Lost in Patagonia
Let’s talk getting lost on a hike. In another country. At night.
In honor of this week being a big week for students to start their study abroad adventure, I thought I’d pull out a misadventure from my time abroad in Chile.
While I (unsurprisingly?) have a lot of misadventures from that time period (lots can go wrong when you are outside your norms and culture) this one was one of the most intense. And therefore one of the better stories 😉
(The other option was yet another poop misadventure, I have plenty of those. Maybe I should look into that…)
Anyways, back to being lost in the forest at night in the depths of Patagonia.
Oh ya, I forgot to mention I wasn’t just lost at some local park. I was in Patagonia. Like THE Patagonia- the one known for a brand of clothing that is made to be durable and withstand harsh elements based on actual Patagonia.
It was the trip of a lifetime. I mean who gets to go to Patagonia?! Let alone for a week with their newfound best friends.
It was “Spring” break- which in March in Chile is actually during the fall. So we decided to go even further south to even more cold weather. Cool.
So here we are enjoying our adventures at the literal ends of the Earth. We were going to do a lot of day hikes, stay in “refugios,” which are kind of like upscale hostels, and take in the views and experience together.
Our first day getting to the park was an adventure in itself- we had to take a bus to a boat to even get to the entrance of the park. This is after flying 5+ hours and taking another bus the day before. Once in the park though we were pumped and had a little more than a half day left so we decided to go on a quick day hike.
Quick day hike.
I have to lol now when I say that because that’s definitely not what ended up happening- thus this misadventure 😉
Let’s just say we were overzealous. We were so excited. I mean here we were in Patagonia! We weren’t going to just sit inside were we?
So the 6 of us take off for the quick hike, practically skipping we are so giddy.
It’s a stunning hike. We explore the forest, pass creek after creek, see cute bridge after bridge, and just enjoy every step. We sort of have a destination in mind, but after a few hours of hiking we realize it’s taking us longer to get there than expected.
We brush that off not wanting to stop the adventure and thinking we must be close at any step. Mistake # 2.
I didn’t quite spell out Mistake # 1, but it happened earlier, when we thought we had a “half day” left. We might have had a half day time wise, but not daylight wise. We definitely forgot that the sun was setting earlier and earlier, that we were in a different part of the earth, and that inside forests can be much darker than outside. We failed from the beginning. But we don’t know that yet.
So we just keep walking. We’re still in great spirits. We haven’t packed any snacks or more than a small water bottle each, but we’re fine. We’re loving life.
At some point, hours in, we huddle up to decide if we keep going. Some of us want to and some of us are tired. We check the time and realize it’s much later than we thought. Some of us are also a little less in shape than the others (I blame the empanadas). So in the end we decide to turn back.
It’s going well for a while until a few girls begin to feel panicked. And thirsty. They aren’t used to hiking and it progressively turning darker and darker is starting to worry them. We pick up the pace.
But that’s not necessarily a good thing because, as I mentioned, some of us are not as in shape. We start to spread out. Classic murder movie mistake- we separate.
I’m partnered with one of the more outdoorsy girls on the trip (it’s my goal in life to one day be referred to as that, #goals) and we notice that we are quite far from the group now, we can’t even hear them.
Until we do.
We hear screams.
I’m not even making this up. We hear growls and screams and stomping.
So we run.
Should we have stayed and waited to see if they were ok ? Should we have checked what was going on before fleeing? Would we be safer in a bigger pack? These are all questions I ask myself as I run every man for himself.
Ms. Outdoorsy and I eventually stop to catch our breath and wait to see if the others catch up. IF! Did you catch that? I’m worried that they might not make it at all. And it will be partially my fault because I fled. Clearly I haven’t earned that outdoorsy title.
Luckily they do catch up. Tears and all.
The come pounding down the trail towards us. Huffing. Crying. Puffing. And stop when they see us.
They are fine. We are fine. Although a little freaked out.
We ask them if they saw anything- nope. Just heard it.
About half of us are crying at this point. It’s pitch black. We have no water. We can’t see the path. We don’t even know if we are going the right direction. And it’s cold. Thank you fall in the southernmost point of the world.
Fast forward to lots of fast paced walking, crying, people losing their temper, stumbling in the dark, and finally, a light.
A little bobbing light.
You won’t believe this, but it was a group of boys from our program who were doing something similar. Unlike us they were more prepared and had headlamps. They could see!
You could feel the relief.
To be honest, I can’t remember everything that happened next, I think maybe the boys worried that we hadn’t returned and came looking for us. Or maybe they were also just out too late for their own good. I’m not sure. I just remember we were so thankful to see them.
They guided us back to the refugio through the dark (don’t even get me started on my feminist beliefs about not needing boys to lead us home- we needed their light, not their guidance, thankyouverymuch).
And now we are almost home free. Except that we missed dinner.
If you’ve ever stayed in a national park lodge you may be familiar with the fact that dinners are served at specific times and that’s it. There’s no getting around that one. By the time we get back from our “quick day hike” we’ve missed our timeslot.
You know the term hangry, right?
Here you have 6 girls who are soaked- oh ya, I forgot to mention it rain/sleeted on us towards the end- who have just had a harrowing experience, are thirsty, starving, cold, and kinda mad at each other for the not so amazing hike they just had. To say we were hangry is an understatement.
Luckily, we had quite a few snacks between us all in our rooms. I think there may have also been a really expensive gift shop. I remember eating peanuts.
We decide to call it a day and to huddle up the next morning to more accurately plan the rest of our hikes.
We make our way to our bunk beds, but not before I had THE BEST shower of my life. I mean it.
I can still remember it so vividly. I was finally alone. The water was so warm and I was so cold. I rid myself of the dirt and sleet and bad vibes of the day and cry. I let it all out and just let the water soothe me. To this day I’ve still never had a more satisfying shower. I guess I earned it that day.
So I clean myself up and make my way to our shared room, where everyone was giggling. Recounting the day we just had. Feeling happy to be alive. And together. What an adventure. What an experience. What a misadventure gone right.
Have you had a “quick day hike” go wrong? Give us your best day hike tips in the comments so we don’t make the same mistakes!