Isla Grande de Chiloé

Note: This is my first post, so if you haven’t done so already please check out the “Hello” page to get a feel for what I’m doing. 524209_3192745185757_1459619209_nNear Ancud, Chile
February 2012

We followed a trail that ran parallel to the cliff face, which came up from the sea. It was great hiking, the ground was easy and flat and the ocean breeze kept us cool and tasting the salt as we walked. Dark clouds were coming up behind us, which gave the walk a pleasant race against time feeling, and the preceding night had turned me and my new friends into fine walking companions.

Lukas and his girlfriend Karla, who I was with when I took this picture, were the first Chileans I got to know; we met on a bus and spent a week exploring a national park together. I was lucky to run into them, and luckier still that they had the patience for me.

I had left the States a week ago, and my Spanish wasn’t working. Years of inattention in the classroom was combining with the rapid fire pace and heavy slang of Chilean Spanish to leave me constantly lost. When Lukas approached me I was boarding a bus that I was in no way sure was right, hoping it would drop me off at a trail head I was in no way confident existed. After I fumbled the introduction he switched to clear but halting English, and when he asked me which boat I was planning to take to reach the park I politely suggested we find one together. It was the first I’d heard about the necessity for a boat ride.

Within three hours we had crossed into the park and gotten ourselves completely lost and it was clear, although unspoken, that we would be sticking together. We walked for around eight hours that first day, sinking into the beach sand with our big packs before turning inward into a maze of low trees and shrubs, wound through with patches of pasture.

We followed the pasture because it was clear of brush, but it was tramping rather than walking; each step turned the ground under foot into a small pool of water. I was in big hiking boots, but my companions were not, and several times they took off their shoes to cross the frequent streams or wade through muck. Throughout that long afternoon and evening conversation centered mostly on where the hell we could be, and at what point we had lost the trail.

It wasn’t until late that night, after we had set up my tent in a steady rain, too tired to put up theirs too, that Lukas started to dive into my background.

The tent was up and they were both inside. I waited in the rain, which had turned from steady to driving, while they got out of wet clothes, dried off as they could and got in to their sleeping bags. I climbed in and was going through the same process myself, realizing at what close quarters we were in my two person tent, when Lukas finally spoke up: “so what do you do Andrew?”

I told him that I had just graduated college. Then he asked about my family, and why was I in Chile by myself, and did I have a girlfriend, etc. Between my answers Karla asked him, in spanish, why he was asking so many questions. As I understood it I think this was his answer:

“Well, we’re both naked in our sleeping bags, and I think we should learn a little more about Andrew.”

I answered Lukas’ questions until he was satisfied and then I too curled up in my sleeping bag; reveling in the heat of my own body and glad that the question of whether etiquette demanded I sleep in wet long johns had been answered.

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