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Chile: Part 1

“Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” -Ibn Battuta

We recently spent two weeks traveling through southern Chile. We did so much in those couple weeks that it seems somewhat overwhelming to write about. Chile is a breathtakingly beautiful country, so much so in fact that of all the places we have been, I think Derek and I would agree that it wins when it comes to natural beauty.

Our trip started off a little rough on Wednesday with intense weather in Lubbock that caused us to miss our flight out of Dallas. We were both scheduled to run portions of the Patagonian International Marathon on Saturday, so were were praying we could to Torres del Paine by then. We were able to fly out of Dallas on Thursday night and another domestic flight to Punta Arenas and a 4 hour car ride later, we finally arrived at the EcoCamp in Torres del Paine around 2am on our race morning. We both got to see some awesome scenery over the course of our race. Derek’s race started at Glacier Lake (of course he took no pictures) and mine started right near the famed Los Cuernos del Paine or “the horns” (of course I took like 50 pictures). After our races, we were able to enjoy the EcoCamp. If you ever make it down to Torres del Paine, the EcoCamp is the place to be. Their environmentally conscious domes, friendly staff (Tim, Pablo, and the rest of the crew, you were amazing!), and down right delicious meals made our experience at the EcoCamp one we will never forget. Most of the other guests were there for the race, so we had the opportunity to spend a few days with a bunch of crazy, travel loving runners like ourselves. Meeting kindred spirits is one of my favorite parts about traveling.  Somehow, through the shared love of adventure, life experiences, and, in this case, running, we met a bunch of strangers who felt like life long friends by the time we left. I sincerely hope our paths cross with all of them again in the future.On Sunday, we took an excursion with the EcoCamp to explore more of the park. We made several stops including Sarmiento Lake and Laguna Azul. We feasted on a traditional Chilean barbecue (we were definitely not vegetarians on this trip) with the 3 towers as our backdrop and rode bikes on different parts of the trip. We saw guanacos, condors, foxes, flamingos, and rheas. Torres del Paine is absolutely amazing! I would go back in a heartbeat.

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We (sadly) left the EcoCamp on Monday and returned to Punta Arenas. The following day we ventured out to Tierra del Fuego with a local tour company to see a colony of King Penguins. Now, one thing we were not prepared for was the lack of English spoken in Chile. We certainly do not expect anyone to know English, it just so happens that most places that we have been are full of English speakers. Chile was not that way, so obviously there were some language barrier issues because I speak very little Spanish (and Chilean Spanish is different anyway) and Derek speaks just about none. So, the tour bus drove onto a ship that would carry us across a bay to where the penguins were and once on the boat we were allowed to get out of the bus and walk around. Our guide apparently told us to be back at a certain time, but we didn’t quite catch that. When we docked, we went to get on our tour bus and it was no where to be found. The dock was a ways away from the nearest town and cars and buses were clearing out quickly, by the time we decided for sure our bus wasn’t there and we needed to look for a cab it was too late. Luckily, a man and his wife in a little pick up truck signaled to us-he held up the number 2, we shook our heads excitedly yes, and before we knew it we were in the truck (sorry mom) trying to explain to him what happened to us in very broken Spanish. With his help we were able to reconnect with our tour group, turns out the guide was planning on coming back for us, but he had to clear the dock or so he said, and we continued on to the penguins. We arrived at the colony and had to put on multiple layers due to the biting cold and the wind, but seeing the penguins waddle around was worth it!

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We returned to Punta Arenas that evening, caught a flight to Puerto Montt the next morning, and arrived in Puerto Varas and the Lake District that afternoon where we picked up a rental car. We feasted on some conger eel cheeks, which were delicious, and took an impromptu drive out to Parque Nacional Vincente Perez Rosales. The park has a rapid filled river running through it with the volcanos of the Lake District visible in the background.

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On Thursday, we drove out to the island of Chiloe, again crossing the sea in a large ship. We spent the day exploring the island and the national park. Chiloe is partly known for the colorful palafitos that line its coast. These are brightly painted houses on stilts. We read about some of the folklore of Chiloe before arriving and Derek was fascinated with the story of the camahueto a bull with one horn (or unicorn bull) that violently erupts from the earth and destroys everything in its path as it run to the sea. We drove so far out onto the island that we ended up on a remote beach with nothing but a few run down houses and some free roaming horses, cows, and sheep. It was serene and peaceful being the only people around to enjoy the ocean.

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There are more stories to tell and I will get there, but it’s time to take a break and pack some boxes. We leave for Utah in 2 1/2 weeks. The good news of today is that we have a place to live! We at least won’t be homeless! We found a wonderful apartment right in the middle of the neighborhood we wanted to live in. One task down! We will be west before we know it.

For more Chile pictures check us out on Instagram @asweheadwest!

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Adjustments

Utah is hazing us. I never considered what my body would have to do to acclimatize to a new environment. And maybe the events of the last few weeks don’t have anything to do with environment and are simply just seasonal illnesses, but whatever the reason a sickness has fallen upon Smith household. It all began about 3 weeks ago with what I thought was just a chest cold. I spent a week hacking to the point I thought I broke a rib. After an almost bed ridden trip to Capitol Reef National Park over Thanksgiving weekend (I got one hike in so it counts), I decided I needed to get checked out because my cough wasn’t going away and my left ear wouldn’t pop and felt clogged. So, I got to take my first trip to an urgent care here in SLC and found out my cough had caused ear infections in both ears which got so bad my left ear drum ruptured and I didn’t break a rib, but the flesh had pulled away from my rib causing sharp pains in my side. It’s now 3 weeks later and after lots of meds, my cough is finally going away, but both my ears are still healing and I’ve been told I won’t have full hearing in both of them for approximately 3 months. Now that I’m on the mend, it seems it’s Derek’s turn. My husband, who never gets sick, got the flu this week and has been bed ridden for the last 3 days. This is torture for a guy who is so active he can’t sit still for more than a few minutes. This hit the same week my parents, my brother, and his fiancée are all visiting for the holidays from North Carolina. As usual though, they have been so understanding and caring for the both of us and have rolled with the punches as plans have changed. Needless to say these last few weeks in Utah haven’t been the most exciting, but we did have a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and have enjoyed spending time with my family and showing them around our new city this week.

So, if sickness is the biggest bump in the road we face during this move, then we are good because the rest of this year has been one for the books and I don’t doubt that 2015 will be any less awesome. We are excited for whatever Utah has in store for us, whether good or bad because it’s all a part of life. And life is…well…awesome! Here’s to health and to the start of the last year of my twenties, there’s many more travels and adventures ahead.

Jaclyn