Chillin' in Chile
Ramblings of a Drunk Penguin...
It's crazy to think back on all of the things we did in Chile and remember that when we got to Chile, we didn't really have any plans. We had spent so much time enjoying Ecuador that we hadn't really done a ton of planning for Chile. Oops! We ended up spending the majority of our first visit to Santiago googling things to do, realizing that it was going to be super cold, and then going shopping for things to keep us warm.
So many parts of Chile stand out in my brain. Biking through Santa Cruz's wine country, touring the veritable galleries of graffiti that are the streets of Valparaiso, being in the town that Edward Shackleton first breached Antarctica from, but few moments compare to truly getting to experience Patagonia.
I've always wanted to visit Patagonia. In my head, it was some frigid, mystical, glacier-filled, and utopian landscape that was only accessible to the world's best ice climbers. Turns out, that is only partially true. There are plenty of opportunities for ice-climbing impaired people (like us) to access Patagonia's beauty and unique landscapes. Patagonia is a region of South America, much like the Pacific Northwest is a region of the United States. Similarly, it is heavily lauded, but hard to define its perimeters off the top of your head. What I knew is that we had to go south. We had to get to "Patagonia," even if we weren't 100% sure of what that really entailed.
There are a bajillion reasons to visit Chile during the summer months of S.A. (November - April), but there are so many to come in the winter as well. When we got to the Torres Del Paine Basecamp (one of the hardest hikes on the acclaimed W-Circuit), we trudged through knee-deep snow! We faced white-out snowfall and gusting winds! On our walk down from the base camp, I asked our guide--whose name I heard once at 6:30 AM and then instantly forgot-- "Is this much snow common at this time of year?" He laughed and said "Oh yes. You know, I do the guided bus tour as well. And that's great, but this...this is true Patagonia." My knees were killing me at this point because apparently, my lifestyle is not the best for preparing for such a trek, but I couldn't help but smile. We did it! We experienced Patagonia!
And there is much more to Chile than Patagonia. The region Magellana, which is similar to a state in Chile, encompasses much of the south. If you go to Patagonia in Chile, odds are you'll get to spend some time in Magellana. The people here seem to be similar to Texans in one key respect: being from their region is just as important as being from their country. Unlike their cosmopolitan neighbors in Santiago who talk so quickly that they don't even use the "s"'s at the end of words so that "Como te llamas"? becomes "Como te llama?", Magellanas always spoke clearly and slowly. Now that I think about it, that might just have been because they could tell we were two gringos!
Everyone we met was just trying to share with us all of the things they think we should try! Or asking us all of these different questions about our trip and who we are. Or recommending places to eat and drink!
The food is...well, it's not my favorite...everything has mayonnaise on it...EVERYTHING. And I like Mayo! But still. There are amazing dishes here like the Pastel de Choclo (a sweet corn rendition of a pot pie) or La Paila Marina (a boiled pot of fresh shellfish).
All of Chile was actually surprisingly expensive (we had to do a major budget overhaul when we first got here), but its worth it. There's just, well, there's just so much to say about Chile. But my favorite memories are when we were freezing and exploring one of its countless natural wonders or talking with a local until one in the morning--also while usually freezing.