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La Compaña, a gorgeous forest mountain reserve outside Omue, Chile,

Mountain view from La Campaña Bioreserve

Mountain view from La Campaña Bioreserve

”Why didn`t I come here sooner?” I found myself saying out loud as we arrived at the entry of La Campaña, a national bioreserve, just outside of the sleepy village of Omue.It`s gorgeous! And so close to Valparaíso – just an hour by train.

Entry to La Campaña Bioreserve

Entry to La Campaña Bioreserve

I ventured here only because one of my former students offered to take me on a free walking tour (paying my way by speaking English and helping correct hers). I met Vivian, a professional tour guide for the area, during a Tourism English course at the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano.

The day was perfect for a walk in the woods.

It always amazes me that as soon as you get outside the urban cement jungles of Chile, you encounter a vast natural lush green one, filled with a fascinating interesting mix of tall sweeping eucalyptus, pines and evergreens, leafy tall shrubs and trees, with the occasional cactus and palm tree thrown in the mix.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus

The sounds of the city fade away quickly out here. The mountains here don`t seem to be very windy, so you can easily hear, above the gentle breezy rustling of leaves, a multitude of chirping birds and talkative tiny creatures. The smell of eucalyptus is heady and intoxicating.

gentle road up the mountain

gentle road up the mountain

The walking tour up the gentle winding mountain gravel path was very easy and relaxing. Vivian`s tour was very instructive, too, since I learned many fascinating stories about the history of the area and the natural flora. I was surprised to find out that Charles Darwin had been in the area and made a number of important discoveries here. Darwin had been in this exact area when he realized he was looking at an undocumented, ”new” species of palm tree, the Chilean Palm ( a gigantic grass, not a tree at all, in fact). Vivian said he started counting each tree, but soon abandoned the task when he crested the ridge and saw valleys and valleys ahead, chock full of them.

Charles Darwin Was Here

Charles Darwin Was Here

Gold!

Gold!

At one point, we came across a gated entrance to an abandoned mine shaft, closed off by a brittle looking wooden gate. Looked more like a prison than a mine. Then later, she showed me where the Mapuche, the local indigenous people who have inhabited this areas for thousands of years, had setup a natural sluice system, channeling the spring runoff along a rock channel to a flat rock platform, over which was an enormous weathered rock was set,riddled with holes drilled in for the placement of poles. When poles are inserted into the holes, you can rock the rock back and forth over the gushing stream of water below. The effect is that it crushes and smashes the gold out of the mucky water spewing down the mountain, which can be later scraped up and collected. And so, this area was an important source of gold for jewelry and other instruments of the Mapuche many years before the Spanish and other foreign interests arrived and ”discovered” the natural gold reserves in the area.

Tour Guide Vivian Describing the Mapuche Sluice Rock System

Tour Guide Vivian Describing the Mapuche Sluice Rock System

Mountain Vistas

Mountain Vistas

In Bloom

In Sunny Bloom

Delicate Surprises In The Shade

Delicate Surprises In the Shade

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink


As we meandered slowly uphill, we stopped at strategically placed rest stops, where I took a hundred photos and admired the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and lush forest like the photo above. It was such a welcome change from cement and building choked Valparaíso, Chile.

Buttery Blooms

Buttery Blooms

It wasn`t a hard hike, and I can see why it is a local favorite and frequent outing for school field trips.

Hikers Enjoying The Easy Route

Hikers Enjoying The Easy Route

 

I highly recommend this outing to anyone staying for more than a week in Valparaíso, looking for some natural beauty and something easy and interesting to do.

Full On Colour

Full On Colour

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