I think we all over use the word amazing a lot. I personally use it at least once a day, and have decided to re-evaluate its definition and think twice before I use it in conversation again. Now, we can find amazing defined in a dictionary as “causing great surprise or sudden wonder or to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly”. Now according to this definition, amazing is the only word I can think of to accurately describe my experience. This past week was awe-inspiring, astonishing, and just plain breath taking. My pictures and stories will never be able to describe Torres del Paine in all of its majestic glory, but I will try my best.
We started off in the airport at around 11:00 Saturday night. All of the exchange students stood around a closed Dunkin’ Donuts (yes, that exists here) waiting for our flight to Punta Arenas. Once on the plane, I sat next to my friend Sydney. We ate fruit loops and read magazines in Spanish, because we were unable to sleep for even a minute. When we got off the plane, I realized that I had lost my phone, which didn’t start off the week as I had hoped. Our next adventure was taking a bus 3 hours north to our base camp. But our councilors were smart, and knew that they couldn’t keep excited teenagers locked in a bus for 3 hours without some consequences, so we stopped a lot for pictures, making our time in the bus even longer. The views from the bus were beyond beautiful. At one of our rest stops, I came up with the idea for jump-shots. With the mountains in the background, they were quite impressive. After reaching the base of the mountain we had to change buses because ours was too large to cross the bridge that let to the actual base camp. Somehow during the process, my jeans split. This was a wake up call, and after this ordeal I was more than ready for a week of exercise every day. When we finally got to the base camp, we found out that we were actually staying in hostel-like places every night, and our counciler informed us that we would be sleeping in beds every night, and hot showers would be in every hostel. This was an un-expected surprise which made me regret packing half of my stuff. We didn’t have to cook anything, and the water in the rivers was completely safe for drinking. The 3 liters they made us pack turned out to be COMPLETELY useless.
We went for a day hike today, so we didn’t have to carry our large packs. We hiked to the base of the torres in Torres del Paine it was a 9 km journey there (mainly steep uphill) and 9 km back to camp. I’m pretty proud I made it. It was most defiantly the hardest day, and everyone made it to the top. The views were incredible the entire way up. They reminded me of the Rocky Mountains, except for the fact that we have pine trees and they don’t. The torres were incredible, to the point where I can’t even begin to explain. Thank god (and my parents) for my fancy-schmancy camera to capture the amazing-ness. The water however, took on a color that I have only ever seen in the Caribbean. This made me and a couple other people nervous about filling up our water bottles in the rivers. We decided to wait a day and monitor the others for symptoms. That night, I taught everyone about night writing. Night writing consists of using a SLR (single lens reflex) camera at night and leaving the shutter open for extended periods of time. While the shutter is open, you can literally write with light. We made some pretty cool designs and had an overall good time. The only problem was that we were on the bottom of the world, so much like Alaska during the summer the days were very long, and we had to stay up pretty late in order to have complete darkness. We might have regretted it the next day, but the pictures were totally worth the exhausted walking.
Today was the first day we actually walked with our backpacks. Some were not prepared at all physically for the trip, which made me fell much better. I had one of the heaviest packs (thanks to water and food) yet stayed in the front for the entire 12 kilometers. We even started to run when we got the the steepest and most dangerous part of the trail, just to say that we did. The views remained gorgeous, the entire time, yet when we arrived to the next camp we were a bit disappointed. If you can remember, only a couple days ago we were told that beds would be provided every night, and now we were being told that we would be sleeping in tents for the next two nights. It wouldn’t have bothered me if my expectations weren’t set so high after the first night, but there were hot showers, so I couldn’t really complain. In the end, we were assigned to 2 person tents, and four of us decided to team up to have one tent for stuff, and another tent for sleeping. We were all pretty small so we fit into the one tent rather comfortably and no one was ever cold. It was a pretty good system and we bonded a lot more, staying up half the night to talk.
We were supposed to go on a day hike today, but it rained a lot so our day consisted of watching the stupid people of our group go swim in the lake, then break the shower afterwards. I then took a nap and played cards the rest of the day. It was a good rest since my muscles were a bit tight from running the day before.
We changed camps again, and ended up in the nicest hostel of the entire trip. Everyone got a bed (except those who broke the shower the day before). We walked about 15 kilometers and I hardly noticed since we had been walking so much the past few days. As soon as we saw the campsite we started to run again, overly excited for sleeping in beds again. After arriving we played cards and relaxed in the common room.
We were supposed to have another day hike today, however it was rainy again and we were unable to leave the hostel. However we had a skit day, and worked on preparing our skits all day then presented them that night. Everyone was very creative and I enjoyed watching everyone else’s skits. Being cooped up all day isn’t so bad when you are surrounded by interesting people who can make you laugh. My group re-wrote a song from the lion king to tell the stories of all of our adventures so far on the trip. It was definaly and interesting song and I’m sure someone got it on video. they said it was a competition and that there would be prizes, however no winner was ever chosen. I guess they just didn’t want everyone else to feel inferior to my group for being so awesome.
Our walking consisted of 100 meters down to a ferry. We rode across the lake back to our bus. We then slept our way back to Punta Arenas. We actually slept in a Best Western, and being slowly introduced to luxury again we were given actual beds with sheets. We wandered the town for a couple hours then hung out in the hotel talking till 2 a.m. It was the last night of the trip, and everyone wanted to spend it together.
We had a bus tour of Punta Arenas in the morning, then free time in the afternoon to go shopping. The sad part is that it was a Sunday, so nothing was open The main part of the group went to a chocolate bar to chill, since it was the only thing open, but me and my good friend Sydney went to the top floor of the hotel to have a nice, long, sophisticated discussion that involved everything from our futures to life philosophy. It was a deep discussion, and a great end to our adventure. We all met up in the hotel at 8, then went to the airport. The plane ride home was a quiet one. We watched the Smurfs and reminisced about our adventure on the bottom of the world. We arrived in the airport at 3:50 in the morning. We all said our final goodbyes then went home to sleep off our adventures.
I had a great time on my trip. I met people from all over the world and I now have invitations to visit people all over the world in places like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany and many many more. I have friends from all over the world and sories to tell my children. Describing this trip in one word is impossible. But if I had to choose just one, it would be amazing.