The Cerillos traverse

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By Erwin Martínez
Photos by Pablo Lloncón

Editor's note: The following is from Issue 24.

“We cannot protect what we don’t love, and we cannot love what we don’t know.” With that guiding philosophy, we finally decided to do a trek that for years had been on our to-do list. Called the “Cerrillos traverse,” the route begins at the south face of Mocho Choshuenco National Reserve and reaches the small town of Cerrillos, located 18 kilometers from Futrono in Chile’s Los Rios region.

This trek is tremendously attractive not only for its beautiful scenery but also because it is loaded with history, ranging from being an old timber extraction route to possibly being part of the clandestine route that Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda used to escape to Argentina during the government of Gabriel González Videla.

Before starting the first day of our journey with Carlos Sotomayor, Pablo Lloncon, Gonzalo Barros and Guido Calfueque, we stayed at the Mocho Choshuenco National Reserve lodge, currently managed by my friends Erik Del Valle and Emilio Beltrán, a comfortable place that undoubtedly invites us to meditate on the scarce infrastructure that exists in our country for long trekking circuits, and which leads us to appreciate, enjoy and take care of this space even more, which, it is worth mentioning, has not been without its share of controversy over access to this reserve. 

Early one morning, we headed for the “Tumba del Buey” sector, a route where our conservations always turn toward dreaming about the great benefits that could be achieved with the implementation of concrete sustainable actions that promote and enhance responsible tourism and local conservation. Clearly, the benefits of such a future would be meaningful for the region.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Arriving at Tumba del Buey (1,400 meters) and seeing the mountain range in its full splendor, we can’t stop thinking about how necessary it is to establish long-term trekking circuits where there are pre-established camps, with signage, inclusive trails that respect the carrying capacity, prioritizing conservation, respect for the environment and local community, and in turn being a dynamic pole of opportunities. In short, it gives us much to dream about and reflect on.
 
Moving on during the day, and because Pablo, Gonzalo and Guido brought their drone equipment, we got a real birdseye view of the route from the heights of the breathtaking valleys and adjacent walls, but at the same time it was quite awful and unfortunate to see some motorbike tire tracks, showing us the lack of control and protection of the area. The future construction of a possible road here to unite Futrono with the Mocho-Choshuenco National Reserve would obviously bring enormous benefits (economic, greater connectivity, etc.) to surrounding communities. However, if we do not change our disrespectful behavior with nature, we will not be able to produce the real improvements and understanding needed to make a significant, positive human impact
 
 
 
 

Finally, we reached the waterfall fed by the Caunahue River, which due to the time of year was quite low, but no less surprising.  Just steps away, we arrived at a camp site that we deduced must have once been an old logger camp. After 8 long hours of hiking through exuberant nature, we then set up camp and enjoyed a delicious dinner accompanied by a warm conversation where the main topic was unavoidably the amazing trek we had enjoyed this day. 

 
A forest engineer with a master’s in environmental planning, Erwin Martinez is founder of Alerce Outdoor in Valdivia, Chile.