November 24, 2013
By Erin Knight (University of Vermont)
On Sunday, November 10th, the crew took off for our mid-program adventure down south. Our first stop was Caleta Tortel – the board walk city. This small city is right on the coast and all its “streets” are boardwalks along the perimeter. Despite the rain, this place was insanely cool. Along the main board walk we stumbled upon a playground, which gave us a surprising amount of entertainment. That night we walked as far down the boardwalks as we could to a beach, with yet another playground that, of course, also had to be used. On the beach the shelter we camped in had three walls, which is three more than we’re used to! We all huddled our sleeping bags around the fireplace, trying our best to stay dry as the rain came down. Mateo read us Aldo Leopold’s “Round River” essay as we drifted to sleep.
The next morning we caught a ferry to take us further south to Villa O’Higgins. Once we arrived we settled in at a super cute campground in town called El Mosco. This place had an indoor kitchen area AND hot showers! Imagine that! For many of us this would be our first hot shower in over a month. The 11th of November also marked our 50th night sleeping in our tents. The next day we rented bikes from the hotel across the street and cycled south to El Fin de la Carretera Austral – the end of the Southern Highway. This was the furthest south all of us had ever traveled. One member of our crew marked the occasion by taking a pretty hilarious wipe out on one of the bikes – no physical scars, only the everlasting embarrassment of having the event caught on film.
That night our group’s first full-on dinner catastrophe occurred. The dinner crew was so excited to make the most delicious lasagna, but right as it came out of the oven the sides of the glass pan shattered! Throughout our time here in Patagonia we have cooked over small fires and many a faulty camping stove, yet somehow we managed to forget how to use a real kitchen. I think we’re better off in the backcountry. As we picked out the shards of glass from amidst the cheesy noodles, we decided it was just too dangerous to eat the meal. Although we mourned the loss of the beautiful lasagna, we will never forget our dinner of cookie brownies that night. Adding to the mystique of the night, we were later able to use the campgrounds’ hot tub and sauna facilities. Absolutely unreal! But wait, it gets better.
On the 14th, our last day in O’Higgins, we rode on horseback through the town and up a trail on a mountain side leading to a glacier lookout. Everyone was paired extremely well with their horse personality-wise, which only added to the pure magic of that morning. The drive back was beautiful but also meant the end of our mini vacation. This mid-program trip turned out to be quite the adventure!