It’s tough to put into words what the Patagonia experience has meant to me, but here’s an attempt to do so anyway. This blog includes journal entries, digital photos, 35mm film photos, phone photos, a 40 minute movie and some self-reflection. Enjoy.
Watch the movie below:
Happy New Year! Writing this from a plane that’s going from Miami to Santiago (the capital of Chile). I’m stoked to be traveling again, I need a shift in perspective & a reminder to be more mindful again.
Another day of travel today. I slept on/off on the flight. We arrive in Santiago where it seems quite arid. Bags are checked and we have a few hours in the airport in Santiago before heading off to Balmaceda where the adventure begins. Completely refreshing to be in the mountains again. My sense of time is still kind of whacked out from the flying. At the airport in Balmaceda we met our guides Cristian, Pancho, and Christian’s brother (also named Cristian- a little bit confusing). After loading up the trucks we head off. The drive showcases already how majestic this place is. We pass layers of mountains and head through some small towns. Eventually arriving at the house where we’ll stay our first couple of nights, I’m immediately floored. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever experienced. Greeted by a backyard view of the towering Andes mountains and a Patagonia blue lake, I snap some photos and make my way over to three friendly dogs. It just doesn’t seem real, like a place I could stay at forever.
Inside the house I get my first taste at a new obsession, the regional drink called Mate (Mah-te). The comradery around drinking the Mate is something special that’s difficult to explain. That’s my favorite part. It becomes a daily occurrence for our group on the trip. The drink itself is an herb that’s similar to tea. Except it’s very bitter. The server pours the water in the cup, someone takes a few drinks through a bombia (it’s like a metal straw), and passes it back to the server who refills the cup for the next person.
After dinner, we enjoyed an evening walk. It’s lovely and freeing. The sun doesn’t set here until around 10:30 pm. The night ends with some discussion about packing our bags for the trek and lots of laughter.
Woken up today by a glorious ray of sun. I’m sleeping on the couch and I look out the window to see the sun shining on the mountainside. It all still seems like a dream. Soon the chatter of folks beginning to cook gets me out of bed. The day begins with a nice cup of coffee. A wonderful breakfast follows, breakfast might be my favorite meal of the day. Or maybe it’s just that I love mornings, a fresh start, that’s what this entire trip feels like to me.
Anyways, afterwards we head out for a quick day hike down to the lake. The hike starts with a little fence jumping and bushwhacking before going up to some mountainous views and heading down to the lake. An old boat and a few shacks greet us down by the lake. This scene coupled with layers of towering mountains sure makes for a nice aesthetic. A group of us choose to soar off the dock into the water. Glacial water isn’t a joke, the water is so cold that it’s difficult to breath. Rejuvenating. At this point I realize I’d like to snag some photos of everyone jumping in the water. After a quick run back to the shore across the rocks in only my underwear and hiking boots, this is a reality. Afterwards, it’s time to head back and complete our 8 mile hike. The way back is all uphill, my legs feel great. The air is fresh and it’s been too long since I’ve had a proper hike. This day gives me a taste of what I’m in for with the rest of the trip.
Upon returning to the house, I’m able to sit outside, pet some dogs, take in the view some more, and have a few, but notably meaningful conversations. These range from veganism, land usage, sustainable tourism, and governmental land protection/destruction. After eating more high quality food & drinking high quality juice. Next up we learn about how to properly back for our first trek.
I have time to go over some photos before making dinner and enjoying a feast. After dinner we all head up the hill for what turns out to be a spiritual experience. It’s just tough to put words to these things. I sit there and watch the sun light up the clouds and the sky while thinking. This is a healing place.
“He who rushes in Patagonia loses more time”
Wake up with the sun and the commotion in the kitchen this morning. It’s a morning of quality breakfast and packing for the first trek. Next up, we head out to the van for a 7 hour ride to Lago Verde. No doubt this was the most beautiful drive of my life, I didn’t want it to end. We pass through Coyhaique and many smaller towns. We bump reggae spanish music and I’m in my happy place. On the way we take a pit stop at a (causal for Patagonia) mammoth waterfall where I can get some crazy scaled photos.
On the road we stop at a small seaside town called Puyuhuapi. There’s a plethora of quaint small houses. Lots of people are outside on the streets playing and laughing. It’s a sunny summer day in southern Chile. We spend some time on a small beach and I admire how clear and blue the water is along with how fresh and different the air feels. Before dinner we scope out a trail up through some farmland complete with cows, bulls, and chickens that leads up to another breathtaking view of the fairytale-esk landscape of mountains, the sea, streams. On the way back we pick handfuls of berries to enjoy.
Before driving a few hours back to Lago Verde, we have a nice dinner at a tiny seafood joint near the water. It’s fairly late in the evening when we get to base camp and begin setting things up. We have a minimalistic tent it’s easy to setup and takedown, this is important when you’re living out of backpack and on the move everyday.
After getting our bearings straight at basecamp it’s time for a second dinner. At this point it’s late, 11:00pm. Sheesh, this meal is good. It’s a hearty soup with breads, salads, vegetables, and drinks. We all feast and laugh until it’s time for bed. Looking forward to getting on the trail tomorrow.
“Patagonia is a healing place”
Today begins with roosters squawking as the sun rises. After stumbling out of the tent we get some coffee brewing and some carmel flat breads cooking. Before we head out on the trek there’s some time to walk around the town of Lago Verde and make our way to a few lookout points. The mountains are just a gorgeous as always and this all still feels like a dream. Upon returning to base camp and building out my backpack I can’t help but feel an overwhelming mixture of excitement and gratitude just from being exactly where I am.
Finally, we start our first trek. The beginning is a lot of uphill and with a good amount of weight on my back, I can totally feel it. It’s that good burn. We cross rocky rivers and once we get on the mountain side I realize I’m scaling some of the steepest trails I’ve done. Around every corner I tell myself it doesn’t get any better than this… and then it does. When we stop for a break we can fill up our water bottles in the glacial streams and eat any of the numerous berries around us.
Around the midpoint of the hike we stop for a view of mountainous layers and I get my first taste of the view of Argentina. Also at this stop, there’s a giant slab of rock with pictographs that our guide Cristian himself discovered. The wind up here is not joke. A little while down the bend we find a covered spot and stop to make some lunch (it’s almost 6:00pm so whatever you want to call this meal). Man the food just tastes better when you’re outdoors all day. It’s rad to just walk and cook and play frisbee. Everyone’s getting along, getting to know each other, and getting more comfortable.
As we get prepared to continue the trek and look for a spot to camp out for the night we’re greeted by an authentic Chilean gaucho who rides up on a horse, ready to guide us up the mountain. After passing through layers of snow-covered mountains lit up by heavenly rays peeking out from behind the clouds, we find a place to call home for the night. It might be the coolest place on earth. Everything good seems to be happening to all of my senses at once. When I find myself in these situations I like to run through all of my five senses individually and really try to experience each one.
Night begins to creep in along with thunderous looking storm clouds. I sit on the edge watching this weather pattern roll in and experience the most intense wind I’ve ever felt. Dinner takes place under a tiny cooking tent and we all huddle up together to stay warm. This is the best feeling – being out there laughing with everyone, enjoying the good food and good company. The sky remains ominous looking as I hit the hay.
Waking up again with the sun. Today I eat breakfast and drink my coffee from the side of a mountain watching the sun catch the peaks in the distance. I gather some wild strawberries to make that granola extra sweet. Shortly after we hit the trail to continue the trek. The back is heavy today, it feels like maybe 25-30 lbs and the incline appears to be almost straight up. I love it. The views are just that much sweeter.
Some sections of the trail today are just buschwaking off trail through trees, rocks, brush, and everything else. It gets tough to walk at some portions but I can use my trekking pole as a gauge. I’m having the time of my life. It seriously feels like this is a movie or something. Is a hot sauce bearing cowboy really guiding me up a mountain in Chile? Yeah.
In the distance we can see murderous looking storm clouds. Somehow they always manage to pass us by without wreaking havoc. We take a break in our trek to snack on some trail mix, dried fruit, and chocolate. We spend some time enjoying each others company, laughing and making jokes. I also notice I can see Lago Verde in the distance, the actual lake nestled within mountain valleys. The water is an indescribable pure blue/green shade.
The group makes our way to a location that might be ideal for setting up camp for the night after some scouting. The plan is to set up camp there, eat a meal, scale the mountain, and return down in time for dinner. Lunch is beautiful. I’m realizing how good it is to spend all day walking, cooking, setting up camp, resting, and talking with good friends. It seems almost primal or something like that, but living so simply is something that we miss the value of. There’s a lot of noise and distractions around us all the time back home that try to convince us that there’s more to be worried about. Something else I’ve been realizing is how close you get with the folks you’re with when you do a backpacking trek like this with them.
Everything seems good to go for the final stretch up. This is the steepest hiking yet and making it to our destination is a dramatic feeling I know I can’t put words to. Rays of sun peak through the clouds and shimmer onto endless layers of mountains in the distance. The freshest air on the planet slaps me in the face in the form of winds so strong they could blow any of us over if we aren’t careful. All of many senses are completely stimulated. This is the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had.
Time doesn’t seem real, but after some amount of it in this transcendental place, our cowboy friend bids us farewell and we head back down to camp. It’s a wild good time sliding down the sloped trail. We arrive back at camp as night falls, I lay down completely exhausted, but completely in the moment. Good conversation, good mate, and good card games to end the night. Be here now.
It’s raining this morning. Seems like the rain finally did catch up with us. Everything stayed dry overnight, even though these tents are simple, they did a great job of keeping us dry so far. Another morning of coffee and fried bread with the best view on the planet. Now it seems like it’s time to pack up our things and prepare for today’s trek. This time it’s down.
I have the camera packed up today due to rain. It blows but at least it makes it easier to climb down. Speaking of the climb down, it’s slick, and it feels more like a slide down at some points. We make a few stops hiding under trees and deciding what routes to take. There’s not a real clear way down at this point, that means we do our fair share of bushwalking and mud sliding.
It’s now downpouring on us the entire way. We make sure to bundle up and book it down the mountain. It takes the rest of the afternoon to make it down, but we do make good time with the speed we’re going at. It gets chilly and even though my gear is waterproof by the end I’m soaked to the core. I love it. It’s an awesome story to remember.
We make it down the mountain and hide out in a chicken coup while we wait for a truck that’s on it’s way to take us and our gear back to base camp. The hot mate drink was very welcomed at this point. We really feel like a family huddled up together with the chickens. The truck ride back to the Lago Verde base camp was brilliant. It’s through extremely rough terrain and mud/water. The truck we took was actually more like half a truck or a skeleton of a truck due to the shape it was in.
Upon arriving back we’re gifted with some good news. We have hostiles for the night! This means that we can dry our soaking wet clothes and bodies. AND we get a shower. It’s an ice cold shower but nonetheless I enjoy it. Drying off by the wood stove and taking off my boots is probably the greatest feeling. The entire group piles into this tiny area and shares some drinks (fresh wine made fresh from the farmer), laughs, and stories.
We have one of the most memorable dinners of the trip tonight. Pancho cooks a pasta with beans and veggies, adding hot sauce for an extra bit of glory. We laugh so hard during dinner, everyone is so happy. The first portion of the trek is complete and we jam to some classic rock tunes along with a muppets version of Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’ve never heard Kermit The Frog imitate Freddie Mercury, it’s a treat I’d recommend. There’s a point at dinner where I’m just watching Pancho serve up some pasta (seems like a random moment) and I realize I’m completely overcome with emotion. I feel so inexplicably at home, like it’s where I’m supposed to be.
Last night I was kept warm by multiple blankets in the chilly hostile. I wake up in the morning and gather my things before Pancho, Franco, Cristobol arrive and we begin cooking breakfast. We get the wood stove going again to warm things up and chill for a bit as it’s pouring rain outside. Breakfast of avocado toast, eggs con cebolla y tomate, yogurt with granola, and some beautiful Park City coffee. We eat outside as the sun come.
We start packing for the next trek and listen to music and talk for a bit. Next up, we head down to the town to meet with a farmer and watch the first step of the carne asada process. Asada is a lamb and eating the lamb is a cultural event in Chile. Afterwards, we head to the market and walk around the town. The group swings by a thrift store and I pick up a Universidade de Santiago hat.
It’s raining as we embark on the trek to Lago Verde. We’re heading to the lake to camp on the shore. Our hike there is around seven miles. It rains pretty hard for the majority of this hike. Lago Verde is stunning – some of the bluest/greenest water I’ve ever witnessed. Getting to the lake we’re all soaked and pretty cold. A fire is welcomed with open arms. We set up a tarp under a tree to keep us dry.
Eventually the sun comes out exposing a rainbow. It’s gorgeous out for a bit, our clothes are drying on a line, our tents or perched up on the rocky shore, and two wooden boats are docked on the shore. Before the commencement of dinner happens, we walk around skipping rocks and drinking wine. After dinner it’s dumping rain again as we sit around the fire sharing stories as night falls. You realize how much you start to care about these people when you’re out there in it all with them. You can see snow on top of the mountain where we just were a few short days ago. The night ends as we sprint to our tents as the storm rages on.
It’s a dry morning! The sun is shining and it’s warm. Breakfast of that life changing fried bread and coffee. I walk along the pristine rocky beach skipping stones and getting the boats loaded up. I’m really breathing and embracing it all this morning. Today we’re taking a boat ride across the entire lake to our next camping spot. We have one smaller boat and one bigger wooden boat. The boats move at a good pace but it’s a long ride, over an hour. Water splashes up over the sides and I’m pretty wet by the end. But the sun is shining today and being surrounded by mountains from every side makes up for any minor discomforts.
The next campsite on the other side of the lake is farmland next to some horses, goats, sheep, and other miscellaneous farm animals. The group sets up camp here and gets ready to fly fish. Getting ready to fly fish includes setting up our poles and practicing casting. I’ve never fly fished before. We head on into the water and I spend some time on the shore snapping photos of everyone fishing. It’s a relaxing afternoon, I don’t catch anything but a few of the other do.
Now there’s time to roam the space and have a few photos. Dinner tonight is the Asada, I don’t eat animals but this meal is a big deal for everyone else. At night we hang out by the fire for more stories and laughs. A fire with friends is a great medicine, it’s therapeutic. Tonight is a chill night. The stars are beautiful and mind boggling. There’s no light pollution down here and the sheer amount of stars combined with the vividness of the stars is unforgettable. It’s a spiritual experience being down here.
WARM today. It’s very different from the cold last night. Last night was the first night that wore a fleece to bed. Per usual this morning we are gathering our stuff for a trek. It’s a gorgeous day today, I’m ready for a hike. A proper longer hike. It’s awesome and it feels great, there’s so much up and down. We’re in the mountains alongside the lake for the whole time today. I keep thinking about how I want to do a thru-hike of one of the national trails someday. I just love it all, even the burns, aches, and pains. It’s good to be in it and see/feel these things sometimes.
Mid-day we stop for lunch. We hang out a tiny beach shake and cook our food. Before lunch I have good long talk with Cristian about sustainable off the grid living. I start thinking about what sort of lifestyle I’d like to live and how I can do my best to live as mindfully as possible. Lunch concludes with eating apple cores and joking about Peanut Butter and Pancho.
We continue the hike over some incredible swinging bridges and finally into farmland. We all lay down in the grass exhausted from our hike. We enjoy some beers together and take it easy for a while. Afterwards we decide to head down the road to meet up with a man who owns some land in the area and knows Cristian. As we approach this house I can tell it’s one of the coolest houses I’ve ever seen. From afar it looks rusted down, but it’s actually sleek and modern. The house has a deck viewing the lake and mountains. Lots of big windows showcasing gorgeous interior design. And a Buddha statue sitting amongst a stone garden.
It turns out that the man who owns the place is building it out as bed & breakfast space. He wants it to become a park for the public. It does raise some questions about land management and the definition of what a public park even is in the this place, but after talking to him, his heart does seem to be in the right place. The mans wife & daughter are there too. They’re extremely nice and hospitable, they bring us out some coffee/tea. I sit on the deck with a few people from our group and chat with the daughter Alexandria. She’s’ well traveled and speaks four languages. She’s studying international law at university. The conversation gains more depth and we discuss travel, optimal lifestyles, school, language, the region, and more. It’s a beautiful & perfect time. I realize just how happy, blissful, and clear I am feeling.
Upon getting back to El Mirador basecamp outside the village of Lago Verde, we set up camp and head to the supermarket and wander the village at sunset. Sitting on the ground, finishing up dinner I have a surreal conversation with Franco & Meredith. Franco knows little to no English; however, with my broken Spanish we are able to piece together conversations. We talk life, silly stuff and heavy stuff. Franco’s pet pig following him outside during night walks and art breaking down the obstacles that the world creates after childhood. It’s important stuff and a beautiful/memorable time. Franco carves wood sculptures with chainsaws, climbs, and loves the release of uncertainty on backpacking trips. I’m learning that feeling on this trip, how beautiful it can be when you’re brought into each moment.
I get Franco’s contact info so we can stay in touch when I’m back in Wisconsin. He’s such a pure person. As it gets dark we all look up at the stars. This is the best night sky I have ever seen. We can see the Milky Way and the Southern Cross constellation. It’s so wild how many stars there are, an impossible amount.
“Write more. Make & hold on to special connections/people”
The day starts with that beautiful morning coffee and breakfast. We pack up our stuff as the plan is to head to the thermal baths for the day. After, breakfast a sad time comes as its time to send off Franco. He’s taking a truck into a nearby town to catch a bus back to Coyhaique. We hug goodbye, take a photo, and ‘buena viaje”. I’ll stay in contact with him. Next, we take a walk into Lago Verde to pass the time, I really like this quaint little town. I make friends with a big dog and we play around a little bit.
It’s raining and we chill for a while, reflect, and load up the trucks. We pack our bags crazy high & it looks awesome & funny. The ride is a crazy route and I zone out to music. It’s pouring by the time we get to La Junta for the thermal baths. We have a nice lunch under a cozy wooden shelter at our next location where we meet a nice dutch couple traveling the world in a van. That’s the life. After lunch we head down to the thermal baths and spend hours on end down there. It’s still pouring rain but the steamy water and good company make it pretty sweet.
Afterwards we set up tents in the pouring rain, I do so still in my swimsuit, it’s pretty but also pretty fun. It’s a fun night in the cabin with food and drinks and friends and dancing. Conversations with Cristians brother Cristian in broken spanish will always be held close. He doesn’t speak much English but he is so friendly and excited to communicate with us. Rains all night.
It’s bright and warm when we wake up today. No more rain but things are still a bit wet. I gather up some things and head to the cabin area for some breakfast and coffee. Next it’s time to play some soccer with a few from the group, practice slack-line, and laugh. We all then load up the trucks and prepare to head off to Puyuhuapi for the sea kayaking section of our trip. On the ride to I talk to Trace about the region, sustainability, music, and many more great things. In Puyuhuapi we get lunch, venture around the town to explore, and get the kayaks packed and ready. Puyuhuapi is a cool beach-side, backpacking town to explore.
After a while we head off for some sea kayaking in the fjords. It’s pretty intense stuff, what a good workout and meditative experience. The sea remains peaceful and choppy. I know that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but do some sea kayaking and you’ll understand it. We kayak a good distance of which I’m not sure exactly how long, maybe 6 or 7 km. It takes up much of the afternoon, sometimes I like to slow down and take in the mystic landscapes that the fjords offer. At one point a sea lion starts following us and jumps out of the water real close.
Upon arriving to the shore we scout out a good place to camp and dock the kayaks. In this area of public land you can camp anywhere on the shore near the sea. We find a gorgeous spot with snow covered mountains in the background, space to set up tents, and a bit of tree coverage nearby. We make some dinner and enjoy it. As the sun sets, it lights up the top of the evergreen trees. I head down to the beach to enjoy the show. Mother nature certainly but on a good show tonight. The saturated setting sun glistened off of tide pools along the beach. It feels like a nostalgic summer night, I don’t even think too much about taking photos. There’s a lot of stuff that I take in with my eyes and my mind. Breathe & release all that’s debilitating.
I thought a lot today about how I can make it back to this place as soon and as often as possible.
I’m noticeably hot when waking up today. The weather is turning warmer. Breakfast is another feast and we do some morning preparation for a longer kayaking trek today. Today I’m in a double kayak with Andrea. We can cruise in this sucker. The crew heads out for a while before docking on a beach cove for lunch. Eventually we can see the glaciers – they’re unreal, powerful and a different kind of beautiful. We also reach a point where we come up close to an island that we can circle and get close real close to the shore. I notice how cool all the layers greens in the water are mixing with the barnacle covered rocks.
After lunch we head back out on the sea en route to our next campsite destination. We have a ways to go and have to completely cross the fjord area. The water gets choppy with the wind and we run into some white capped waves that send us rocking as we cross. It’s pretty great, I love it all. I just love being out there in it all. I really sink into the moment. Like Franco told me, uncertainty can be a beautiful thing. (Besides, before heading out, we were instructed on how to avoid capsizing and what to do in case capsizing does occur.)
Its crazy how often I’m reminded of how sacred this place feels. I have good conversation with Andrea about that as we paddle in synchronicity across the sea. Learning and understanding how important it is to remove yourself emotionally and even physically from all the distractions (often toxic) in certain places that we’re used to. Traveling does that for you. It’s dangerous to get pigeonholed into singular lines of thinking.
Anyways we finally dock our kayaks on a beautiful beach and enjoy some beers. After a few we all dead sprint in the water and it’s absolutely amazing, freezing cold, but fun. Pancho runs in and does some crazy dives with us. Cristian runs in and floats around in his bloated, inflatable wetsuit. A storybook scene and some of the best memories I can think of. We watch dolphins and penguins swim by in the distance.
Now we sit on the beach and talk about sleeping under the stars tonight next to the sea. There’s some warm showers nearby that we use and are very welcomed. I hang out in a little wooden shack on the beach for a while and reflect before helping make dinner. I need to reflect more and write more in general. We have dinner on the beach and its just a stellar time – happy.
After dinner we run up a giant hill right next to a bunch of giant cows chasing the fading light. It’s nice up the hill you can see layers of mountains, the Maca glacier from a far, and more. The fading blue light on the mountains has to be the coolest thing. The orangish/pink tones head over the mountain. You can see the sea, the road, the trees, the houses, and the area that we’re camping. Truely feel on top of the entire world (or maybe at the edge of it.) Either it’s an experience that will forever be etched into my mind. I take only a few photos.
After sunset, we run back down to have a fire on the beach, talk and laugh. Sitting around the fire on the beach this night is really all I could ask for, the stars vibrant stars remind me of my place on this floating space rock. I get ready to sleep under the stars on the beach and can’t seem to put words to describe something special as this.
Chattering on the beach this morning lifts me out of sleep on this crips morning. It’s pretty cold, but watching the sun come up on the beach is pretty sweet and I’m ultra comfortable laying down in my sleeping bag. I head over to the rocks to watch some penguins, dolphins, and sea lions swim by. Afterwards we make/eat some fried bread/eggs on the beach while jamming out to nice music for a sweet morning. We then pack for a day of hiking as the sound of the waves crashing into shore plays in the background.
Off now for Parque Nacional Queulat. It’s a quick drive from the beach in Cristian’s car. We all sing along to some songs on the radio, I love it when Christian sings. When we make it to the park we talk to a ranger and head on our way. Right away we cross this gnarly bridge. It’s only 4 people at a time cross this wooden rope & wire bridge. The bridge bounces as we stroll across and towards the middle the landscape opens up a bit- you can see (and hear) rushing rapids over giant rocks The water is a baby blue color, it’s strange to see, it’s directly from a colossal glacier. Speaking of which, further down the bride, we can see it. A bohemeath mass of ice/snow with water crashing down from the sides. Truly a spectacular natural phenomena.
Our hike leads us through the messy forrest to a glacial lagoon pool. The air begins to change – it’s just something about the purity and freshness of it that words and photos are unable to describe. We chill at the glacial pool for a bit, drinking directly from it. After that we head back to a shelter for some sandwich lunches. As lunch ends we head out for a longer hike to get the best view of the glacier. It’s a 3000m hike with steep elevation. Sweating a lot on this steamy day but no complaints, I’m loving it all out here. This trail is so tight, the mossy green trees and mud reminds me of the photos I’ve seen of the Pacific Northwest. It’s another day of proper hiking. Woo!
We get to the top of the lookout point and it’s just perfect. The view of the glacier is just perfect. It’s powerful, astonishing, and all that stuff. We chill there for a while, take some photos, joke around, and holy cats I’m going to miss Pancho. He’s one of those people who has a super similar personality and energy to me. I also start thinking about how mighty glaciers like this might not be around in the same capacity for many future generations to see. I sure am lucky to be here.
Next, we hike back down, it’s good on the body and the muscles. Oddly enough I’ll miss some of the pain on my body from this trip when I get home. The discomfortant means that I’m living right. Then we drive back to the beach campsite for some chilling. I’m thinking a lot about the differences between life in the US and here. The government is still shut down back at home and I just feel so removed from it all. Long-term I’ll need something that will allow me to travel and ground me.
Before dinner I head up to the hill spot from yesterday with Jen, Andrea, Ryan, and Meredith. It’s a magical time, truly meditative sitting on the edge of the hill in complete bliss. It’s a cathartic and therapeutic time gazing out over the calm ocean at the layers of volcanoes and mountains. I don’t know how else to describe it but true oneness. This is one of the most spiritual moments of my life.
After that we head down to the beach again for some dinner as the light fades. We pass a giant bull on the side of the hill straight chillin. Dinner is fantastic, fried vegetables and potatoes prepared by Cristian. After dinner we sit around the fire on the beach. It doesn’t get much better than this. I have a riveting conversation with Ryan and Cristian (brother Cristian). The conversation is about everything and anything, all in spanish, ranging from topics of politics, to differing cultures, to our own stories and experiences.
I can feel anxiety fleeing away.
It’s an early morning today to get on the water early. The poor weather is already upon us. It’s raining, windy, and cold. We eat breakfast inside a nearby shelter while discussing the plans for the day. Due to the nasty conditions we have the choice to drive to our next destination; however, all of us choose to bear the elements and go forth with the seakayaking. We pack up the yaks right after breakfast and mentally prepare to head out. I’m in a double kayak with Meredith today. I’ve been too nervous to bring the camera out on the sea kayaking sections, I’ve only took a few shots with my phone. Today all my attention must be on the task at hand.
It’s pretty intense as we start to paddle. Since we aren’t paddling into the waves we’re moving pretty fast but the kayak rocks more and we can’t even really tell what direction we are going and have a hard time steering. Also, it’s pouring rain. Pretty sweet start to the day.
After a long while of paddling around the Puyuhuapi fjords we see some dolphins and sea lions extremely close to the kayaks. Pretty rad. When we see the campsite we decide to go past and explore the Quelet fjords. We make our way up to some little islands and cool green scenery. There’s so much green in this place. Siempre verde.
Afterwards we head into shore. It’s still pouring rain and we load our kayaks up into the truck. Next, we take a real quick ride to our next site, unload our bags and all that. This next place is – sheesh – like a magic jungle of fairy tale tree house yurts on the side of a mountain. It’s a steep and muddy climb but these shelters hold a nice view of the sea. The kitchen area has more space where we can hang out and eat lunch. We play some games and I fiddle around on the guitar before running around to take some photos. I’m still soaking wet but I don’t mind, the little things just don’t seem to bother me anymore. There’s so many stories to be told at this magic place.
I feel like I could spend years photographing everything here. In the afternoon I take some time to finally catch my breath, rest, and reflect some more. Tonight is the best night. We spend the time making tons of pizzas, jamming to some sweet tunes, drinking some sweet drinks, joking, and laughing. After dinner, the dancing, singing, and stomping festivities keeps going. I’m never gonna forget these guys, this is one of the best nights I can ever recall. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever danced so hard, laughed so loud, and howled so long. Around 3 am we stumble on up to bed fall asleep even before hitting the sheets.
Woke up a little later today after a good quality sleep in the tree house. I head down for breakfast in that stellar kitchen space. Now we get everything loaded up for the long drive back to the city of Coyhaique. We find out that there’s a mining group on strike blocking the only road back. This means that the van that was supposed to pick us up is stuck. We go a lot of brainstorming and waiting around to see if it can somehow make its way to us.
In the meantime we eat lunch and determine a plan of taking three seperate cars/trailers to load our stuff. After that’s settled we jump in the cars and drive for a while before reaching the protest. For a backstory, an Australian mining company was mining in this area of Chile, employing virtually a whole town, without proper environmental permits. The Chilean government intervened and removed the company for this. The miners took all of their equipment and blocked the road in means of protesting the government in hopes of being allowed to mine again. Anyways, our group stops and plans to wait out the protest so we can continue on to Coyhaique. The protest intensifies with people burning tires, throwing rocks at police vehicles, and the police throwing tear gas back.
We decide that the protest shows no signs of slowing down and decide to head back to take an alternative, extremely mountainous route. This drive ends up being the most gorgeous drive of my entire life. We scale some mountains and end up in the more arid region of Chile near Argentina. Alas, we finally make it to the city around 9 and check into our hostile.
Now that we’re settled we head on over to Trace/Cristians house nearby. This place is gorgeous. There’s so many books and art and knick knacks. We drink a bit of wine and talk politics as people ship out to dinner one cab at a time. Once we’re all at the restaurant we get our food and drinks and share one last meal. Everyone has beautiful words to share about this special experience. I really don’t know what to say here. I just hope I can bring part of this back with me. After dinner ends we head back to the hostile and then go out to a club with Pancho and Cristobol. I love these folks, we dance the night away once again. Hit the hay around 4 am tonight.
Leaving Chile today. Much love for all these folks. I wake up to eat breakfast with Pancho and Cristian in the hostile before taking a stroll into Coyhaique to explore the city a little more. I pick up some mate and a cup to bring back. It’s a beautiful summer day in the city. We stop by some more shops and outdoor markets, there’s a lot of happy people outside. There’s lots and lots of jokes to be had with Pancho and Cristian. As the trip is winding down and we’re standing outside talking, I see someone walking towards us who looks like a clean shaven Franco. I think it’s just my mind playing tricks on me at first, but as he gets closer I realize that it really is him. I give him a wholesome hug and share a few words. It’s so good to see him. He just happened to be in the city looking for a house.
Next, we head back to the hostile to finish packing and hit the road for the airport. A van eventually comes to take us away. It’s tough to leave these people that we’ve shared so much with and traveled with for so long. Lots of embracing and kind words, saying goodbye is a very genuine moment. It’s tough to put into words, I don’t think I really can. This is a real special place, but what makes a place truly special is the people.
At the airport we wait in line for a bit before flying to Santiago again from Balmaceda. I start working on photos on this first flight. I can tell that the documentation of this trip is going to be something else. Once we get to santiago, we have a fair amount of time to get our bearings straight and to get some food. Boarding the plane to Miami I feel a great mixture of bummed and grateful. This is a long flight and I start to edit photos but I immediately konk out, laptop in still open in my lap.
Waking up on the plane to Miami and it’s already almost landing time. I get some food in me and prepare to head through customs/immigration as we land. The whole process is luckily very easy. At the Miami airport I pick up some coffee and power through some photo editing on the flight home to Chicago. When we land in Chicago we wander around for a while with our gear looking for the correct terminal for our shuttle. Eventually we find it and we’re officially off. More goodbyes are not any easier. You form a real bond with these people when you do this sort of thing.
You can learn a whole lot from an experience like this. It feels like more than you’ve ever learned.
Things I’ll miss about Patagonia:
- People, people, people
- Magnificent natural beauty
- Fresh food for picking
- Fresh water for drinking
- Fresh air for breathing
- Torched muscles from proper hiking and proper kayaking
- Everything else
I’ll get back to this place.
Bonus (Film Photos)
Patagonia is the most beautiful place on the planet. I’m not using the word beautiful lightly here. When I say that Patagonia is the most beautiful place on the planet I’m sure everybody thinks of physical beauty, mountains, glaciers, lakes, fjords, etc., – goes without saying- but what I’m really talking about is something else. It’s a visceral mental space as well. Clairvoyance. It’s the reason Cristian is always singing and dancing, why the other Cristian is always so excited to talk to kids and drive them around, it’s why Pancho says those who rush in Patagonia lose more time. Sure the air is cleaner, water is purer, fruits are fresher, and stars are brighter – but it’s the reason why ‘de nalgas’ is so funny, it’s the reason why Franco & I broke the language barrier to discuss that gorgeous release of control when you’re climbing or backpacking and how art breaks down the barriers that world puts in front of us, it’s the reason we were howling at the moon at 3:30am in a rainforest treehouse, it’s the reason why the Mate warms more than our wet bodies when we pass around the cup. It’s the reason why Patagonia is a healing place.