Cordón del Caulle: Forgotten tourism potential awaits

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Cordón del Caulle. Photo: Pablo LlonconCordón del Caulle. Photo: Pablo Lloncon
By Erwin Martinez 
Translation by Justin Mueller
You don't need to travel to Yellowstone National Park in the United States to find natural landscapes that have geysers, thermal rivers, active volcanoes and sulfurs, and at the same a fantastic playground for activities like skiing and trekking.
Cordón del Caulle, located toward the interior of the mountain range of Chile’s Los Rios region, is home to that kind of diverse landscape. It’s also pristine and practically untouched by man, a place where to find some way of entering is a challenge in and of itself. Unfortunately, this area continues to be abandoned and forgotten, even as it contains all the elements necessary to be a national epicenter for diverse outdoor sports.
In order to show the immense value of Cordón del Caulle, and emphasizing open and responsible access to the area, the non-profit Entre Lengas held events in 2017 and 2018 on the north face of this mountain chain, which by its south face also allows one to reach the summit of the nearby Puyehue volcano.
Entre Lengas. Photo: Pablo LlonconEntre Lengas. Photo: Pablo Lloncon
Recently, with a group of friends, we went there to enjoy a starry night. This is a place which always seems to make you want to stay longer, either to leisure calmly in the natural hot springs or explore the intriguing surroundings. And how can one forget Lagunas Gemelas and Lake Gris, while it is not known for sure if they are inside Puyehue National Park (its northern border is unclear), their imposing rock walls are the dream of any mountaineer.
Upon reflection, we wonder if society is even prepared to "take charge" of a place like this. That might sound severe but look what's happening with our environment. The low budget that the Chilean government invests per hectare in protected wilderness areas – as well as the general lack of a culture of respect and care for our environment prevalent in society – makes us question, with great sadness, whether conservation is yet a priority in this country. 
Laguna Gemela. Photo: Pablo LlonconLaguna Gemela. Photo: Pablo Lloncon
Meantime, we will continue to explore the iconic Cordón del Caulle, which over the last few years has suffered with problems related to access. In 2017, the municipality of Lago Ranco acquired 400 hectares (988 acres) to open up new public access to Puyehue National Park via the Caulle sector. However, there are no public roads, prior to entry you must go through land belonging to three private landowners, so the municipality is currently revising the validity of land claims in the zone.
Today, the master plan for the land purchased by the municipality calls for a pioneering geopark in southern Chile, but for now the national park remains a protected area with administration and public access only available via existing park entrances in the Los Lagos region.
Sailing at Lake Gris. Photo: Pablo LlonconSailing at Lake Gris. Photo: Pablo Lloncon
These types of inconveniences are what Fundación Plantae is trying to address by developing a National Mountain Access Restrictions Survey, with the aim of identifying and showing the present situation to decision-makers, landowners, administrators and visitors to mountains and other natural environments. It is expected to be published in early 2020, shedding light on a subject that up to now has been stuck in the dark.