I’m back from my 10 day trip to Patagonia! It was the most adventurous voyage I’ve ever experienced and I loved every minute – From breath taking views to peeing out in the wilderness countless numbers of times, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Here is the breakdown of my 10 days in Patagonia and a rough outline of what I can recall:
For the trip there was two groups: My group of 18 from UC Davis and another 18 students from Hobart & William Smith College in Upstate NY. Each groups US professor came along too in addition to three awesome guías (guides) for the hikes: Juan Pedro, Guille and his daughter Camila. Also, CELE staff Laura and Amparo came along.
Viernes Nov. 7
Buses loaded at 6pm and we were on the road by 7pm. I sat next to Lisa on the bus and Veronica and Sarah sat to the side of us. We were well equipped with snacks for the rode and fully charged iPods. It was a long trip! 17 hours of just driving but 20 hours total including bathroom and meal time stops. I’ve never traveled for so long on a bus in my life! Fun fact: When you cross over a border from one province to another like we had to, the bus is searched for fruit. I did not get to witness on the way there, but did on the way back and it looks like a drug hunt honestly. Someone gets on with a flashlight and looks through some backpacks here and there and then they stealthily exit. Weird right?
Sabado Nov. 8
We finally arrived during mid-afternoon! Phew! We were first introduced to the staff of people who would be cooking and taking care of us during our stay at INACAYAL (residence that belongs to the University of Buenos Aires) in Villa la Angostura. We were given a very complete tour of the residence including the trout breeding pool and a beautiful lake located on the property. We were then allowed to grab our luggage, and choose our rooms and bunk mates. I roomed with Veronica, Sarah, Hayley and Lisa. There was two bunk beds in each room and they were THREE bunks high! Lisa and I slept on the top top bunks and it was nice and toasty up there. The bathrooms were communal and we shared them with the NY girls. Meals were made for us every day and if we were gone on an all day hike, we were sent off with our bagged lunch. It made me feel like a school kid again. (Cute stuff right?) The food at INACAYAL was delicious! I ate great at every meal which is much needed considering the strenuous activities we did every day. Saturday night we did a walking tour of the town and had some time to explore “centro” on our own.
Domingo Nov. 9
We got to ride a boat called the Catamaran that took us to another side of the shoreline. Once we got off we went to el Bosque de los Arrayanes. Arrayanes is the name of the reddish trees in my pictures you will see below. We then walked back towards camp which was roughly a four hour hike. There was two great vista points along the way. After the hike, we treated ourselves to ice cream downtown. Super yummy and interesting flavors!
Lunes Nov. 10
Another hike that led us deep into a woody area where we did bonding activities. The first activity we gave each other massages and then we had to gift our partner a tree, blind folded, by leading them to it and then having them use their senses to remember it. They then had to go find it on their own once we took them back to the starting place. Hayley did a great job at finding my tree, but I needed a little help to find hers since she gave me a caña instead haha!
We then continued our hike back to the residence for lunch. Most of us took naps and then we left again at 4pm for the second hike of the day to Brazo Última Esperanza. The hike ended at a beach where we were able to relax, eat snacks, and hangout. Some chose to stay here and others including myself did an optional extra 45 minutes hike to El Coihue Abuelo which is the biggest tree in the park that split into four parts (due to natural decay although it was initially thought that it was struck by lightning). It was the biggest tree I’ve ever seen no doubt.
Martes Nov. 11
The craziest hike I’ve ever done in my life. Seven hours each way. We hiked through every season literally. First it felt like spring/ summer with all the green and sunshine. We then crossed a river (which was the bottom of the Cascada Inacayal) which involved walking along fallen trees holding onto a rope for dear life. After an intense incline it was all open woods with orange leaves on the ground which gave a fall kind of feel. Then when we reached Cajon Negro it was a white winter – Snow everywhere! The most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced. Most continued to hike on to the “cumbre” of Cerro Belvedere which was another two hours to the top. Six of us decided to turn back at this point because the cold was just too much. Regardless, I felt super accomplished that I made it that far. My state of mind was indescribable for so many things went through my mind as I kept pushing myself and at the same time it was like nothing was going through my mind the entire hike – I just kept going. This hike changed something in me although I can’t pinpoint it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Miercoles Nov. 12
Easy going day. We did a day trip to Bariloche which is a one and a half hour drive from where we were staying. First day and only day we got to wear normal clothes versus sportswear so it was fun to wear makeup and get ready with the girls. Bariloche had a great downtown area and they are known for their chocolate so I couldn’t be more content. We went on a mini guided bus tour. At one of the stops we got to take a “telesilla” (ski lift) up to one of the top ten best vista points in the world according to National Geographic (I think #7). Below is the panoramic view. I enjoyed the best “choripan” on the ride up on the telesilla – Best street food yet! At the cafeteria once at the top of the vista point, Lisa and I enjoyed “chococognac” – Hot chocolate with cognac! These Argentines get me.
After this stop we were taken to the centro of Bariloche where we were able to pig out on chocolate, do some shopping, and play with “perros callejeros” like the weird tourists that we are. We then loaded back into the bus and were taken to a brewery where we had a delicious tapas dinner and celebrated Amparo’s birthday. Great way to end the day trip!
Jueves Nov. 13
This was my favorite day out of the whole trip. We spent the day with the local Mapuce Community (Paicil-Antriaw). We got to pick two out of three activities to do while there for the day: horseback riding, kayaking, and/or mountain biking. Due to my failed attempt to ride a horse without freaking out (which happened earlier in the trip) I chose the last two activities. First I did kayaking on the river. The kayaks are for two people, so Lisa and I buddied up. The lake we kayaked on was super calm, clear and cold! It was a very tranquil activity. We just followed the guide out as far as we had time for until heading back. Neither of us had ever kayaked before, but we got the hang of it and it was fun to race our friends when our arms didn’t feel like they were going to fall off.
Then some members of the Mapuce community made lunch for us. First they dug a hole in the ground and had a fire going on in there. Then everyone helped place all the food inside this manmade hole. The Mapuces then covered it with blankets of leaves that give the food flavor and help it cook. On top of that a cloth sheet is placed and lastly the dirt that was dug up is packed back on top of it. We then let it sit for an hour while we snacked on homemade bread and jams made by one of the women. Jade and Mason played guitar to help pass the time and it was a great moment to take in.
Lunch was definitely a different experience as everything was served just as it was cooked – whole. I ate whole carrots, onions, potatoes and then luckily the pumpkin and meat they were sliced for us. Super tasty and I had fun eating with my hands =P After lunch it was time to mountain bike. I honestly found my calling this day because I was the fastest one on my bike and I never fell. It was the most extreme thing I’ve ever done too. We did a mad incline at the beginning and once we got into the woods that’s when all the fun began. You start biking down paths full of roots and holes that you have to dodge. Then bike over fallen trees and pick up your bike to walk through rivers which were sometimes almost waist deep! The mountain bike guide kept having to tell me to wait for the rest of the group but I could tell he was happy to see I was having a blast. “Te gusta la velocidad eh?” he asked a few times. It was the It was the most fun I’ve ever experienced! I seriously felt like I was experiencing a high the whole time! Definitely need to take up mountain biking when I get back to the states.
Viernes Nov. 14
Last hike of the trip. It was on the shorter side, but one of the most beautiful hikes. We hiked up to a lovely waterfall and ate lunch beside it on the rocks. There was an optional hike to another waterfall which I decided to go on. The rest of the crew stayed behind to sunbathe and got some gnarly sunburns! I don’t regret the extra hike (mwahaha). Dinner this night was trout from the breeding pool on the camp grounds! Yum! I regret not taking a before and after shot of my fishy. The kitchen staff made us a special “postre” for our last dinner together: A delicious cake with the names of the two universities. The head of the residence said a few words on behalf of INACAYAL and we expressed our thanks to them for an amazing stay. I could get used to that life.
Sabado Nov. 15
We were able to sleep in for the first time. Had to have our stuff packed before lunch and the rest of the day we were able to spend as we wished on the residence. I took some time to walk around the camp grounds and take it in for the last time. I then spent the last hour before lunch by the lake. Such a beautiful place and 10 days was nowhere near enough time. After lunch we did some closing activities including pictures of what we will most remember and more trust activities amongst our new friends.
Domingo Nov. 16
Sadly, our time in Patagonia was up. As I suspected, the bus trip back seemed much longer. A lot of us emotional girls were on the edge of shedding a tear to think we had to go back to Mendocino city life. But all good things have to come to an end! It was an amazing trip in which I learned about myself, pushed my limits, and made new friendships I hope will last a lifetime.