One of the things I miss most about home is nature. There are plenty of wonderful parks here in Buenos Aires. They’re open with lots of places to lay down and relax or trails to bike and walk on. It’s easy to get to them and they are enjoyable, but they are city parks. The nature in them was designed and landscaped to create a perfect urban resting place. While they work great for chatting with friends or doing homework, they don’t fulfill my need to be outside enjoying nature.
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“Should I bring three dresses?”
“What about another pair of sandals?”
“Will I really need a sweater?”
These are the questions I ask myself as I pack to live in a warm climate for the first time in my life. I’m Lily Frenette, a girl from Minnesota, who goes to school in New York. While both places have their warm seasons, most of the time it’s cold, bordering on Arctic. But this semester I’ll be living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying with the Argentine Universities Program. While I’m very excited to be studying Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, I have no idea what I’ll wear on a regular basis in a place that averages between 76 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.
I end up keeping the dresses and a sweater, but leave out the sandals. I have a pair of flats and hiking sandals, as well as hiking boots and my trusty pair of converse high tops – that should get me through the semester. I have other packing issues though. I’m unsure of how much of my hiking gear and clothes I need to bring. Hiking is a passion of mine, but I currently have no idea of my schedule and so don’t know how much time I’ll have to go explore. I’m also unsure if I’m bringing too many notebooks and cameras. At school I concentrate in writing and photography, which means I always have four different notebooks and three cameras on me at all times. Even though I know I would regret it if I leave one at home, I still worry that I won’t end up using them.
My flight leaves in two days. I believe I’m as ready as I can be, but with a new place there’s no way to be sure. It’s almost guaranteed that once I get settled into Buenos Aires, I’ll realize I left something important behind. As awful as that feeling is, I just have to accept it. Once I’m in Argentina, I can’t have my parent mail me items like they used to bring me my gym clothes when I accidentally left them at home. Plus, there’s an upside to this. If I find I’ve left something in the US, maybe I’ll realize it’s not necessary at all.
When I write next, I’ll be in Argentina – wish me luck!
— Lily Frenette
We don’t actually know exactly where we went, but it was west of the city of Lima, and probably still in the province of Lima. We got it in our heads that the place was called “Huarochiri”, but I’m almost positive that’s not true. One of my friends (Koby) had met a part-time adventure guide that invited us along with him, his brother, and his brother’s friend as they went for a weekend trip to climb mountains, repel down waterfalls, and hike around a bit. We subsisted almost entirely on crackers for the weekend.
After a four hour drive out to wherever it was that we went, and a good amount of searching around, we eventually found a place to make camp in a small grassy area above a dusty soccer field next to a corn field near the mountain we planned to climb the next day. We pitched our tents and built a fire. The campfire that night was a great time. Four of the five people there knew how to play guitar and sing and we just passed the guitar around the circle taking turns singing the song of our choice; the guitar made it around the circle at least four times before we finally decided to go to bed after a long day.
Last weekend I went on a weekend hiking trip to the highlands of Scotland. I went with Breakaway, which is the hill-walking society at St. Andrews. They organize hill walking trips to different parts of beautiful Scotland, and it’s quite popular amongst international students.
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Monteverde is known for three things: quetzals, cloud forests and ziplines.
I only got to enjoy the last two.
Ziplining was first on my to-do list, and it was a blast. One line is billed as being the longest in Latin America, soaring over a valley for over 1,500 meters.
With that out of the way, I hiked around Reserva Biologica Monteverde (Monteverde Biological Reserve) looking for the famed quetzal bird, with no success (closest my guide and I found was a nest). Found a couple of other critters, though.
Finally, I spent my final morning there rappelling down waterfalls, the tallest about 40 meters. Quite the adventure, and quite the workout.
Lonely Planet: “The 4070-sq-km Parque Internacional La Amistad is an enormous patch of green sprawling across the borders of Panama and Costa Rica (hence its Spanish name La Amistad, ‘Friendship’). This is by far the largest protected area in Costa Rica.”
Most of our time on this 4-day program trip in early September was spent in and around Asoprola, a small community of organic farmers and craftsmen. No, I didn’t see Panama. It was too cloudy.
This was the same trip I used to unplug from technology. Great trip, overall.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the sun. Or the weight of my backpack. Or of my clothes. Or a combination of them all.
Either way, one part of this journey to the top of Cerro Chato (literally, “Flat Hill”) involved lying down in the middle of the path hypervenilating.
This hill was anything but flat. 8 kilometers round-trip at a very steep incline. I was clammy, sweaty, and ready to give up and head right back down the mountain to the hostel.
Lucky the bottom half of my pants could zip off. Lucky that I could take my shirt off to prevent overheating. Lucky I brought enough water to keep me hydrated.
And I’m very lucky to have two good friends to share the literal load on my shoulders and take as many breaks as we needed to make it to the top.
And boy was it worth it.
I meant to post this a while ago but lost track of the time.
My family drove to Cartago one evening to pick up other members of my family. They had just walked from San José to Cartago (no easy feat) to celebrate El Día de la Virgen de los Ángeles.
And we weren’t the only ones making the trip.
A beautiful view of the incredible Blue Mountains.
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This weekend I got to go to Manuel Antonio, one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing while I’m here in Costa Rica. We had a short week of classes this week, due to a Thursday holiday. I have no Friday classes, and I left with some friends really early on Thursday to head down to Manuel Antonio. We wanted to limit how much money we spent, so we found a hostel near the beach that only cost $10 per night. We spent Thursday afternoon on the beach, and Friday walking through the national park and swimming at a park beach. It was really beautiful, and I took some pictures so that I could post them here:
Despite the wounds, the weekend was a lot of fun and the park was beautiful. If you are thinking of going I would definitely recommend it. We went the cheap route and had a great time, so I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to have fun there. The hostel had cheap rooms and breakfasts, and backpackers are generally pretty cool people. That being said, there seemed to be some cool options that were a bit more expensive as well. Also, if you don’t have a car, be prepared to take a lot of buses. I took five today on my way back to the house. Overall a fun weekend, and I still have Sunday to get my homework done.
The end of April, generally, isn’t the best time to visit Scotland. When I ventured there three weeks ago, there was snow on the ground the week before I arrived. Yet, when I finally reached my host parents’ home in the village of Kincraig (near Kingussie) after an interesting commute, involving a replacement bus service due to a landslide on the track, Peter (my host dad) assured me the weather would be splendid for the weekend. Splendid turned out to be a bit of an understatement.
On Saturday, we hit it off right away by having the best porridge I’ve ever had. Granted, I don’t eat much porridge as it is, but now that I’ve had Sarah’s (my host mom), that’s the version I’ll be making for myself from now on. Good thing that breakfast was deliciously hardy because we spent the day biking through forest around Loch Inch and canoeing on the actual lake itself. While Eunji (the other student with me this weekend from Brighton) set off with Peter, Sarah and I created rumors of a new monster in a Loch, with my helmet decoration, while biking through the woods. We stopped for lunch beneath the base of the Cairngorm mountain range and headed back to the house for a canoeing afternoon on Loch Inch. Of course, that resulted in being completely soaked through and we ended our day quietly reading in the sun room that had been heated throughout the day.
Sunday was an even better day! Eunji and I started off with a walk around the loch on our own, just taking in the absolutely beautiful sights of Kincraig. Obviously, the pictures describe it better than I could, but it was wonderful to have to time to appreciate the view. In the afternoon, Sarah and Peter led us up a hill across the way from the house. I could actually see the hill from my bedroom window and when we reached the top (very self-satisfying after the steep ascent), the house was directly beneath us. On this walk alone, we saw ospreys in the nest, an eagle, red squirrels and a herd of deer seeking shelter from the approaching storm that night) in the forest. We also came upon the stone ruins of what was once clearly a village on the hill on our descent.
It was honestly amazing to spend the weekend in Kincraig; my hosts were very welcoming and gracious and the landscape was a wonderful alternative to London. After my weekend, I rushed back to London to get ready to welcome my own parents to London, which you’ll hear all about next week!