Mountains have been my guardian throughout my study abroad experience. Chile, although a very thin and long country, is almost entirely lined with mountains, the Andes to be exact. Every morning that I wake up I am greeted by the sight of these big and beautiful mountains and they even served as my compass the first few weeks as a new Santiago resident. However, this past weekend was the first time in the many months that I have had to actually had the opportunity to venture in their direction.
Cajon de Maipo, located to the South East of the metropolitan area of Santiago, is an oasis among the congestion and pollution of the city. Featuring many rivers, streams, lakes and valleys this is the perfect weekend get-away for anyone spending longer than 3 months in Santiago. Every morning buses shuttle eager city-goers to this beautiful area for a day or weekend of relaxation and getting to know nature. This past weekend two friends from my program and I decided it was the perfect time to get away.
Our morning started off fairly early (6:00) to catch a bus. After a fairly confusing process for clueless gringos, we boarded our bus and finally got on the road to Cajon. The bus ride to Cajon wasn’t too long, however, we actually boarded the wrong bus and didn’t make it all the way to our cabin in Valdes. After a few failed hitchhike attempts and a couple of hours, another bus finally rolled by en route. We finally got on the right bus!
The excitement ended fairly soon, however, as we failed to get off at the wrong stop. After a thankfully easy fix and hiking a few hills with a suitcase we ACTUALLY made it!
We started our adventures with some lunch and a day hike to the glaciers nestled within the mountains. It was definitely odd to see ice and snow after the season recently changed to summer but that is not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable! With every step the views seemed to get progressively more beautiful and the mountains progressively larger. It was a beautiful experience and crazy to think that I was finally walking up and around my city compass!
After a long day of nice, fresh air we called it a day, ate some dinner and played cards until the electricity in our cabin was shut off (a daily routine). The next morning was also an early start as we were planning on doing a little more hiking through the western part of Cajon! Cascada de las Animas was seemingly the happening place. There were people all over and make-shift picnics and “asados” (barbeques). It was great to see the city-goers like us taking it easy and enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.
To close our exciting adventures we all decided it was fitting to do some white water rafting! So that is exactly what we did as we found ourselves strapped into some wet suits and hopping into a raft. It is always great going anywhere as a group because Chileans seem to be infatuated with Americans. Although I think they got a little confused as they decided to make our raft’s chant “cheers”, which is definitely British. Anyway you spin it, however, Chileans always have a sense of humor and love interacting with English-speakers.
The rafting was incredible and the views were even more amazing alongside the river but it was sad to hear about a planned hydroelectric dam project that was recently approved for the area. This speaks to one of the most prevalent dilemmas for Chile, many natural resource mining industries and processing plants but not enough energy. After hearing this and thinking of the economic, political and social implications of the dam projects in Chile I knew the weekend was at its tail end. Sure enough, hours later I found myself on a bus sitting next to a sleeping friend asking myself how did this beautiful weekend end!