Mid-November, after spending a full 5 days exploring the busy, modern city of Santiago, we woke up early and ordered an Uber to catch our flight to Balmaceda. Balmaceda is the closest airport to Parador Austral, the lodge where we had the opportunity to work, live, and volunteer. At the airport, we were welcomed by the friendly face of our coworker Henry, who we can now count among some of the best friends we’ve made during our travels.
Henry’s English is very minimal, but he ushered us over to an old white pickup truck with a jubilant, “Vamos – let’s go!”
We tossed our backpacks into the bed of the truck, and Henry was nice enough to wrap them all in plastic garbage bags in case of rain. After Tyler grabbed the front seat and Colin and I clamored into the back, we set off on our 4 to 5 hour journey along the Carretera Austral, a route famed for its incredible views (though not well known for having smooth, paved roads).
A short time later, we stopped for lunch along the side of the road. We had sandwiches inside of a van-turned-food-truck. The view was absolutely beautiful – snow-capped mountains on all sides, vast green fields, and lakes and rivers with water pure enough for a gringo to drink without filtration.
While we were eating our lunch, I couldn’t help but think about how incredible all of this is – the ability to connect with someone in a remote area of Chile over the internet, and how one morning we can wake up in the hustle, bustle, and pollution of Santiago, and a few short hours later we’re breathing in the clean Patagonian air with our new friend and unofficial tour guide, Henry.
Moments of reflection like that reinforce my sense of gratitude for this year and all of the opportunities it has and will bring me; there is so much world to see, and I feel incredibly blessed to have this time to see it.