January 13 Cajón del Maipo
The Cajón del Maipo bus was an ordinary bus, more like a city transit bus than a long-distance inter-city bus. It started at the bus terminal near the Estacion Central and travelled through the city for a couple of hours. Then it went up through the Cajón del Maipo resort area and up a gravel mountain road to the small resort town of Baños Morales. The entire trip took about three and a half hours and cost only 2000 pesos (about $5).
Monumento Natural El Morado is a small area, just a single valley with a picturesque mountain at one end. The map shows the trail leading up past the lake to the glacier, but the list of prohibitions is longer than the trail.
Causing any kind of deterioration
Removing or extracting humus, earth, minerals
Capturing, displacing, wounding, or killing any fauna
Using loud machines
Provoking scandal, drunkenness, lacking morality
Throwing out or leaving garbage…
The trail starts at the resort village of Baños Morales. The name suggests that there are hotsprings here, but we did not look into that. In fact we left the village quite quickly to avoid the people trying to rent us horses.
Baños Morales is down in the valley, close to where the stream joins the river. The trail first crosses the stream and then heads steeply uphill. The day we were there it was warm and sunny.
Although the area was quite arid, there were a lot of flowers in bloom, among them this one that looked like a lily.
After we climbed for about an hour, we had our first view of El Morado itself. In Spanish “morado” means “purple” as an adjective, “bruise” as a noun.
On some days the mountain looks purple, it is said, and the sign at the guardaparques’ office has a logo showing it as purple, but today it just looked dark on its snowless side.
Today we were hiking very slowly, for various reasons: it was hot, our legs were not in shape, there were a lot of unfamiliar birds to identify. So we decided to stop at the lake and not to continue on to the foot of the glacier. There were about half a dozen tents here, with people who were just relaxing.