley of puestos, so we assumed he belonged to one of the families living there. Asked if we could pass, which, fortunately, we could 🙂
- An old couple, Juan & Salazar, living in the last, most remote puesto in the valley. They had a house in Trapa Trapa, the village in the next valley, where they lived in the winter.
- Two boys on horseback, no older than 16. One was silent, the other was kind to explain that he was already doing arriero work, and would very much like to become one in the future.
- A father and son with three horses, coming from Trapa Trapa going to their puesto on the other side.
Avelina is the mother of a Mapuche family living in Trapa Trapa, a small village at the endpoint of GPT09. At their farm, she provides food and lodging to weary travelers like us – even when they arrive at sundown covered in sweat and dust 😉
Avelina has a husband, a daughter and two suns. The husband and oldest sun (11) were out, working in the mountains, but they kept contact via a walkie talkie. Her daughter (9) had the name of a flower, her youngest sun (6) was called Mehuen – “fuerza” in Mapudungún. The water in her kitchen sink was constantly running from a hose connected to a nearby stream. Her stove consumed firewood, which her kids and us collected around the farm. A couple of lightbulbs provided light, except during an unexpected but not uncommon electricity outage when we switched to a candle.
Avelina was a kind and pleasant host, teaching us how to “drink” harina tostada late in the evening and preparing tasty sopaipillas in the morning. We talked about a lot – Chile, Belgium, Mapuche language and culture, and a whole host of topics I’m forgetting. It was a memorable and fitting end to GPT09.