Contact: Matthias Helldoerfer
Duration: 2 Days
Starting point: Refugio Melado
Recomended website http://www.trekkingchile.com/Casachueca/indexDE.html
How to get there:
A well-maintained gravel road sign-posted as "El Peñasco" runs along Río Ancoa to the nature preserve of Bellotos El Melado. On the last six kilometers, the road clings to the steep slope of picturesque Ancoa gorge right below the rocky tooth of Peñasco; from here, you will need a pickup to continue. Figure on two hours from Linares. Buses only run to Ancoa bridge about 10 kilometers before you get to the nature preserve.
One km before you get to the park entrance, there is a hotel (Hotel Melado at about 800 m); in the park, there is plenty of camping.
At the entrance to the reserve you will see the park ranger´s house; it might be a good idea to sign in even though there is no admission fee. Then follow the road, which will end at Río Ancoa after about 20 minutes. It´s really a bit early and too cold for a bath, but you don´t really have a choice: you need to get to the other side! The trail continues but alas! After only a few minutes it runs down to the river again and demands that you take off your shoes again. A few meters above, right by the trail, you can find a few cacti of the genus "curvispina", one of five cactus species of the region.
As was to be expected, after only 20 minutes you will get to prove your fording skills again. Back on the right side of the river, you will soon reach a small lagoon in a shady Arrayán forest; this tree in the Myrtaceae family is easily recognized by its cinnamon-colored bark. Then hike uphill for about 20 minutes and back down to the river where - as you probably know by now - you will do another one of those river crossings, the tourth and last one of the day. The trail then runs mostly through sparse forest an will remain on the left side of the river.
Then a big boulder right by the trail hints that it will get difficult now. The grade that follows will make you break into a sweat for the first time that day! Please note: There will be a trail that turns off to the left an uphill on the way; don´t take it but stay above the river! Your trail will descend to Río Ancoa eventually. Up to here, it´s been about 1.5 hours from the last river crossing. Another 20 minutes later, you will pass a small cave; you might want to check whether the troll is in! After another hour´s hike through the woods, you will get to a nice campingsite, where anglers can test their luck anywhere along the river.
Take a well-deserved break, then leave your packs here and walk up the stony river bed. Only a few hundred meters further, you will find the place where the river emerges from its underground bed (at least, that´s what we found in March of 2001). You can see it cascading from afar it´s another half hour´s walk to what is an idyllic sight: the waterfalls splash into a green lagoon. Don´t let this opportunity for a dip pass!
It is also worth climbing up a little where the waterfall cascades down. Right by the lagoon, there are serveral good campsites in the forest.
Backtrack the same way.
Optional Day: Another day tour goes from Melado Hotel to a rocky vantage point at 1,800 m with a view of the turquoise colored Melado reservoir, Descabezado to the north, and San Pedro volcano to the east. The unmarked trail is hard to find; a local guide is recommended (ask at the hotel).
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