Wednesday, January 2, 2013

We totally did NOT get lost in Cajon del Maipo

For a long time, I’ve been interested in checking out Cajon del Maipo, the canyon of the river Maipo. I had heard that it was a beautiful natural area up in the mountains just an hour outside of Santiago. Many Chileans had recommended it to me. So even though I started to run a 100F fever while my parents were visiting, I wasn’t about to let that stop me from doing a hike in Cajon del Maipo!

I was very grateful to my dad and Caroline, because the two of them took on the burden of planning the day and this let me just be sick and not worry about anything else. We had a long transportation journey to get to the location of the hike – metro to metro connection, then a cab, then a bus. Whew! But we had started early and we finally arrived ready to hike.

We decided to go without a guide, so my dad and Caroline took a map and led the way.
We started by entering this gate and crossing a bridge across the river. This was the only way in, and the lady at the desk told us it was VERY important that we don’t lose the key to this gate.
We had some beautiful views throughout the hike, and they kept getting better as we went higher and higher up the mountain. You can see the ridge lines in this mountain showing the layers of rock that were pushed up by two tectonic plates coming together to form the Andes mountains.
We made it up to see this very cool waterfall. This was only about an hour of hiking. The guide had told us that we could do either the waterfall (1 hour) or go up to a plateau for a beautiful view (about 3 hours round trip). She did warn us that the longer hike had some steep parts, but she said that was only the first 30 minutes or so.

At the waterfall we ate some lunch that we had packed, then set off to do the longer hike. It turned out to be pretty tough going in parts, but the whole group really stayed positive and powered through. Eventually, it started to seem like we had been going up the steep part for way too long. I also noticed that my dad and Caroline seemed to be having more frequent stops to check the map…and we also hadn’t seen any signs in a long time. My mom commented that she really hoped we weren’t coming back down the same way, because it was steep enough that going down seemed pretty difficult.

After an hour, I was started to get a little worried that we had lost the path. I secretly whispered to Caroline “How sure are you guys that we are going the right way?” and she whispered back “Not that sure…”
But finally, we turned up for yet another switchback, and there was a signpost! We were still on the trail! And if we kept going, we should be able to get down a different (and hopefully easier) way. My dad and Caroline did a big high five at this point, since I think they had gotten a little worried too :)
However, our struggles weren’t quite over yet. The map said that we had to go around a small barn to get back down. We found the barn, and some cows, but we couldn’t figure out how to get around the fenced in pastures. Every way we went, we kept running into fences. Finally, we found a local man looking over his cows and we asked him the way. We were a little worried that we were intruding on private property and he might be mad, but he just pointed us back towards the path.
We made it back down safely, and I think we all felt very accomplished – but also like we had done a bit more hiking than we had really intended. Fortunately, the next day we would pretty much just be sitting in airports and airplanes, so we’d have a chance to relax a little (and I’d have a chance to get healthy!) before we went to Iguazu Falls.

Coming next, our adventures at the falls – they were absolutely spectacular and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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