Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Too shy a wor(l)d

Our time at the bus stop verged on an hour, we never saw a sign that said “Quintero” nor “Quintero-Con-Con” nor a bus that lacked a number. We sat talking of stomach problems. We had found just enough shade . We were eager. A man who I can only describe as the bus director fluttered about the street, micros would speed into the stop within inches of his back and they would stop just shy of his body ––we knew he was our man. A conversation later and we stood on another street; the micros that idled here lacked numbers, some said the things we hoped they would say, and after several miscommunications, readjustments, (and lamentations for ginger ale) we were on our way to the bridge. The man in the sunglasses assured us he would leave us in the correct place, though as we left Viña east (not north) and sped through areas we had never seen our hopes rose. Today was most certainly going to be an adventure, though we did not know that’d be too shy a word.

The micro passed the correct Coca Cola bottling plant, in it’s place and comforting, it headed into the mountains and through tunnels and stopped on the side of a highway with forest on one side and planes on the other and expelled us. Mauco towered on the other side of those planes, which stretched and twisted in the heat of the day; we reasoned our only choice was to ask someone nearby, to verify that we did, indeed, tend to hike that mountain at the end of those planes. The first place off of the highway was a campground, where we found two older men skeptical of our intentions ––it was not that they though ill of us, but probably assumed we were crazy. As soon as the older one started walking away Lauren and I looked at one another and began laughing, something in the air tickled us with the notion that we had scored a ride. We were right.

Several minutes of driving and seconds of questioning later and we were at a trail, unmarked and on someone’s property; no one was home and so we hoped the barbwire fence and began our hike. The vistas were spectacular; all of Viña and Valpo and the surrounding neighborhoods slowly became condensed into a foreign point, a blemish that stuck out among the patchy fields, hills, and dunes that actually comprised the area. This is hiking. To call it leaving civilization is to banalize the feeling that washes over someone scaling a mountain: previously important things don’t just become smaller, you notice that they were always small; as the tree line recedes so do the conditions, the boundaries, predilections of life closer to see level; and you realize that to call the mountain by any particular name or sign it over to any particular nation is to insult its existence. Sometimes we spoke of the life out their, the one foreign in all but memories, but mostly we were silent as we carried our packs; respectful of what surround us, of ourselves, and of one another.

Given that we had not taken the correct way up we assumed it’d be easy to encounter another way down. It was not, and in the end we decided to return to the base via the same route we had left it. At the bottom a supernatural feeling of openness greeted us; we had no idea where we were, how to get where we needed to go, and if we’d be able to get there. Lauren chose a direction and we walked; we walked past areas without houses, we walked past horses, we walked on concrete, asphalt, and sand, we walked with excitement and sore feet and cautionlessness. Our feet took us to beverages, past festivals of steak and Peruvian music, to a bathroom and a secluded recreational center and to a better comprehension of the other’s condition. It all sat down at a bus stop miles away from the mountain, back where it was a hill, back to where we contemplated and waited.

We exited the micro early on in Viña and walked toward home filled with the denouement of post-hike ride home. I cannot speak for Lauren, but although we talked of our mutual eagerness for diner and showers and clean clothes and beds for me they were comments too shy. What I await is next time.

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