Me and Colin, obvi. Also, Hilary Gibson, who goes to OU, Katie Fialko, from Colorado, and Charlene Melindo and Sara Lebowitz, who are from New York.
|Hilary, Sara, Charlene, Katie, Colin, and me!|
1) Have a blast.
2) Go with the flow. Things will not go as planned. Guaranteed.
3) Overestimate. Unexpected costs will pop up, and the trip will probably cost more than anticipated.
4) Have a blast.
Wednesday:After a day of frantic packing and buying last-minute necessities (like toilet paper, which we almost forgot), the six of us met up at the bus station in Viña to start our trip. First, we had to take a bus to Santiago, where we would get off at the bus terminal at Pajaritos and catch another to the airport. Unplanned event number one happened when, as we were getting on the bus, the conductor told us he only stopped at Las Rejas, not Pajaritos. It's ok, breathe... It's Santiago, there's bound to be public transportation. At Las Rejas, we went into the metro station and after looking a lot like lost tourists with giant backpacks on, a metro guard let us ride free to Pajaritos. Lucky break number one.
Unplanned event number two: It turns out when you show up at a bus terminal at 11:45pm, you should probably expect it to be closed. Fortunately, there was a taxi waiting on the curb who was willing to fit all of us and our backpacks in his car for $4 apiece. After that, the arrival went smoothly. We checked in, checked our bags, and headed to Dunkin' Donuts to kill a few hours while we waited for our 1:50am flight.
|Colin and Katie at Dunkin' Donuts in the airport|
|Hilary and Charlene|
|Sadly, this is probably the best sleep we got all night.|
When we arrived at Lili Patagonico's, a man named Ivan was there to welcome us in out of the drizzle. He was super buena onda (Chilean for "he was a really great guy.") When we had settled into our warm, cozy rooms, we headed back out to the grocery store for lunch, dinner, and camping provisions. After little to no sleep followed by wandering around in the rain, crema de pollo soup, té, and sandwiches make a pretty delicious lunch.
|The amount of steam coming off the bowls is directly |
representative of how delicious crema de pollo soup is.
|This face means: What in the world are we going to do?|
|Sarah and Hilary working the sandwich assembly line.|
Friday:Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and... still really tired. But SO MUCH EXCITEMENT! Needless to say, after chowing down on a delicious free breakfast provided by the hostel, we all fell back asleep on our early morning, two hour bus ride. Maybe all the people in the south really are nicer, because our bus driver was awesome. After stopping for a bathroom break at the normal spot, he took advantage of the lovely weather and stopped again just so all his passengers could take pictures with the Torres in the distance. Awesome bus driver = lucky break number four.
|We were so excited!|
|Katie and Colin, trekking toward our |
campsite... and Las Torres!
|The setting up of the tents!|
|"Let's sit down for a second, guys... again."|
|Filling the water bottle... practically straight from|
|The highest point on our hike! Definitely worth the effort.|
When we got back to camp, we had about enough light to find our food, so we ate dinner in the almost-dark and then... went to bed. When it's pretty much too dark to see and fire's not allowed (poor Colin) and the temperature is rapidly approaching zero degrees Celsius, that's really all there is to do. Even if it's only 7:30pm. While at some point during the night I must have reached warm-enough-to-sleep, it sure did seem to take a while.
(Sidenote from Colin: This was my first camping experience ever where I was actually "roughing it."
I slept terribly.
It was so cold, and the ground was terribly hard.
I hope to never have to camp again. Nature, you're cruel, but beautiful.)
Saturday:When you wake up from the cold and the hard ground at 5am, getting up at 6:45 doesn't seem too bad after all. We had to wake up, eat breakfast, and tear down camp by 8 in order to make the two hour trek back to where the bus would pick us up. In case you've never been hiking, I want to let you know right now that two hours feels a LOT longer after a hike than it does beforehand. Miraculously, about 30 minutes into our walk, a nice man in a pickup truck asked us if we wanted a ride! As difficult as it is to fit six people and six backpacks into the bed of a small pickup, the time and effort he saved us was deeply appreciated. Lucky break number six.
|This was the best I could do with one free hand on a |
bumpy road. That's Sarah, Katie, and Hilary, and you
can see Charlene's hair on the right and my hand and
Colin's arm on the left. No one could move.
Having saved so much time in the pickup, we had time to relax and chow down on some more cereal while waiting for the bus. Meanwhile, walking right toward us as if they didn't even know we were there, came a herd of guanacos! My understanding is that this is the Chilean version of a llama. They're pretty cute.
|Llamas in the north, guanacos in the south. Furry creatures runnin' around all over the place!|
When the bus showed up, it was none other than our favorite bus driver from the day before! And he was kind enough to take us from Hosteria Las Torres to the Salto Grande, another part of the park, even though it was out of his way and not really part of the ride we had paid for. (All arranged by Ivan, of course.) He even let us leave our bags on the bus so we wouldn't have to hike with them. Lucky break number seven. We were more than happy to use the rest of our time in the park making a short trek to the mirador for Los Cuernos and the Glaciar del Frances. Comparatively, this was an easy, one-hour hike, and it was well worth the effort. The view from the mirador was beautiful and it made the perfect place to eat our lunch. Even though Saturday was chilly and much cloudier than Friday, it somehow still managed to be the perfect weather for glacier-viewing, since the clouds made the colors of the snow and ice more visible. Lucky break number eight.
|Los Cuernos- the horns. Incredible, albeit a little crooked.|
|Glaciar del Frances- No really! There's frozen water on top of that mountain!|
|Good food, Great company, Grandeur of a view|
On the way back to catch the same bus, we stopped at the Salto Grande, a waterfall that I can only assume comes directly from the surrounding glaciers. Pretty awesome.
|SO MUCH DELICIOUS WATER|
On the bus ride back to the hostel, we ran into some of our other gringo friends who had showed up a few days before us. We had a few hours of story-swapping on the bus ride, and they ended up at the same hostel we were staying at, but only long enough to shower and eat and leave to catch their flight. We spent our evening enjoying the hot showers and cooking more spaghetti. This time we treated ourselves to real meat sauce, french bread, and wine. Our warm, fluffy beds were even more welcome than they had been Thursday night.
Sunday:We finally got to sleep in Sunday morning, which is to say, we woke up at 7:30. We enjoyed a much more leisurely breakfast and loaded up in yet another bus, this time back to Punta Arenas. We arrived at about lunchtime, so we pulled out our tourist guide book and looked for something relatively cheap. I hate to admit that we ate hamburgers in Chile, but they sure were delicious. And when they come with mayo and palta, I feel like they still count as Chilean.
After lunch, we hung around the central plaza for a while and looked at souvenirs. Then I called Loli, Mama Lorena's daughter who lives in Punta Arenas, because Mama Lorena gave me a birthday gift to give her. When she heard we were in the plaza, she asked us if we wanted to go to the shopping center in Punta Arenas because it's cheaper, and she and her family drove us there. We spent a little while in what amounted to a mall, and we bought some delicious chocolates. We got bored pretty quickly because nearly everything was closed, so we decided to head back to the center of town.
|If anyone makes it this far south on a rickety|
boat, they deserve a statue.
|Me and my "host sister" Loli|
|Punta Arenas really does have better chocolate than the rest of Chile!|
Then comes one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: we walked from the plaza down to the water and put our feet in THE STRAIT OF MAGELLAN. And it was freezing. Very close to literally. Then, since we had nothing else to do, we sat on the beach, watched the sun set and drank the leftover wine from Saturday night. After the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly, so we walked around til we found a cute Colombian cafe, where we warmed up with hot chocolate and tea.
|It was cold, pero vale la pena|
|The sunset over Punta Arenas|
|Hot chocolate in a Colombian cafe|
We called Loli again because we had nothing else to do and nowhere to go, and she invited us to her house for once and offered us a ride to the airport. She fed us a delicious once and then we sat around talking until they came up with the idea to take us out to a lookout where you can see the city and the Strait. When we got back to her house, she took pity on the poor hungry gringos and basically gave us another once. Her precious kids, Sofia and Benjamin, played with play-doh with us as we talked until late. At 12:30am, Loli's husband Pablo drove us to the airport for another night of sleeping on benches while we waited for our 6:20am flight. He even walked us in to make sure we could all check in before he left.
|I'm teaching them to make play-dough turtles|
Monday:Again, I guess this is technically Monday now. We spent the night trying to sleep, but since we weren't quite as exhausted, it was much more difficult this time. I spent most of our time in the airport wishing I was already on the plane, and most of the time in the plane wishing I was already on the bus, and most of the time I was on the bus wishing I was already in my bed. But that's how it goes, I suppose. All legs of travel went smoothly, and we made it back no worse for the wear. The most difficult decision I had to make Monday was whether to shower, eat, or nap first.
In short, our adventure was better than I could have possibly imagined. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers while were gone.