December 27th, 2019 – January 3rd, 2020
At the end of 2019, I had the opportunity to go to the Chilean Patagonia with a group from my school. Hands down, this has been one of the most incredible places and experiences of my life. I could go on and on about how breath-taking Patagonia is, but I also wanted to document my experience in relation to the people who made a massive impact on me in a relatively short period of time.
This group shot the shit with me literally every night after exhausting day long hikes and dramatic group debriefs. After arriving in the airport at Santiago together, we instantly bonded and kicked off the day with some “fish on a dish” and downed several pisco sours. We quickly found that Chilean cuisine consists mainly of empanadas, as well as potatoes and meat in variations (e.g. in chorrillana). Within the first few hours, Elizabeth had also already kissed an alpaca and made a gin and tonic for Ryan at the restaurant we ate at.
After spending a night in Santiago, where we briefly explored the Bellavista neighborhood, we flew as a group to Balmaceda and then drove to Coyhaique, where our trip properly began. Though most of us were different hiking groups, we started at the same point on the same day, at the entrance to Cerro Castillo National Reserve on a beautifully sunny day.
Carrying our gear for the week in our packs, we hiked up to our campsite, Neozelandes and set up camp for the rest of the week. Instead of carrying our food and tents with us every day, our group had a base camp that allowed us to go on different day hikes each day but return to eat dinner and sleep each night. One of our favorite hikes was earlier on in our trip – a fairly easy, but highly rewarding hike to the beautiful Laguna Cerro Castillo (aka what you see on the postcards and the first Google images result for “Cerro Castillo”). Seriously beautiful though, with peaks rising up behind an impossibly blue lagoon. Large pieces of ice float in the laguna and we stopped for lunch by the water, sheltered by the rocks around us.
Through pockets of (extreme) frustration, this group of people was, and are, here for me. We spent New Year’s Eve together counting down under a sky full of countless stars. On the last day, we hiked back to Villa Cerro Castillo, where we witnessed incredible Patagonian horsemanship and swam in an icy river in our underwear. Dunking your head in a cold, strong river, especially after not showering for an entire week, is maybe one of the best feeling sever. The shock of the water, under the warmth of the sun, with lavender fields surrounding us – this is something I will never forget.
We returned to Coyhaique and then Santiago for one more night. Back in civilization, we downed a few more pisco sours. Elizabeth and I even tried a pisco flight, which maybe was not our best move. Again, thank you. Thank you for being there for me and for becoming some of my best friends who are crazy enough to do most anything. Odds are we go on another incredible camping trip?