Chile was my third time spending an extended period living abroad, and I’ve noticed a pattern in terms of how things tend to go, at least for me personally:
- Month 1: throw yourself into everything. Feel homesick realising that you’ve not known anyone for longer than a month.
- Month 2: find some routines. Feel more comfortable and begin to develop some normality.
I settled into my seat thinking how many people must be experiencing such vastly different emotions despite them being in the same situation, at least for the present moment. The excitement/disappointment of beginning/ending a trip, meeting/leaving friends and family, drawing a physical line in a lifetime timeline. Airports and planes are strange places. Continue reading
Chileans are a very proud people; ask any Chilean about their country’s food and they will tell you it’s the best in the whole world. Tell any Chilean you’re going to visit Argentina and they’ll tell you there’s no need to leave Chile because it has everything. This long, thin country on the edge of South America and the edge of the world is home to almost every climate, ranging from the vast San Pedro desert in the north, down through the wine-growing regions surrounding Santiago right down to glacier filled Tierra del Fuego.
‘Vision here seems clearer, more focused, and with deeper colours’ (Photographer: Miguel Vieira; Flickr)
Unless you are either a mountain goat or one of those enviable children whose parents raised you with mountains for a back garden, it is difficult to deny the memorability of your first encounter with jagged snow-capped mountain peaks stretching off into the distance. The more we visit these sorts of places, the more the initial excitement fades, driving us to explore further afield. Patagonia is the sort of place which brings that first excitement rushing back to you, forcing your eyes to gape in every direction and your lungs to inhale the air which has never tasted fresher.
A four and a half hour flight from Santiago takes you to the city of Punta Arenas, one of the largest cities in southern Chile set in the heart of Patagonia. There is only one real reason why any tourist would make the four thousand kilometre journey here, and that is to visit the Mecca of Patagonia, the Torres del Paine National Park. It is a less visited place during winter season, regularly greeting its visitors with freezing winds and snow blizzards, however the extremity of the weather only serves to enhance the awe of the landscape. Arriving in mid-July, I found myself touching down upon a runway lined with fields of deep, untouched snow. Despite the conditions, it was soon clear that the usual Latin American lack of interest in health and safety had not been lost, as I spotted a man cheerfully welding a large block of metal onto the front of his shop, streams of golden sparks pouring out into the path of passers-by. The following day I was crammed into a worryingly feeble looking minibus and driven the final hundred kilometres to the park itself.