Further up and Further in!
By Bolton Howes (Macalester College)
Since the last blog post, we have been pretty darn busy.
We have hiked out of Jeinimeni Reserve, where mountain lakes and glacial valleys surrounded us. It felt like leaving behind a 360 degree postcard. The weather was nearly perfect allowing us to get nice tans and sleep under the stars. In total, we managed to trek about 45 miles and eat tasty food each night, with only a few blisters that needed attention.
We then spent five days in Cochrane, which included enjoying the quiet library and the company of the colorful owners of the local coffee shop, Don Gabriel and Isabel. But the time spent in the library and drinking coffee was only a brief respite from intense planning for our trip to Tortel and La Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins. Planning a 20+ day trip for ten people is a monumental undertaking. If you are looking to replicate our efforts, here is the recipe:
2 hours of pre-planning brainstorming
1 hour of planning and list-making
4 hours of shopping
2 hours of post-shopping naps
1 hour of organizing
1 hour of packing
*For best results repeat at least two times and drink a lot of mate
With the planning and packing completed, we set off for our grand southern adventure. In the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia (spoiler alert for my fellow students in the midst of the series), the children are taken into Aslan’s country and the further into the country they go, the more magnificent the scene becomes leading to the mantra “Further up and further in!” The excitement felt by the children in Aslan’s country was replicated by us Round Riverers as we drove south. Around each corner was an even prettier waterfall or a more dramatic mountain or a more magnificent glacier. We did not adopt a mantra as we drove to Tortel, but the ride was full of exclamations of “Look at that!” and “This is so beautiful!” Our exclamations might not have been as poetic as that of the Narnians, but they got the point across.
Upon arrival in Tortel, we were greeted by perhaps the most beautiful view yet. Tortel is a little town of about 500 people that is nestled onto a mountainside that dips into the Pacific Ocean. Boardwalks connect the entire town because there are no roads in Tortel. I will just attach a picture because attempting to describe it any further would be an exercise in futility.
We were initially planning on spending 1-3 days in Tortel before heading to La Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins; however, the weather has had other plans for us. Due to poor weather conditions, it has been seven days and we are still in Tortel. But our extra time here has been a blessing in disguise because it has provided us with an opportunity to practice our Spanish with fellow travelers (so far we have camped with another American, a group of Israelis, and a lot of Chileans) and exchange observations of our cultural idiosyncrasies; we have learned how to fish with nothing but a tin can, a fishing line, a hook, and some bent nails and we have spread the wonders of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which is miraculously unheard of in Chile.
Eventually we will make it to Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins, and it will be amazing. With the last paved road about eight hours away, in Villa Cerro Castillo, and an eight hour boat ride to our final destination, I think all of us will be in the most remote location we have ever experienced. But until we make it there, we will just be forced to enjoy the beautiful little town of Tortel.