Parque Nacional Los Alerces

March 17, 2008
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BIG HENRY!!!

It sounded like home last night with the wind whipping itself into a frenzy outside our cabaña.

Today should have been the rest day as I was feeling pretty sick and could have used that 3-hour nap Anders took yesterday. Anders entertained himself (and me) by mimicking me throwing up. Me into the toilet, and Anders right next to me making funny noises into the bidet. He thought it was hysterical and kept smiling at me like we were playing a funny game. It was pretty amusing.

We headed south and east to Parque Nacional Los Alerces. The paved, shorter road was closed for construction so we took the lengthier, (mostly) dirt road. It took longer than I expected to get there—even without the route change—so we stopped at the first place we got to with a baño and a trail, which was Puerto Limonao on Lago Futalaufquen.

Entrance to Los Alerces

Entrance to Los Alerces

Mostly we hung out by the lake and played with rocks. Then we took a short walk down the Sendero Puerto Limonao through the forest and along the lakeshore. I couldn’t stomach (literally) hauling Anders around in the backpack, so we only walked as far as he wanted to walk.

Roadblock on the Sendero Puerto Limonao

Roadblock on the Sendero Puerto Limonao
Figuring out how to surmount the roadblock

Figuring out how to surmount the roadblock
Puerto Limonao and beyond

Puerto Limonao and beyond
Puerto Limonao and beyond, again

Puerto Limonao and beyond, again
Stumbling along the beach

Stumbling along the beach
Pretty berries front arrayanas

Pretty berries front arrayanas
Mecca: giant rocks

Mecca: giant rocks

Los Alerces contains a system of deep blue lakes—turquoise along the shoreline—connected by rushing rivers. It all ultimately drains to the Pacific Ocean, which surprised me since it is on the east side of the Andes. The mountain ranges surrounding the lakes are covered by trees in the genus Nothofagus (coihue, ñire, and lenga) and cypresses. To the east the transition forests of maitén and ciprés lead down to the Patagonian Plateau.

The tree the park is named after, the alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), is a relative of the sequoia found in California. These trees are the oldest living things in Argentina and the third oldest in the world. (Extra credit for anyone who can tell me what the two oldest things are…maybe the bristlecone pine?) It grows only in the Patagonian Andes in wet or flooded soils near bodies of water. This hearty giant thrives in thin, poor soils and can reach heights of 70 meters (230 feet) and live for 4,000 years.

We didn’t get into the area of the park where the alerces grow, but I hope we can visit them on our way north in a few days. It is a long way on a dirt road, which Anders may or may not tolerate. Plus, I need to find a place to stay in El Bolson, since driving to Bariloche would be too far, and without the wifi connection (or a phone and the ability to understand Castillano over the phone) it’s tough. I guess we could wing it. Without Anders I’d do that in a second.

After leaving Puerto Limonao we drove back towards the park entrance, but stopped at Sendero Pinturas Rupestres. This very short trail leads to pictographs painted by the ancestors of the Tehuelche and Machupe peoples who inhabited the region before the Spaniards arrived. The Campaña del Desierto (an Argentine military campaign from1879-1883) pretty much destroyed the native Patagonians. Some Mapuche families still live near the park, and in other parts of Patagonia, but there aren’t many left.

The red and orange pictographs decorate a sheer rock wall and are fairly faded, but still visible. The concentric circles, crosses, rectangles, labyrinths and schematic human figures (that look like hour glasses), are similar to those found in northwest Patagonia.

Explaining the pictographs

Explaining the pictographs
The pictograph wall

The pictograph wall
Another angle on the pictgraph wall

Another angle on the pictgraph wall
More pictographs up close

More pictographs up close
Pictographs up close

Pictographs up close
Anders on boardwalk

Anders loved running on this short boardwalk; it was easier than the uneven trail surface, I suppose.

We continued up the trail past lupines with dried seed pods and made a short climb up a steep hill to a rocky outcrop where we could view the Río Desaguadero Valley, Lago Limonao and the Andes. The Park Services supposes this viewpoint was used by the folks who painted the pictographs to keep and eye on their territory. The view certainly was spectacular.

View from the lookout

View from the lookout
Another view from the lookout

Another view from the lookout
Third view

That’s right, a third view from the lookout. This one is of Puerto Limonao on Lago Futalaufquen.
Enjoying the view

Anders enjoying all three views from the lookout.
Dandelion picking

Making a wish on a dandelion seed head…or at least plucking it from the stem.
Lupine on the pictograph trail

Lupine on the pictograph trail.
Rose hips

Rose hips along the trail.
Anyone know what kind of bird this is?

Anyone know what kind of bird this is?

Now to bed and hopefully to wake to a healthful tomorrow!

🙄 This just in from my friend Chris. “That looks like a Buff-necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)! Either that or a Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis), I can’t tell from just the one photo.”

2 thoughts on “Parque Nacional Los Alerces

  1. jonesey

    That looks like a Buff-necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)! Either that or a Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis), I can’t tell from just the one photo.

    Love
    Chris

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