On the GPT: 240km and first update
The first 240 km of the hike done, and we're in Chillan for resupply.
While we plan to put down a thorough write-up of the trail (complete with Piia's photos) after we're finished the trail, we'll post some quick updates (with a few photos from Oliver's small camera) on our resupply days along the way.
Back when we'd first started looking into hiking the Greater Patagonian Trail, one of the first things we said to each other was that a big chunk of the beginning of the trail looked like a moonscape. We were not wrong. Volcán Descabezado dominates everything about the first part of the trail, and the pumice and lava from its various eruptions. Hiking there is like wandering through an unearthly mountain graveyard, with weird stalagmites of dark lava emerging from blinding white sandscapes of pumice grains. It's simultaneously beautiful and frightening - all the more so because of the relentlessness of the sun here. We've never experienced sun like this – the days are hot, yes, but it's the almost violent brightness that's most awe-inspiring; like a still, silent storm. Combined with the reflective pumice dunes, it means that sun's found every little bit the sunscreen missed; Oliver's sporting a blistered left clavicle, and we're sunscreening the insides of our ears and noses for the first time.
Even faster than the volcanic landscape came up on us, though, we left it behind, and found that we were passing through new landscapes – as different from each other as disparate countries – even within a single day. After leaving the lunar pumice dunes, we descended down into what looked like Arizona desert, then down further into green farmland (plums, cherries, walnuts, and farmers cutting alfalfa), only to then climb into green semi-jungle of Patagonian oak, giant pangue leaves and fuschia growing in the ditches (and with special guests, Chilean tarantulas!). Our past few days have been in high desert cattle country, following meandering rivers through canyons, and sharing trails with cattle drives (complete with the kind of cowboys that ought to only exist in films).
We'll continue south tomorrow morning, heading back toward where we left the trail near San Fabián. Looks like some more forest in our future - we're both looking forward to seeing what it brings (and hiking in shade for a while!).