throwback travel: chile, 2008

in 2008, i had been enamored by latin america for 3 years.  we had been to costa rica twice.  we wanted to go deeper and further so we went chile.  chile is in south america; it's the long skinny country on the pacific coast.  in the north is the atacama desert, supposedly one of the best places in the world to view the night sky with no light pollution.  in the middle is santiago and valparaiso.  i thought of santiago as the mama: the nuevo york of chile, and valpo as the baby: artsy, carefree, bustling with my kind of people and balanced up on the cliffs right on the rocky pacific.  i was sure i would instantly love both cities.  i did.  then, in the south, there is patagonia. pure blue waters.  the snowy, towering andes.  glorious glaciers. penguins. beauty.  you know, patagonia.  i bought a beautiful scarf specifically for patagonia. 

i'm laying out the land like this tell you how we traveled in 2008: we bought a guidebook, took 2 weeks off work, and i bought that scarf and overpacked for multiple climates, determined that we would make the entire span from northern desert to the very very southernmost tip of the americas.  in two weeks.  


i think by the second leg of our flight i had conceded i would not see the north.  by the time we landed in 85 degree santiago, i literally was shedding clothing and leaving it in a trail at the airport.  (my scarf may have actually made it to patagonia on someone else.)

we spanned this beautiful country only from santiago/valpo south to the islands of chiloe, tragically close to- yet still so far from- patagonia. i think about it often, and it's travel journal holds some my favorite memories.

when we realized there was not enough time on our stay or money in our pockets to reach patagonia, we found villarrica volcano, this beautiful, perfectly coned peak in the lakes region.  though active, you could hike under guided tour to the crater.  we used most of our funds to sign up for this day hike.  it wasn't terribly technical, but it was long and steep and our group got a late start for i don't remember what reason, so we were told we had to haul ass or we would not make it as if the wind changed direction across the crater as it does in the afternoons, we would have to retreat back down to stay below the sulfuric gas.

i made it somewhere between halfway and three-quarters of the way, then on one of our quick rest breaks, the guide started talking about how the last leg is actually a little technical and tricky, that falling rock was the reason we were wearing these crazy space helmets the whole time, and that the pace had to pick up yet again if there was any hope of making it up.

i called it quits.  sean said no way, at least one of us was making it to the top, so i could go back down with the group quitting, he was going to go on and i could see the crater through his photos.  i didn't have much in the way of drive or willpower back then (hey- wink wink, yoga will help you with that...this was two years before i had ever been in a studio!) so i had no problem not going with him.  

until he continued on, and i was left alone with a group of strangers. the only girl in a group of twenty-something israeli boys who wanted mostly to just talk about how the girls from columbia had better boobs than any of the chilean girls they had seen so far.  i was so completely miserable, i hated strangers, i didn't want to hear boob talk.

i sat mute through the rest of the break, then we started back down.  as much as i love hiking, my knees hate a descent, so i was much slower than the rest of the group.  one guy, i refer to him fondly as pothead jonathan in my mind and journals, lagged back to keep me company so i wouldn't have to walk down alone.  he fought through my resistance as i argued that i was fine, that i actually wanted solo time.  i don't even remember what we talked about, but we took our time and he basically forced me into having the kind of solo 'well, here i go, hope i find someone cool to talk to' adventure trip everyone should have in their lives, even if mine was only for an afternoon.  because of pothead jonathan, i have zero regrets that i didn't finish the hike that day.  sean and the hikers who made the last leg obviously had a more physically challenging day, but for me personally that day, i needed to trust a stranger and make a connection more than i needed to peer into the crater of a volcano.

i'm sharing this story today for a few reasons: first, because i get SO MUCH out of travel.  when i need inspiration, i know i can find it if i leave town.  i built version 1.0 of the b&b website in costa rica last august (and, also on that trip, peered into the crater of a volcano with a stranger!), and since the start of b&b, i've known i wanted to flashback blog to this story, as i think of it often when i make or witness connections being made through the community that b&b has created.  

second, villarrica had a large eruption today.  for a split second or, like, twenty, i did have a regret that i did not get to see it with my own eyes before it's landscape likely changed drastically after this morning.  but i still spent time on it.  i still had my own experience on it.  i still feel connected to it today.  and i still feel lucky that i got to hike up it's rocky trails, slide down it's snowy chutes, and that my 'going off on my own' moment way back then was likely just a tiny little building block to something i didn't even know i would work to build seven years later.

so.  go talk to a stranger next chance you get.  fight the resistance to fight change, or at the very least, put yourself in scenarios to find someone to fight it for you.  and, if you can at all swing it, put your feet on a volcano.  put your feet on as many damn volcanoes as you can.  



Melissa MajorComment