Jada Yuan is the columnist of New York Times and currently she is visiting all of the places from the list of “The 52 places to go in 2018”. Chile and its section of Route of Parks was ranked as the 6th place to visit.
Ten minutes into my drive down the dirt highway that transects Chile’s Parque Pumalín in northern Patagonia, I had to pull over. Not for any mechanical reason, just to stand and stare in awe. Dense forest had suddenly given way to a lake flanked by mountains — a Chia pet landscape of undulating greenery beneath a vivid blue sky streaked with cirrus clouds.
Minutes later, I came to another screeching stop. This time at a rocky stream overrun with gunnera plants, otherwise known as Chilean rhubarb or dinosaur food, for having leaves so enormous they could wrap my 5-foot-6 frame like a burrito. I’d seen one or two gunnera earlier in my Chile stay, in the rain forest of Alerce Andino, the northernmost entry on the Route of Parks (named after the towering, ancient alerce, or larch, trees that are like Chile’s redwoods). But to walk among the gunnera in abundance, amid mountains untouched by human hands, felt like stepping into a time machine. “This is just like Jurassic Park,” I whispered, to no one.
My 50-mile trip south through Pumalín should have clocked in at around an hour. It took me four. That meandering was spiked with so much joy. But it was also the first time, in two and a half months of solo travel, that I have felt truly lonely. There’s nothing like shouting out, “This is so beautiful!” to an empty car to make you wish for company.
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