As happens every week or so around here, we had an asado the other night. No particular occasion marked, but plenty of good food eaten—salads and cakes as well as the ubiquitous lamb. Summer holiday season means that many of our extended families are passing through, for a day or two or ten, so the crowd included some new faces.
This season, we’ve had asados up at Camping Los Alamos, two or so kilometers west of the main park headquarters. This pleasant meadow, the site of one of the former estancia’s puestos, lies right beneath Cerro Tamanguito. Once the sun begins to set, Cerro Kristine and the other peaks of Jeinimeni light up in unbelievable pinks and oranges. Already, we’ve had several community gatherings and feasts up there, including a baseball game/ asado combination on New Year’s Eve and a memorably windy mid-January birthday party.
This time, we had another treat in store for us. Construction has begun on the campground; in just a week of work, the team had made impressive progress. This large, road-accessible campground will offer park visitors bathrooms (including showers), covered cook shelters, tent sites, parking areas, and places for larger groups to gather.
Last weekend, the building team reviewed the precise siting of the cook shelters, making sure to maximize the view and privacy of each one while minimizing the overall impact of the campground. They walked the distances from each tent area to the bathrooms, double- and triple-checking that facilities are close enough to assure their use. Since then, they’ve staked out the perimeters of each structure and laid the groundwork for construction.
Landscapers have cut back the thick meadow grasses to leave a clear, flat area for tents. A crew of trail builders has begun laying out the paths that will link different areas of the campground. These paths already make walking around the area easier: terrain safe for sandals, not exclusively the land of hiking boots. Meanwhile, the trail crew is test driving the campground, living up there as they work.
As excited as a well-prepared asado makes us, that delight pales in comparison to the thrill of seeing real, fast progress towards opening this park to the public. Completing this campground will enable us to host overnight visitors to the park for the first time. Right now we have a provisional campground established as a base for the volunteer program, but this area cannot support any more traffic.
The transformation of the Chacabuco Valley is certainly attracting more attention: the main road through the park is busier than ever before, with many tourists stopping in to find out what’s going on. Sitting on the stoop of the future restaurant after dinner today, we watched a dozen cars, pick-up trucks, and vans full of travelers drive up the road and stop. Some had kayaks, some had bikes, some had odd mattress contraptions tied on top. Most took a photo of the guanacos grazing or turned around to have another look at the buildings underway.
Next summer, we’re looking forwards to welcoming these visitors—and many more—to spend more time with us, and learn the story of the Chacabuco Valley. Meanwhile, we’re enjoying watching a campground appear at an old puesto, in a field of regenerating grasses and returning wild creatures. We’ll take that as cause for celebration.