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Los Alerces National Park

Pretty  much  the  whole journey from Esquel or Trevelin to this point will have you sitting on the edge of your seats  and  gasping  at  the  amazing  alpine  scenery.  From  the  Pasarela,  we  hike  a couple of kilometres through the  rainforest to the shores of Lago Menendez, taking care  not  to  disturb  any  of  the  wild  boar  or  pumas  that  range  across  the  park. 

The drive to the park, created in the 1930s to protect the Alerce tree and awarded in 2017  the  status  of  a  UNESCO  World  Heritage  Site,  takes  us  past  Laguna  Terraplein, where  swans,  flamingos  and  geese  congregate  and  where,  occasionally,  eagles, vultures and condors feast on any  of the countless cows and sheep unlucky enough to have met their maker on the shores of the lagoon. We enter the park through an area  blackened  by  repeated  forest  fires  and  hear  the  story  of  the dramatic  events that  befell  when  several  thousand  square  kilometres  of  a  type  of  bamboo  flowered simultaneously  in  2013,  the  first  time  the  plant  had  flowered in  the  area  for  more than 50 years. We pass through the village of Villa Futalaufquen, where in the 1950s, Richard  Llewellyn  wrote  the  sequel  to How  Green  Was  My  Valley, Up,  Into  the Singing   Mountain.   We   follow   the   shores   of   Lago   Futalaufquen   (Big   Lake,   in Mapuche, Llyn Padarn, in Welsh) and the impossibly turquoise Rio Arrayanes to the Pasarela  Bridge  next  to  Lago  Verde  (Llyn  Peris,  in  Welsh). 

This protected  area  of  Valdivian  (cold  weather)  rain  forest,  home  to  surprises  ranging from stately Alerce trees exceeding 4,000 years of age to tiny nocturnal marsupials, has  a  glittering  jewel  at  its  centre,  visible  from  the  shore  of  Lake  Menendez  -  Cerro Torrecillas, a mountain from whose peak the Pacific Ocean can be glimpsed. But the Grand  Lady  of  the  Park  is  not  just  a  mountain,  it  is  a  mountain  wearing  a  stole  of pure  ermine  -  a  groaning,  exploding,  turquoise,  brilliant  white  ancient  glacier  which protects its summit from avaricious climbers.

Los Alerces National Park, is an area of 2,630  square  kilometres  and  is  noted  for  its  temperate  rain  forest  (which  is  only present  in  7  regions  of  the  World),  lakes,  rivers,  glaciers,  marine  fossils  and  the largest  population  of  the  Alerce  tree  in  Argentina,  one  of  the  longest  living  trees  in the world. It supports a wide  diversity of wildlife, including the Andean Condor, the puma, wild boar, mink, the elusive Huemul deer and, surprisingly, a native marsupial, the  Colocolo  Opossum.  It  is  listed  by  Conservation  International  as  one  of  only  34 Biodiversity   Hotspots   on   Earth   (which   they   define   as   the   richest   and   most threatened  reservoirs  of  plant  and  animal  life),  by  UNESCO  as  a  Biosphere  Reserve and a World Heritage Site, and by the World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund  as  a  Global  200  Ecoregion.  The  UNESCO  Andino  Norpatagonica  Biosphere Reserve, which includes Los Alerces National Park, when joined with its sister reserve on the other side of the Andes, is almost twice the size of Wales.

The small chapel at Villa Futalaufquen.

A parasitic fungus.

A family of Ashy-headed Geese on the shore of Lago Futalaufquen

The base of a 2600-year-old Alcere.

The face of the Torrecillas glacier.

A native Fuschia in flower.