Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Patagonia Rotary Trip!

Sunday December 5th
Woke up after only one and a half hours and sleep and headed to the airport to join the rest of the exchange students going on the South trip! We had a pretty early flight but we arrived in Punta Arenas in the morning and then had the opportunity to tour around the city. The city was really quite small with not a lot to do. But we visited the plaza in which the statue with the "magical toe" is. The belief is that if you kiss the toe you will one day return to Punta Arenas. The toe has been discoloured from so many people kissing it! We then had some time to buy things - me and Emily bought penguin hats... yeah some people thought they were funny, but we were serious about these hats... I mean we were going to see penguins! After lunch we had some more free time then after headed out to the Seno Otway Penguin Sanctuary. I have to admit it: I love penguins! As soon as I saw my first penguin waddle by I fell in love with these little creatures! For me it was one of many highlights of the trip, how often to you get to see penguins in their natural habitat?! Being out in the open it was amazing to see how different the geography was from anywhere else I had ever been. Also everything seemed so bright, and with the sun everything seemed so clear - beautiful! On our way back we stopped at this big cemetery in Punta Arenas. There were so many grave spots, or little houses with a few tombs, and then these really weirdly shaped trees!

Monday December 6th
We took a drive out into the countryside and first stopped at a monument of Chile with a star of where we were. It was crazy to see how far south we really were! After we headed to an old fort called Fort Bulnes. After lots of picture taking we hopped on our bus and traveled to Puerto Natales.

Tuesday December 7th
Torres del Paine day! We left early from our hotel and headed towards the Torres del Paine National Park. We had a few stops along the way to see different views along with some wild alpacas! We also went to the cueva de milodon which was a huge cave including a life sized statue of one of the giant creatures. After a little while more we finally entered the park. We got off and walked a little bit to a look out point. It was so beautiful, and also so relaxing to see the amazing mountains and blue/white glacier lakes. It was also VERY windy up in the open, you could even lean into the wind and almost get taken away, or get blown over like one of the Rotarians. We then arrived at our hotel - a beautiful 4 star hotel with the most amazing view ever! When we looked out our window we had the most "picture-perfect" view of the mountains in the park. After settling in a bit a group of us went for a polar-dip in the freezing river! I had to do it, and I also had to go full out, head underwater and all! It was quite refreshing after the fact when your legs would stop stinging!

Wednesday December 8th
We went for a little hike up a hill in the morning. Getting yet another amazing view of the mountains and lakes it was amazing to be higher up and take it all in. After lunch we went on a 3-hour boat tour on Lago Grey. We were able to see a glacier along with some icebergs. That was pretty amazing to see a glacier - yet again another first in my life! But there are so many glaciers here, up high in the mountains, beside the lakes, just everywhere you can see these thousands of year old ice fields!

Thursday December 9th
Horseback riding in the morning! I was in the first group to go, and although it rained on us it was so good to ride a horse again. Although it was different not having to wear a helmet for safety, or not testing us to see if we were able to ride a horse, never mind jog or canter on one. That was truly another experience horseback riding in the amazing open landscape of Patagonia with amazing views, and then cantering on a horse feeling so free! After waiting for the other two groups to finish we waited by the fire, napped, played cards, just exchange student things. After lunch we had to head back to Puerto Natales for our final night of the trip!

Friday December 10th
Packed up and then went for an 8-hour boat ride, and we thought 3 hours was long before... We found different activities to keep ourselves occupied, like "fast photos" and handstands. I now have over 1,000 photos due to our fascination with my cameras fast shutter and our creativity! But during the boat ride we saw birds, sea lions, etc. We then took a small boat ride out into a glacier lake to get closer to another glacier. But first thing we did was hit an iceberg... no Titanic action but it was still pretty funny to say that we hit an iceberg! We then went for an asado for lunch including chicken, churipan, lamb, and horse meat!

Overall the trip was so amazing/la raja! The best parts were being able to spend so much time with all of the exchange students, building new friendships and strengthening others. All of the inside jokes, handstands, and memorable quotes will live on through my exchange here, I'm so happy that I went on the trip! Although it was also quite sad because this is the only and final trip with the oldies (New Zealanders and Aussie) because they'll be leaving in January. Even after only getting 2-4 hours of sleep every night on the trip, losing a lot of spanish, I couldn't be happier with the trip! It's still hard to believe that I have traveled to such an amazing place here in Chile. Patagonia has been the most beautiful place I have seen so far in my life, the landscape is so different, the mountains and glacier lakes are breath-taking and being able to experience the sunlight until around 10:30 - 11 pm was truly special!

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