Hello hello! Happy 2016!
I’m Claudia, a half-spanish half-scottish Glasgow University student who’s spending a year in Santiago de Chile. My exchange adventure started a long time ago now but I’ll reflect back on the starting steps as well as post about these 6 months I have left. In this post I’ll tell you about the beginning of my Chilean summer break in which I travelled to the south of Chile with my mum and then with my dad.
Half of the academic year has gone by. We had our evaluations at the beginning of December. It was a stressful finish of the year for me with a lot more workload compared to Glasgow Uni but then holidays started… and instead of the usual 1 month Winter break I had a 3 month Summer Break! On top of that I was in Chile! Even though it was such a long break I decided not to go back for Christmas and my parents came to visit me instead.
My mum hadn’t traveled such a long distance in quite some time but no distance would prevent her from seeing her daughter for a whole year. Seeing as she was already travelling so far we decided to go to the end of the world… Patagonia! We booked hostels beforehand seeing as my mum prefers to have some things planned but left the rest open. It’s very easy to travel round the Chilean Patagonia in this way if it’s not January or February (which is high season son things might get fully booked) as it’s a well prepared area for tourism.
As soon as we got to Punta Arenas it became clear we were at the end of the world with wind as fast as 100 km/hour. From Punta Arenas we went to Isla Magdalena and met those funny guys in the photos below. Isla Magdalena is located in the Estrecho de Magallanes, the original crossing between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. From there we went to Puerto Natales and then Torres del Paine. Puerto Natales is a beautiful town with increadibly welcoming and jolly people. Torres del Paine was selected as the eighth Wonder of the World in 2013 and as the fifth most beautiful place on Earth by National Geographic. It is a truly stunning place and though my mother and I couldn’t do one of the circuit hikes as it would have been a bit too much for her, I would recommend it to anyone going to Chile. We did go on a 6 hour long hike in Valle del Francés, saw and heard an avalanche and did a car tour to all the main sights of the park (though you can’t get very close by car and can by no means be compared to the hiking).
In this trip my mum flew further than she thought she would, walked further than she thought she could and we shared some beautiful views and moments. I’d seldom encountered nature at such a big scale. I found it surprising how much the climate and the geography shaped not only lifestyles but also people’s perspectives. Everyone I spoke to seemed much more aware of how short human life is and how the mountains and eco-systems are what perdures.
With my dad things weren’t quite as organized… He’d missed his flight to come visit me at the beginning of december because he’d taken his girlfriend’s passport to the airport instead of his own. Yep, a bit disappointing at the time but it turned out that way we got to spend Christmas together. When he did manage to get to Santiago we started our trip towards the Island of Chiloé. Chiloé is the place all chileans advised me to go to; a little rural island full of fishing, beautiful forests and beaches and mythology. We took an overnight bus to Valdivia however, after two days in Valdivia, when we wanted to continue our trip south it turned out there were no bus tickets left towards the south until the 26th of december! And so we hitchhiked. We were told it would be hard to get a ride all the way to Puerto Montt. We got to the side of the road, I told my dad we might have to wait for some time and he was about to sit down when the very first car that was about to pass us stopped. A good Argentinan man took us all the way to Ozorno and that was the beginning of our hitchhiking adventures. The following two weeks we spent hitchhiking round the Island of Chiloé, staying in the smallest villages we could possibly find and taking long walks through forests and beaches.
Christmas was a strange thing this year. I usually spend it in Thurso, in the north of Scotland, with my dad’s family. It’s a time of cold and wind outside the house (maybe even snow), non-stop eating and tea drinking and family. This year my dad and I were taking a random bus to the very end of an island where we didn’t even know whether there was accomodation or not. It turned out one lady rented rooms for workers at the salmon farms and had a spare room and so we stayed there for a couple days. Our most Christmasy thing was opening a Christmas card and buying ourselves a bar of chocolate. Other than that we went swimming in the Pacific Ocean and sunbathed.
After Christmas we went to Linao, in the north east of the island, where we stayed at a very nice couple’s home. We went fishing with the father and the son and roasted a whole lamb on the fist of january. There we met a very nice chilean woman who was travelling on her own. We shared some days together and said goodbye. However, the next hostel we ended up in, after a couple hours hitchhiking, someone knowcked on the door of the hostel, my dad opened and it was the same yound lady. And so we continued the trip with her for another week.
Chiloé has another rhythm. I became used to the sound of birds and waves rather than cars and people. The sun guides you rather than a watch and people have time for themselves and each other. It was a beautiful experience sharing this with my dad and we both finished the trip full of energy and at a healthier, more natural rhythm.
To be honest as soon as I was accepted to Santiago I was already dreaming about the three month long break I’d have and wanted to fly to Colombia and slowly make my way down back to Santiago. Once my parents were visiting me I wasn’t going to have time for that which was a bit sad but totally worth it in order to share such beautiful experiences with both my parents. I am also absolutely enjoying the trip I’m doing instead. A friend and I have come to the north of Chile and in a couple days will cross over to Bolivia before continuing to Peru. I’ll let you know more about this little trip in my next post.