Unique Forests and Flowers

Native hardwoods—roble, coihue, raulí, and ulmo—covered the rough Caburgua terrain. Some of these majestic trees still remain near the south shore of the lake and on the crests of Caburgua's mountains. The arrayán, a much smaller tree with redish bark, grows on the edges of the lake.

Caburgua also has various attractive wildflowers. The rivers of Caburgua are lined by chilcos, a wild fuchsia, which grows abundantly. Much shyer is Chile's national flower, the copihue. It grows on a vine in stands of native trees. The bright red, five-inch flower sharply contrasts with the dim, shaded forest canopy where it thrives. Its value encourages harvesters to gather and sell its scarce flowers in urban areas, especially for the 18 de septiembre, Chile's independence day.

The most spectacular flowering tree is that of the ulmo, which grows to a hundred feet and higher. In spring its blossoms turn the entire tree white.  The bees especially appreciate the flowers. With the pollen they make a honey prized throughout the nation.

The Legacy of Fire

The settlers who first colonized Caburgua had neither the capital nor the technology to log and mill the original forests. Like the Mapuche, they too used slash and burn methods to clear their land. During dry years, often corresponding to the quila bloom, fires got out of hand and devoured entire forests. Today the stumps remain as tombstones of those ancient trees.

In 1967, however, a new era in Caburgua forests began. The Ministry of Agriculture created the Huerquehue National Forest which has large, virgin stands of Araucarian Pines.  Elsewhere, slash and burn is not allowed without a government permit. Reforestation is also common.

Dangers in Harnessing Nature

Transportation was always major problem. The Quelhue route near Pucón requires a river crossing by canoe and then travel on a narrow, uneven oxcart path which clings to the mountain ledges above the Trancura River. The other route, and the one used today, travels east about 10 miles through loose volcanic sands, crosses three rivers, el Turbio, el Trancura, and el Liucura, and then heads up into the Caburgua valley.

The Turbio is usually shallow and easy to ford. It is fed by runoff from the glaciers of Volcán Villarrica. It is, however, the main route for the volcano's eruptions.  A much more powerful river, the Trancura originates near the Argentine border. It has good fishing and recently has become a favorite of rafters. The calmest and most beautiful river is the Liucura.

Originally small ferries were used to cross these rivers until "hanging bridges" of large beams and cables were built. Unfortunately, accidents happened on these bridges. In 1968, a heavy loaded truck split the Trancura Bridge open and dumped a prefabricated school into the river. For days, parents fished the river for flooring, roof panels, and siding. On another occasion, a truck did not see a bicycle rider in the middle of the bridge. When the truck drove forward, the bridge acted like a trampoline and shot the rider into the river. Miraculously, he survived.