Two days are not enough to know the mapuches secrets on portals to other dimensions, but they are enough to fall in love with this fascinating ancestral cult of southern Chile

The fire lit in the middle of the ruka is the only thing that illuminates the space. It's 4 o'clock in the afternoon but the house has no windows, only a couple of vents high up in the ceiling, where the smoke with the smell of herbs comes out.

We are in Lake Budi, in the Mapuche community of Llaguepulli located in Araucanía region, and thanks to the invitation of Sarina Hinte, of Experiential Tourism Elements, today we will sleep in the traditional dwelling of one of the 85 original families that live in this commune. The house of Don Luis.

The Mapuche are considered one of the oldest living indigenous cultures in the world and in the region of Araucanía, in the south of Chile. There are more than 120 communities of this ethnic group, which maintain their language (Mapudungun), their traditions and their economy based on land and sea products.

The host in the community of Llaguepulli is Pablo, a Mapuche born and raised on the coast, the area of the coastal mountain range and the surroundings of Lake Budi. In Mapuche words, Pablo is a Lafquenche.

The community, located in height on the river, is open to any visitor who is interested in knowing how a Mapuche family lives, learn from their worldview, traditions, relationship with nature, medicinal herbs and cultivation methods. Pablo is the one in charge of organizing the visitors and of referring them to the different families where they will sleep, have dinner and lunch.

On our first afternoon in this oasis, Pablo takes us to kayak. The first thing he does is asking Nguen for permission, the protective forces of the river, so we can enter. That's because the Mapuches deeply respect nature, considering animals, plants, soil and the rest of the material world sacred.

For them, the word respect has a very important meaning. In Mapudungun it is translated as Ekuwun, and the lack of it with the environment could damage the harmony between the cosmos and the human being bringing serious consequences to human life. For the Mapuche, whatever is done to nature, is done to themselves.

Already with the whole group in the kayak we observe the magnificent landscape and Pablo, who guides us together with Ediel Legiñaco, operator of local tourism, tell us about the flora and fauna of the place.

In the surroundings of this lake, there are 132 bird species, 30.5% of the national total, including the black-necked swan, the marsh crow and the gray heron.

After a relaxing afternoon, we went up to change our clothes for the traditional dinner. Casserole for a part of the group and mashed vegetables from the garden for vegetarians. Having already finished we moved to the main ruka where they told us about the Mapuche cosmology. They told us about how the machi knows that she will have this important role through his dreams and illnesses. They describe how the machi diagnoses diseases through dead animals and tells us about the sacred places that are in the surroundings.

The community of Llaguepulli is huge. Each family has its land where they grow mixing ancestral techniques with tools of permaculture such as the use of hummus and compost from organic waste. In the morning we travel a part of the terrain by car to reach the medicinal garden Mapu Lawen, where the Lawentuchefe, the traditional herbalist of the Mapuche, usually explains what each herb is cultivated for.

On this occasion the explanation is made by Pablo, since the plant expert is traveling. Their knowledge is quoted and that is why it is not always possible to find it in the community.

With an incredible view of Lake Budi framed by rukas below the sun, we said goodbye to the family of Luis, Ediel and Pablo, who have welcomed us as if we were part of their families.

We slept in ruka, yes. It was a unique experience, yes. But we were surprised because sleeping in ruka is not enough to soak up this wonderful ancestral culture. At least two days are necessary to take advantage of the unique opportunity to be received by a  Mapuche community  that works and lives by the standards of its original traditions. 

Live the experience