The plan was to meet at 9:45 am at the Principe de Gales (Prince of Wales) metro stop, and I was rustled out of bed at what I thought was 8:10 by Julia, who lives a few doors down. After some confusion and a quick packing of the bag we were on our way, fortunate that the 1-hour time change in some countries didn't affect my hike. We arrived at the metro stop and met up with our friends Sven, Ester and Stef and waited for Gerlinde, who, after a few phone calls, would miss the hike altogether because of the problems with the time change. (Chile will change it's clocks in late April)
A 20-minute walk along the road, uphill, past high walls and private neighborhoods in the La Reina sector of the city led us to the entrance to the park, where we paid our $1.500 ($3USD) entrance and talked with the park rangers -- who warned us that it was 4 hours to the waterfall and 3 hours to return, which would put our return very close to the 6:30 park closing. After one recommended that we plan to turn around at the viewpoint, an hour before the waterfall, we all looked at each other and quietly decided to move quickly to make it to the end of the trail.
The hike started with a very steep climb (muy empinada....or "empanada" as some of us like to joke), underneath some huge electrical wires and towers, with Santiago and it's smokey air getting smaller behind us. Once past these non-natural sights we only had cactus, vegetation, streams and a few animals to enjoy.
The sky was incredibly blue as we continued further, jumping over a raging stream and climbing once again to the mirador (viewpoint). Good jokes were had as Sven and I threw small sticks at the girls and blamed it on each other, and as Ester and I tried out our accuracy with a grape toss.
Finally the waterfall was within our reach and after a quick dip into the valley and back out again we were greeted by the cold water misting off the rocks. We sat under a small tree and ate lunch, using a small branch to scoop peanut butter out of its jar. We pumped ourselves up for the hike back, fantasizing about the Escudo beers and pizza we would have at the Fabrica de Pizza on Pio Nono -- only a 6-mile hike, 20-minute walk and 20-minute bus ride lay ahead of us.
We hurried back, with only a few mishaps as Stef and her poor shoes caused a few falls on the dusty trails along the way. After a 5-minute snooze at the park entrance we walked and then bussed it to Pio Nono where we shared some of the best-tasting Escudos of our lives.
|Santiago growing small behind us.|
|Cactus and dry vegetation all around us.|
|Just *barely* didn't make it!|
|We could see the waterfall off in the distance.|
|Dropping into the canyon, just before the waterfall.|
|Peanut butter on a stick.|
|Tired but still goofy.|
|Sven, the young one in our group, with plenty of energy on the way back.|
|A quick jump over the stream and we're on our way.|
|A 4-5 person limit.|