Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Coolest place ever. No challenge. Nothing comes close.
At the start of semester 2, we spent 10 days in Torres del Paine National Park. It’s located in the southern most part of Chile, which is absurdly far from Amman. We arrived after about of 48 hours of travel, and a total of 5 flights. And 3 continents.
When we got to Puerto Arenas, we met our guide for the trek. He goes by Mono, which is Spanish for monkey. He’s a tall, lanky dude, with a goofy grin and a ragged head of hair. He wears big, white, buggish sunglasses, and a bunch of torn up, multi-colored backpacking gear. Mono spends his summers leading trips in Patagonia, and the winters being a skiing instructor. We all love the guy, and miss his unwavering enthusiasm here in Santiago.
We went full mountaineer in Patagonia. There was kayaking, bush-wacking up a peak, mountain biking, penguins, glaciers, and a 5 day trek in the park. I ate strange berries that taste like cotton candy or a bug, depending on which ones you picked. I also saw a fox and a bunch of Europeans.
Cuatro Caballos, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Everything in that park looks like it is from a different world. Or from an exaggerated rendering of itself. Or Avatar the movie. There are obnoxiously green plants everywhere, and the mountains are crazy steep and jagged, with tall granite towers. All of the wildlife is completely different from the wildlife in the US, from Guanacos, (Patagonian Llamas), to huge condors that circle above the mountains. The ground goes from dark black slate near the bottom, to stark white granite as you climb, to muddy soil in the forest. The trees grow in strange shapes, and the most common type only grows leaves at the top, creating this geometrical canopy across the landscape. It’s surreal.
When you’re in such a strange, stupid beautiful place, it does stuff to your brain. Or at least it does to mine. Can’t help it, I’m a outdoorsy nerd who eats pinecones and thinks camping equipment is cool. But I really do think that there is something that happens when people are in places like Torres. Views can give you shivers. The air tastes different, and feels different on your skin. It makes you think about being a small speck in the landscape, a blip amongst a never ending map. At the same time it makes you feel important, like a caretaker. Like you are a crucial part of that same, torn up map.
The world outside of my own is never ending. And that feeling messes with me. Each new person, interaction, or even a stupid hike, they make me feel that way just a little bit. It all becomes an expansion of my own life. I think part of that was why I left home in the first place. Or at least didn’t go straight to college in the States. It seemed like there was more to do and experience before I got started on school. Like I was still missing out on something. I could say this going into gap year, and I’ve written about this before. But I definitely didn’t know what that meant until we got back from Patagonia. We mostly just did super cool stuff in the mountains, really just for fun. But it definitely gave me time to process the past 5 weeks in the Middle East and what we had ahead of us.
I think what I’m getting a lot of on gap year is not only more of the map, but the role I play in it. What does my tiny dot contribute? How do I follow through with that?
I got nothing to answer that, but I’ll let you know when I do. Here’s some more pictures, everyone go to Torres you won’t regret it.
Ryan’s back, Mt. Tenerife, Puerto Natales, Chile
Ryan’s and Ann’s backs, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Ryan’s back #3, Mt. Tenerife, Puerto Natales, Chile