“So I’m packin’ my bags for the Misty Mountains; over the hills where the spirits lie.” – Led Zeppelin, Misty Mountain Hop
Bella and I stopped walking and surveyed our surroundings.
“It looks like some kind of horseback riding trail,” Bella stated, referring to the hoof prints and dried up piles of horse waste in the sand.
I turned to the mountain behind us and glanced at the faraway peak through the hazy smog of Santiago. We had just made our descent from the infamous Cerro Pochoco, or Pochoco Hill in English, which was by no stretch of the imagination a hill, but quite truly a massive mountain. Somewhere in our descent, though, we had meandered off the trail that we had used to hike up the mountain, and only after about a half hour of feverish bushwhacking through the cactuses and miscellaneous desert underbrush did we encounter a new trail. We knew that this new trail was not the one that we had used to ascend the mountain, but we decided to follow it anyway in the hopes that it would eventually lead us back to where we started the hike or perhaps to our original trail. Yet after walking along this trail for about twenty minutes in the complete opposite direction we needed to go, we began to grow slightly concerned. We were, as they say, completely and utterly lost.
“Well, perhaps if we’re lucky, some caballero will come riding along on his stallion and guide us back to civilization,” I said jokingly.
After a few more minutes of pondering the situation, we agreed that if nothing else, the trail would eventually lead to a road from which we could find some Chileans to provide us with directions to our bus stop, and we resumed walking.
Not even two minutes after we had started walking again, we heard a scuttling in the foliage behind us and turned around to find an older man wearing a very confused facial expression and a cowboy hat sitting atop a plump, brown horse. Beside the horse were two small dogs that stared at Bella and me with the same look of confusion and intrigue as the caballero. Bella and I smiled at each other.
“Hola!” I broke the silence and we approached the stranger. We informed the man of our predicament and he told us to follow him and he would lead us to the road that would take us back to the entrance of the hiking trail. We had been rescued by a caballero on his stallion.
After a few more moments of bushwhacking, the man lead us to his farm where we were met by a whole corral of horses as well as and an outlandish number of goats, chickens, and donkeys. We followed the man to the entrance of the farm and he showed us the road. As it turned out, the road to which the friendly caballero had lead us was the exact road that we had to walk up in order to reach the entrance to the park, except the spot where we entered the road from the man’s farm was as at the very bottom of the street. So in getting lost and following the caballero to his farm, we had actually taken a shortcut and most certainly shaved a decent amount of time off our descent.
The hike up Cerro Pochoco is one of favorite memories here in Chile, and most certainly my favorite hike that I’ve done in Santiago. So yesterday morning, bright and early, I met up with my friend Bella from IES Abroad and we took the hour-long bus ride to Cerro Pochocho. Not only was the ascent made satisfying from the steep terrain and harsh sunlight, but we made new friends along the way. We hiked the mountain accompanied by some fellow Americans, a young woman from Columbia, a man from Argentina, and a man from Austria, not to mention the lizards and small tarantulas that seemed to walk with us every step of the way. The view from the peak was unrivalled. Beneath us we could see the sprawling metropolis of Santiago, and behind us the vast, snowcapped Andes continued off into the horizon until Argentina. One could stare at those mountains for hours on end. The grandeur of the Andes is something that simply cannot be ignored.
Hiking and getting into the mountains surrounding Santiago has been one of my favorite ways to pass the free time that I have in Chile. The mountains here possess an element of mystique, an element of mystique that is enhanced by the thick veils of fog that more often than not cloak them. Whether it’s the unfortunate pollution that is trapped in the city by the mountains, fog rising into the clouds, or a combination of the two, the mountains nearly always possess a misty haze that provides them with a mystic, majestic quality.
Alongside Cerro Pochoco, I’ve been able to take advantage of the hiking that these mountains offer through the numerous day trips I have taken with friends to Mahuida Park, an expansive park with some basic hiking at the base of the mountains; San Cristóbal Hill, a small mountain right in the middle of the city with an epic statue of Mary and a petite church at the top that provides you with an excellent view of Santiago’s downtown; and the short urban hike up some steep streets to South America’s only Baha’i Temple. Every one of these hikes has been an adventure that I will not soon forget, whether it was watching the sun set over Santiago from the steps of the Baha’i Temple (a massive temple that looks like a gray flower bud in the earliest stages of budding just plopped on the mountainside of the Andes) or befriending the stray dogs at the top of San Cristóbal.
Ever since I have arrived in this city, the magical allure of the Andes has not loosed it grip on me, and I don’t think it will until I leave this place. That is, if it even lets me leave.
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<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I’m just your average 20-year old college student trying to “carpe diem” while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I’ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>