From Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello, the highway heads southeast to enter the 1930s Túnel Las Raíces, where the Púa–Lonquimay railway ran a tourist train as recently as the 1990s. Now open to vehicle traffic (toll US$2), the one-lane, 4.5-kilometer tunnel has sprung leaks that produce meter-long icicles in winter, and it’s overdue for an upgrade that would include new pavement, roof reinforcement, and a second parallel tunnel that would permit two-way rather than alternating traffic as at present. This would simplify access to the Pino Hachado border crossing.
Beyond the tunnel, the highway turns northeast to the village of
Instead of a standard grid, Lonquimay (population 3,435) has a peculiar ovoid city plan still centered, though, on the usual Plaza de Armas. It also has an obliging tourist office (O’Higgins and Carrera Pinto, tel. 045/891911) and restaurants and hotels that traditionally close at the end of February.
Hostería Hollil Pewenche (Ignacio Carrera Pinto 110, tel./fax 045/891110, US$13/22 s/d–25 s or d) has both shared bath and private bath accommodations.
From Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello, a steep eastbound dirt road over Cuesta las Raíces is a shorter alternate route to Lonquimay, which is 900 meters above sea level, but it’s open in summer and autumn only.
At least five Flota Erbuc buses daily connect Lonquimay with Temuco.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition