Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Post WFR, Final Trek North

Hello all -

This post finds me in the last week of my travels.  I am currently in San Pedro de Atacama, in Northern Chile.  I will spend a few days here, and then embark on a very very long bus trip to Lima, Peru.

My WFR course in Santiago was excellent.  Great instructors, great classmates, a great time.  I learned a lot, and felt accomplished to have done the course in Spanish.  After the WFR, I just spent the last 5 days in Santiago, seeing the city, going climbing, and hanging out with some other WFR´s.

I don´t have time to post pictures right now, but I will get a comprehensive update done when I get home.  The pictures in this post are from a rescue during the WFR - I was a patient with an open, punctured thorax and my coursemates are attending me - and also our group of 27 students.

Love from down South (but not South for that much longer!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Logistical Update. WFR. Colorado. Costa Rica.

I am currenlty in Santiago, Chile.  I will be doing a Wilderness First Responder course (WFR) for 10 days, finishing on April 22.  After that, I will have roughly 2 weeks to reach Lima, Peru.  I will be leading a trip for Putney ( in Costa Rica in July - a community service project for high school students, that I hope will also challenge and inspire them in ways that they hadn´t planned (we aren´t just going to be sunbathing at the beach, children!!!  hehehe...there is a lot to learn outside of the tourism circle that I want to show them... :).  After that, my plans are still uncertain.  But wow, going home, soon.  To my family, good friends, my own horses, my mountains...I am looking forward to what is to come.

En Rumbo for Natales...Again (Going back to Puerto Natales)

I have a problem.
I love open spaces. I love mountains. I love horses. I love spending time with good people.

I found all of the above, and more, in my time in Torres del Paine, and was especially captivated by the baqueanos - the local horsemen - who grew up in a culture of horses and ranches in a manner very distinct from what we have in the United States. Becuase of this...I decided that if I could, I would like to try and return to the area next season, to work as a guide or in some other capacity, with horses, near the park. The details are still yet to be figured out, but I am on my way to figuing out a way to return here for another season. :) Therefore, after spending time in Coyhaique at NOLS, I headed back towards the park.
Stop 1: ¡Sin Represas! Without Dams
After leaving NOLS, I caught a free bus 7 hrs. south on a gravel road near the town of Cochrane. I went one, because there was a free bus in the direction i was going, and also because there was a protest there against hydroelectric dams that are proposed to be built (7 in total) along the rivers of Southern Patagonia. I was interested in understanding more of the situation and also meeting the organizers. After spending a day there, I was devastated to see what some of the effects of the dams might be, both on the environment and the people of the area, but also disappointed in the people protesting. Unfortunately, there is a lot of interfighting in the different protesting organizations, and that was sad to see. Without unification, and with such divisions, the transnationals will win. (the dams will bring some immediate jobs to the region, labor, etc., but they are being built by foreigners, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, and maybe another one or two. in the end, the money will leave the country. The roads will be improved, and more infrastructure added, but nothing lasting. Only unrepairable damage to the ecosystem here, the land, and that the water will no longer belong to the people from Patagonia - the water will belong, every drop of it, to foreigners). All that to say, it was interesting to see. I don´t know what i can personally do to help on a grand scale, other than share what is happening. Check out: to learn more about the situation.
Stop 2: Hope in Small Steps - Growing Food as a Response

After leaving the protest, I got picked up with a really great couple. Rocio and Marcelo. Rocia is from Spain, Marcelo from Chile, but he lived in Amsterdam for the last 20 or so years, his mother was a political refugee from Chile during the time of Pinochet, the dictator. They have just returned to Chile, to live, and to try and live in the most life giving and least life taking way as possible. For them, permaculture is a small, but significant answer to the challenges of the world. They are building an eco-camping and eco-hostel, ( growing their own food, cooking with a solar oven, using "hot boxes" to cook their food and save energy, building dry toilets so that not one drop of water is wasted in flushing. Being with them was reinvigorating. Enjoyable. refreshing. To be with people who were taking their own actions seriously, who were interested in something outside of their own comfort and pleasure, and who were actively engaging some of the challenges of the world in a personal way. Etching out a living in the mountains of Patagonia in the most sustainable way possible. Being with them, talking with them, gathering bark for the dry toilets, sharing food, hearing about how they built their solar shower and techniques for the solar oven, gathering peas from the garden and then cooking them for dinner, it was so refreshing. This time also made me miss being in one place long enough to grow things and appreciate the natural movement of the seasons, of dryness or wetness, cold or hot, the natural change of the earth´s weather and sun, giving some rhythm of life. I missed my small garden with flowers and vegetables in grew in Los Angeles, giving color and green to the city of cement i lived in. It made me want to be in one place long enough to experience these things again. It was a refreshing few days and I sincerely hope I might see them again sometime.

Stop 3:

AWWW! 6 buses and 2 days later, I finally arrived in Puerto Natales again (It is 2 days by bus, or 1.5 hrs. in plane from Coyhaique to Natales...and the same price...which would you choose?)  I almost got left in the pampa (grasslands) at one of the bus stops while in the bathroom...I had to take off sprinting after the bus! Luckily, I caught it. It was a long haul back to Natales, but good to go back to see, in person, about potential job opportunities with horses for the next tourist season (October - March).

Visiting NOLS Patagonia

After spending nearly a month in Southern Patagonia, I flew up from Punta Arenas to Balmaceda, and then took a transfer to Coyhaique, Chile.  Coyhaique is the base of NOLS Patagonia, and one of my former instructors, KG (from Kenya) was finishing a course there.  I figured that hey, I´m in the area, so it would be fun to stop by and say hi.  Additionally, I am thinking about doing an Instructor Course (IC) with NOLS so that I could lead trips for them in the future.  Thus, the visit was also a chance to network, make connections at the Patagonia base, and feel out if pursing outdoor education with NOLS in the future is something I´d like do. 

In my week passing through NOLS Patogonia we went to a local horse race, had an asado (sheep roast), and I did some random jobs of stacking wood and mowing the grass to "earn my keep."  It was great to catch up with KG, and also meet the staff down there.  My future plans are still pending...but I think I would be interested in pursuing an IC in the future.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Volunteering in Torres del Paine

After trekking in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, I spent nearly another three weeks in the park volunteering with an organization called AMA Torres del Paine (  One of my goals for this year of traveling was to: a) spend an extended time in at least one place, getting to know somewhere more in depth and less in breadth, and b) to give back to some cause that I feel strongly about.  In this instance, protecting and preserving natural areas.  During my three weeks with AMA we made new signs, marked trails, cleaned up garbage, worked on a new translation of the website (not uploaded, yet), hung out with the workers at the Hotel Las Torres (, cut wire, and generally had a good time working and laughing.  While I was with AMA several other volunteers passed through from the US, England, France, and Brasil.  It was fun to get to know some other foriegners, as well as Chileans who worked at the Hotel, and enjoy lazy nights around a wood burning stove in a refugio.  I also became friends with some of the baqueanos (think Patagonian cowboy) and enjoyed riding some of the Hotel Las Torres horses in the evenings after "work."  It was a hard life.  :)   Another bonus of being in the park for more than the normal 4-8 day "W" or "Big Circuit" was not having to worry about the Patagonian weather in the context of trekking...if it rained one day, well, there was always another day of sun that might come.  My month in the park flew by - time had wings - and it´s definitely a place I´d like to return to.