The trip is over and the memories are fading away too quickly. When I recall my time in Chile, it sometimes feels as though the trip lasted only about a week or two. Other times it feels as distant as a vivid dream. Pictures are helpful, as are the journal entries in which I recorded some of my experiences in Chile, for recalling the experience. Although much of the experience already feels distant, the most enjoyable experiences remain vivid. One of these experiences was a trip to Cajon de Maipo- a canyon located in the mountains just one hour outside of Santiago.
The two day trip that I did to Cajon de Maipo with several other of the IES students was memorable for several reasons. To get to Cajon de Maipo, we took the local transit to the end of the line before transferring to one of the regional buses that ventures into the mountain towns. We crowded onto the bus and held on tight as the small bus sped through windy mountain roads. If that road had a speed limit we surely surpassed it, and the only thing that gave me reassurance that we would tip or veer off of the road, was the driver’s confidence in his driving skills. I assumed he had traveled this route many times before.
The trip to our destination provided some exposure to life outside of the city of Santiago. We passed many small mountain towns where the roads, housing, and other infrastructural features were even more essential than those in the city. Homes, often built of brick, cinderblock, or adobe, were generally simple one-story structures, less developed than those in the city but with more land around them. The lights and smog of the city dissipated and the silhouettes of the mountains began to loom over. When we got to our destination and got off of the bus, the air was cooler and fresher. We were led to our stay, a cozy rustic cabin, and informed about the activities that would be happening the final day.
In addition to the beautiful views and the escape from the busy city that Cajon de Maipo offers, visitors can take advantage of numerous outdoor activities offered at fair prices. The day following our late night arrival, we participated in a hike through the canyon and to the base of one of the waterfalls. The captivating views of the waterfall and the valley, and sensation of being surrounded by nature are one memory I will not soon forget. Along the trail to the waterfall were two mountain lions that were captured and cared for after their mother was killed while they were still young cubs. Being so close to a 130lb cat, only separated by a few feet and a thin wire fence, was another thrilling experience. Later that same afternoon I fulfilled a long time dream of mine; ziplining. The thrill of zooming up to 40 mph over a rushing river 60 feet below was exhilarating. And, climbing a shaky ladder 35 feet up into the tree canopy, before zipping from tree stand to tree stand also stirred enough excitement to make it a memory I won’t soon forget.
I’ve written previous blogs about how my trip to Chile has impacted me: meeting new people and experiencing life in an entirely new environment inevitably spurs personal growth. However, this growth has often been absorbed from the everyday experiences. Often it is difficult to identify particular instances that contribute to this impact because the growth, for me, comes from experiencing the aggregate of these everyday experiences living abroad. On the other hand, I especially value exciting trips and particular experiences while traveling which help me recall the individual experiences that contributed to the overall impact I walk away with. For me, my excursion to Cajon de Maipo had that impact, and for that reason, I will not soon forget the particularities of that experience.