Originally I was going to continue talking about my awesome Africa trip, but then I decided that there was too much to talk about on Kilimanjaro that required the context of my trip earlier this year to Patagonia… Please don’t mock me afterwards!
I would like to preface with the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person. Some of my business school friends may think otherwise, given the various places I have been in the past year. But believe me, I took our orientation’s “push your boundaries” very, very seriously. So this was my first backpacking trip, ever.
Anyways, after bouncing a number of ideas around with my bschool friends and gathering a very random group of 7 (I love you all anyway), we settled on Patagonia. Chilean Patagonia, specifically, because as of January 1, 2016, I no longer needed a visa to travel to Chile. Hurray for being the trip planner!
FYI: This is a blog post on my reflections on the trip, for a detailed itinerary and packing list, please click here.
Patagonia (March 2016)
The trip: 5 days of backpacking, 3 days of chilling (Santiago, Valparaiso, and wine!), 48+ hours spent in travel time, 4 major bloopers.
The states of being: Elation, satisfaction, frustration, depression, desperation, inebriation, terror, exhaustion, hallucination
Patagonia’s one of those places that recently started popping up everywhere on my social media feed. Everywhere. The color changing Torres del Paine, the amazingly blue Glacier Grey, the snow capped peaks… I knew I wanted to go, but I had no idea how or what I was getting myself into.
Patagonia is not an easy destination to get to. At the southern most tip of South America, it is a very long journey down, even from North America. American Airlines has a huge hub in Miami for those South America destinations. We left Chicago Friday at noon (flight) – Miami by afternoon (flight) – Santiago by early Saturday morning (flight) – Punta Arenas by mid afternoon (flight) – Puerto Natales by Saturday night (bus!). We stayed overnight in PN, and took a 3 hour bus ride from PN into Torres del Paine National Park on Sunday morning. Whew!
Sleep deprived and faced with a dreary blue sky, March weather in Patagonia hit us right in the face. Right next to a pole, Patagonia weather is remarkably fickle even during their fall season. Even with a 15kg+ backpack, the wind blew us off our feet. My awesome friend J decided to take it upon himself to find us the “perfect” lunch spot. We could barely hold our food to our faces because everything was being blown away!
That same first night, awesome J (we really do love him), found us the flattest campsite possible, unfortunately for our terribly inexperienced selves, it was also the most exposed campsite. When the rain starting coming down around 8pm post dinner, we scrambled for our tents. Then we laid there for 3-4 hours, listening to the rain and wind wreck havoc on our tents. At one point, I turned to C (best tent mate!) and asked if we were going to survive the night. We woke up the next morning to a grey-ish sky, the mountains above us now covered in snow, and an amazing sense of relief that we had survived.
Every day in Patagonia was drastically different. The scenery was different, the weather was different, and the campsite was different. The first and second days were characterized by pounding winds and a really beautiful glacier. I had never seen a glacier in person before, and it was breathtaking. The blue, the sheer size, and it looked like a huge wave frozen in time.
The second day was also characterized by partial insanity and almost a total breakdown. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard walking around in public. Or been that ecstatic seeing a can of coke in my entire life (thank you T!). At one point, I did not think I was going to make it to the campsite before sundown. I was still swaying from side to side as C grabbed my bag from me when I arrived at the campsite, body attuned to the motion of walking with a huge backpack.
On day 3, we had hot showers. At first, we were all like “why in the world would we shower? We had planned to not shower for 5 days”. It was an epic, epic shower. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated hot water and clean clothes that much in my entire life.
On day 5, we woke up before the sunrise to make the steep climb up to Torres del Paine. We sat up there in the billowing wind, watching as the mountains slowly changed from one color to another. It was so worth it. As was the hot water bottle filled with hot chocolate I lugged up there <3. So. worth. it.
Overall, I would definitely do it all over again. Despite the pain and the tears, it was a wonderful experience, pushed my boundaries and with very incredible scenery. It would not have been possible without the unbelievable people who made the trip with me. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, or even people who don’t!
Blooper reel / lessons learned:
Blooper 1: Getting sick the week before. Couldn’t crawl out of my bed for 4 days with a fever kind of sick. I almost stayed home. Let’s just say, carrying 30+ pounds for 5 days while recovering from that kind of flu is terrible.
Blooper 2: I don’t own a regular toothbrush. I know, it’s a little bit ridiculous that I somehow only have an electronic toothbrush, and it never occurred to me I should acquire a regular one? My friend T still likes to remind me of how ridiculous I can be. I definitely got a lot of weird stares from people while whirring my toothbrush…
Blooper 3: Not buying a proper framed, backpacking bag that was fitted to my height and body shape. REI isn’t kidding when they highly recommend backpackers go in to get fitted. I thought I could just borrow a friend’s backpack and go merrily on my way. Nope! Go get fitted!
Blooper 4: Apparently one does not crack a rib easily. If your chest hurts when breathing instead of being an insane debilitating pain, it’s likely that you bruised a rib. I mean, first of all, how do you bruise a bone? Is that a thing? How does everyone else know this?