Bikepacking Parque Villarrica – Part 2

Apr 05 2019
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Bikepacking Villarrica

(Part 2) High on el sendero de las Avutardas

Published: April 5, 2019 by PICSPORADIC

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El Sendero de las Avutardas

My first few days in Parque Villarrica had wowed me with its diversity of volcanic terrain, glaciers and active volcanoes. The quest for vistas had me excessively pushing my bikepacking rig for small rewards of rideable trail. Yesterday I had been teased by my my first taste of singletrack – and I was eager to discover more.

Here I got to see the earth in its most natural state – birthed from recent volcanic activity. From a world of ash nature was slowly constructing plants beginning with small patches of lichen and moss.

Tent Bound

In the night came the rain. I awoke with the tent enveloped in mist. The wind howled. I hunkered down. The weather pushed across the alpine lake throwing waves on the shore. It felt like I was in a different place than the one I arrived in the day before.

I had underestimated the cold that came with along with this type of humidity – restless to get moving I layered up with the Gore-Tex and broke camp.

Brendan James

Brendan James

Traveler and photographer, Brendan has cycled throughout Latin America and currently lives in Guatemala. bio

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Lava and Ash

Riding Across Raw Earth

Visibility was limited by the mist and the rain came in bursts. I followed metal stakes that marked the route across the plains to the edge of an enormous field of cracked lava. I shuttered to think about carrying my bike across.


Black and ominous lava rock stretched across the valley. When looking at such a complex shape in such an enormity – it was impossible to process all its individual features – I saw only a massive grey blob.

The trail dropped and I was surprised to find that it was relatively rideable by bike.  The track sinuously carving its way through features in the lava – taking the easiest line.

From my experience biking on Volcanoes in Guatemala I proceeded carefully. The rock was sharp as glass and I did not carry an extra tire.


The land here was raw, barren, massive. No trees. A land of sand and rock stretched below Volcán Quetrupillán.

Tall cyclones of sand rose from the barren plains. There was nothing out here.

Hot rivers

I came to a hot spring in ground. I could smell the sulfur in the air. This was one of the few places with vegetation and everything grew in bright neon. Florescent moss and odd shaped globe-tipped flowers were scattered across the area. Steam rose from the water.

I felt as if I was witnessing the evolution of the planet. Nature here was slowly rebuilding itself after the volcanic eruptions. I was not high – only around 2000m – a forest could grow here, this was the blank slate.

Sand and Ash Flats

In the wash it was too sandy to ride. I pushed along, struggling. The wind blew into my face and I couldn’t hear anything. – droplets of rain continued to fall from above. This would be perfect terrain for a fat bike I thought.

The scale here was beginning to become apparent. It would take me hours to cross a valley only to get a view of another massive expanse. I kept referring to my GPS to make sure I was still on track.

I meandered around enormous craters filled with dry lava. There was not just one volcano here – there were many.”

Imaginary Lines

I was on the border with Argentina now – it was strange to have a line on a map here. In the distance was Volcán Lanín – a towering pyramid of rock and ice at over 3700m. I ate a snack and waited for the clouds to clear from it’s summit. They didn’t.

I could see the forest below, and from my topo I could tell it was mostly downhill from here. Where had the day gone? I dropped through steep cliffs cut into fields of grass.

I had expected to ride out today. I was at the end of day 4 and I was out of food.  I made a plan to push as much as I could into the dark and ride the rest tomorrow on an empty stomach.

In the descent instead of sand, I battled mud. The trail dropped sharply and was slick with mud from the rain. I found myself hiking down most of it. Deep rivers cut through the landscape in every which way – they hadn’t found their direction yet. I crossed one, then another-taking of my clothes and lifting the bike over my head in the water. The sun waned.

The Singletrack in Parque Villarrica got better as I got lower.

The Last Meal

Night fell and the forest was alive with the sound of birds. Moss clung to the trees and the mist came in adding to the atmosphere of the place – subtropical forest. I was back inside the green room below it’s thick boughs.

At camp I prepared the last bit of food I had: about an ounce of quinoa, vegetable protein and a little cheese. It went quick.

The sound of birds changed to crickets. “I am the only thing out of place here” I thought to myself – nature does just fine without us humans.

The ride out tomorrow would take most of the day and I studied the map to try and plan my next step. All I could think about was food.

I hadn’t seen anyone in 4 days.

In general I had under-estimated just how hard bikepacking across Villarrica would be.  In 4 days I had only done 65km. I was under prepared with food and needed to make an exit plan. 

The Morning After.

The next morning I followed perfect singletrack – dropping out of the park. The forest was alive with flowers and everything shone golden and green. I flew on 4×4 roads, coming across the first signs of civilization – an old barn and some beef cows.

I passed a closed ranger station and found myself on a paved road. Clean cars zoomed past – to left it was 20km downhill to the nearest town, Curarruehue.  To the right: Argentina 100km to the nearest town San Martin de los Andes. I was completely out of food.

Man Without a Plan.

I decided to bail to Curarrehue.  I stopped at the first general store I came across and loaded up on food – they didn’t have much.

Night fell and I made camp by a river outside of town. I hadn’t been able to find burning alcohol and cooked on a small fire to conserve fuel.

Parque Villarrica had been a stern introduction to the desolateness of Chile. I was used to frequent resupplies in Peru. Stores here were generally under stocked and overpriced – I would need to plan more.

Tomorrow I would take a full rest day – recharging batteries and spirit before returning back to the mountains. I still had a border crossing to do in Argentina – a new country for me.


Last light of day – camping by the river in Curarrehue.


Published: April 5, 2019 by PICSPORADIC


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