Laguna Esmaralda

The weather of the last couple of days hasn’t been welcoming enough to hike and last night it was icy enough to sprinkle the mountains with a new set of snow. Today, it’s all blue skies, so together with an Australian couple and a trio of Israeli girls fresh out of their military service, I set off to see Esmaralda Lagoon.

Once our minibus arrived, the six of us were on our way. But nothing here can be done without at least a little drama… As we exited the city, the minibus was pulled over at a police roadworthy station and because one of our headlamps was not functioning, we were turned back. The driver headed back into town, to a mechanic, where he bought a new bulb and we sat waiting as he replaced it. Then, 30 minutes later, we were off again.

Laguna Esmaralda is on private land and the minibus dropped us at the owner’s place, Refugio Valle Los Lobos – a Siberian Husky breeder – where we paid 10 peso each – $1 Australian – to enter the area.

We headed off past the dog kennels and along a dirt road towards the mountains that held the laguna and the glacier – Glaciar del Albino – that feeds it…

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The road was a little muddy, but the worst was yet to come… We passed a pair of beaver dams, although we didn’t see any beavers as they only come out late in the afternoon.

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We crossed an arroyo and though a forest before heading out across a peat field where most of our steps were soggy. Thankfully my leather hiking boots do a awesome job keeping out the water. On all sides as we crossed the field were snow capped mountains and a subarctic wind.

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The arroyo wound its way across the field and we found the least muddy and wet ground was alongside it where there were plentiful stones to stand on.

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The hike itself is only 3 hours return but it’s slow going, as every step has to be made with caution to ensure you don’t sink too deeply in the mud or peat, and you don’t slip off branches that had been laid across said wet patches. Eventually, the arroyo leads to a small waterfall and we climb up the short rocky cliff…

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As we breach the top of the cliff we see Laguna Esmaralda below us, tinged blue-green by the million year old minerals flowing down from the glacier. Across the lagoon, the Albino Glacier flowed down the side of the mountain and into the laguna.

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The six of us stopped for lunch, but it was a little chilly and after a while the cold began to get to the girls, so we headed back. There was only one guy there when we arrived and he seemed to be acting a little odd – he went for a run around the lagoon and when he got back stood dancing to himself with his headphones on. We joked that he must have eaten one of the mushrooms we’d seen growing in many places across the field.

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The return trail was easier to cross as we had a better idea where we were going but it still ended up being a slow process of watching every step. We made it back to the breeder’s place, passing perhaps three dozen other people heading to see the lake. We were glad we went when we did and as we pretty much had it all to ourselves – except for the one strange guy.

Tomorrow I make my final preparations for my trip to Antarctica.

The Trail Wanderer

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