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

Stranded in San Pedro

Time June 29th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Chile | 3 Comments by

Last weekend, I traveled to San Pedro de Atacama for four days which wasn’t nearly enough time to have spent in such an absolutely magical place. Although, I’m not sure if any amount of time could be considered “enough” to truly absorb that kind of natural beauty. San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the middle of the Atacama Desert made up of short, adobe buildings whose deceivingly humble exteriors give way to lavish resorts, hostels and tourism companies. The dirt roads of the town lead into the massive expanse of the surrounding desert allowing for an enchanting view of the snowy mountain peaks in the distance. My journey had a bit of a rocky start early last Friday morning when I missed my flight and had to wait in the Santiago airport for six hours until I could catch the next flight at 1 p.m. For this reason, when I finally arrived in San Pedro to meet up with a friend of mine who has been studying in Lima, Peru, I was anxious to make up for lost time.

That night, we watched the sun set fire to the mountains and paint the sky into a million hues of purple and blue as it sank behind the distant peaks. It was quite astonishing how quickly the heat of the afternoon dissipated in the darkness and left us shivering in our thin jackets. I had heard from my Chilean mom that the desert climate is made up of harsh extremes, but I suppose I didn’t fully realize what she meant until we went out that night to look at the stars. Without the strength of the desert sun, the breeze that comes down through the valleys around San Pedro de Atacama bites much more than one would think.

The trip hit a few more rough patches the next day when my friend and I set out to bike a trail to the North of the town in an area known as Catarpe. We had talked to an absurdly exuberant Chilean who worked at the hostel we were staying in who told us that the trail was very scenic and could be done in five to six hours, six if we were planning on stopping to take pictures (which, let me tell you, we did plenty of). However, we apparently had a miscommunication with him somewhere down the line because the trail took us much longer than we were led to believe. We ended up getting very lost in the valley of the Altos de Catarpe (the farthest point from civilization on the whole trail) for about three hours after the sun went down because we couldn’t find the trail to get back to the main road.

I know, such a typical ignorant tourist move right? But we swear, it really wasn’t entirely our fault. Just hear me out. Sure, we stopped to take about a million pictures and my friend spent twenty minutes trying to climb into some random ravine and I may or may not have walked my bike up a steeper area of the trail, but we really didn’t take long enough to justify getting stuck at the farthest point of the trail as the sun went down. We had been led to believe that, after reaching the end of the Altos de Catarpe, the trail would curve to lead us to an old church and then back to main road on which we could return safely to the town. However, as it turns out, the trail did not lead back to the road as the enthusiastic hostel employee had told us. Instead, we had to double back on the trail to find the road which was considerably more distance than we had been expecting. By the time we gave up our search for the non-existent continuation of the trail, it was already beginning to get dark and we didn’t have any source of light besides the flashlights of our iPhones.

As the sun disappeared and the stars (and with them, the cold) came out, our situation grew increasingly less comical and more worrisome. As we were just beginning to retrace our path through the cavern to find the tunnel that led out to the main road, I realized that my phone only had four percent of battery left because the extreme cold of the night had drained the battery abnormally quickly. At the same time that my phone died, my friend’s phone mysteriously turned off and wouldn’t turn back on, leaving us in complete darkness under the desert stars. Which, although breathtaking, did not help much to illuminate the way out.

During the next three hours of wandering the valley trying to find our way out, we went through all the emotional stages of getting lost in the desert (or at least what I am guessing that would look like, I have to admit that it was my first time) denial, panic, a little bit of hopelessness, and, eventually, acceptance of the possibility that we would have to spend the night in the valley. But through it all I was extremely grateful to have been with someone so positive because we never stopped laughing what we had gotten ourselves into which kept me from panicking more than I did. My friend also made sure that we stopped about every twenty minutes to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the beautiful jumble of the Milky Way spread out above us. It’s funny how sometimes the people you’re with can change your outlook on an entire situation. There was something kind of thrilling about being so lost amongst those towering rocks, hearing nothing but the sound of our own voices in the dark. It ended up being quite a serendipitous experience. I think that, if I could go back in time, I would gladly go get lost again.

We eventually found our way back to the tunnel leading out of the valley by doing some seriously sophisticated detective work using the times on photos that my friend had taken while we were riding through the valley to retrace our steps and find exactly where we went off the trail onto the stream bed. From there, he harnessed his inner boy scout to find bike tracks leading out of the stream bed and before we knew it we were back on the trail. After taking a brief “descansito” to pat ourselves on the back, take some pics of the stars and eat some peanuts (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was about 10 p.m. at the time), we got on our bikes and headed back to town. Thankfully, we didn’t end up having to make a fire out of arid plants or do jumping jacks all night to fight off hypothermia like we had planned.

There are plenty more stories that I could tell about my wonderful weekend in Atacama, but they only give me 1,000 words and I figured the fan base would probably want to hear the one about the time we almost had to spend the night stranded in a valley in the middle of the desert. Overall, the entire experience was breathtaking and I would say that the natural rock formations, salt flats and lagoons of the region are sights that absolutely cannot be missed if you happen to find yourself in Chile.

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Go For It While You Can

Time April 28th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Costa Rica | No Comments by

When studying abroad, you never know when your first chance to do something may be your last. An example of this would be when I was able to visit this gorgeous Volcano, called Poas, with some friends. Just a few weeks later it was shut down to the public as it had become active, as many volcanoes are in Costa Rica. It is still inaccessible to the public and which makes me all the more grateful to have had the opportunity to visit it while I could. So my advice to anyone studying abroad is that if you’re up for something, do it and if you’re on the fence about it, do it anyway.

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A trip to Mal País

Time November 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula is known as “Mal Pais,” which literally means “Bad Country.”

It’s anything but bad.

First, a wonderful ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya.

After two bumpy bus rides, we made it to Mal País, and, more importantly, the beautiful Playa Carmen.

The next day we took a horseback ride around the surrounding jungles and beaches.

We capped off the weekend with a trip to the famous waterfalls of Montezuma, where we jumped and swam to our hearts’ desires.

***

Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter or even on Facebook.

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The Blue Mountains Tour

Time February 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A beautiful view of the incredible Blue Mountains.

Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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lounging in the lake district!

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend was a holiday weekend, so I trekked down to Bariloche, at the tip of Patagonia.  As the town was originally settled by the Swiss, Bariloche is known for its (delicious) chocolate, lakes, and skiing. Needless to say I was pretty pumped. When my friend I got to the terminal, we had two problems because we were clearly travel noobs: a) we couldn’t tell which platform our bus was supposed to arrive, and b) we ended up missing our bus. I was more enraged at this than our friend and demanded an explanation from the travel agent. Frustrating thing: turns out that our bus was actually in front of us the entire time, but just had the final destination listed because it was making several other stops (such as Bariloche). We felt stupid and annoyed, but luckily, we were able to purchase tickets for that night for half price. *sigh*

view from the bus ride

chocolate store!

well-bundled up tree

The bus ride itself was horrendous. I’m not sure how I survived. Since we bought last minute tickets, we were on the bus (and lower level) that stopped literally every ten minutes. GAAAAAH. Which meant that each time I somehow got my seat to recline comfortably, one of the bus drivers would open the door and yell something, thereby interrupting my sleep and letting the cold in. Dios. On the way up it was slightly better: we were on the full cama (fully reclining seat) at the upper level, and those two things actually make a huge difference! The only few times I woke up were because we were being served food (dinner with wine and a movie, classy), and the bus only made two stops, which was obviously more bearable.

the main square, always full of activity

in the morning

casual mountains in the distance

We were extremely relieved to finally arrive in Bariloche. The hostel we stayed at was really homey and the owners made us feel like we were included in a big happy family. (sidenote: the JAM is to die for during breakfast) The first night, we had an asado where we met other lodgers and went out to explore the nightlife. One word for that night: TEENAGERS. So many of them! Apparently Bariloche is the place to go after graduation/during breaks in high school, so while we were at bars and boliches, we felt OLD. -____-

The next day, we went kayaking in the lake by Cerro Ventana. The view was absolutely breathtaking and while I was rowing, it was really difficult not to be distracted by the scenery. We rowed for two hours and while I felt bad that I was holding up my friend and the guide (it was my first time!), I was too cold and in too much pain to try any harder, haha.

My arms were in pain when we hiked up Cerro Companario the day after (I have no upper body strength!). It was the steepest 30 minute hike I ever walked but the view from up top was breath taking and unbelievable. From the top of Cerro Companario, you can see all 7 lakes! Each lake glistened pale shades of blue and turquoise, changing under the sunlight. It was truly nature at its finest.

about to start the trek

adventure pose

we took the chairlift down, and the view was amazing

breath taking

 

Since the famous Llao Llao Hotel Resort was around the corner, we had to stop by, of course. This clip is of the lake near the hotel.

llao llao!

chocolate factory

cascada del duendes

beautiful, peaceful sunrise on nahuel huapi lake in front of the hostel

restaurant decorated with money

And for dinner, we had to pick up some chocolates. You’re only in Bariloche once, right? 😀

amazing chocolate

 

As much as I loved meeting new people, spending time playing Bananagrams and passing around fernet with other lodgers (we met other IFSA-ers from Buenos Aires!), my complaint for Bariloche is that it’s very commercialized and caters toward tourists. There were times when I felt that there was nothing to do but buy and eat chocolate. And one of the differences between Mendoza and Bariloche is that everything there is much more expensive. Plus, it’s so easy to continuously buy chocolate! 😀 Apart from the prices, tourism, and the loooong bus ride, I’m really happy I got to explore the lakes district. I can’t capture or explain the view in words. You’ll have to go there for yourself!

If I have more time, I think I’ll head down to El Calafate to see glaciers. Or maybe see Tronador in Bariloche, as it’s snowcapped all year round, and has both glaciers and volcanoes! Enjoy this quick clip of the lakes!

 

 

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Can´t believe it´s been two weeks already

Time August 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi everyone,

For anyone who speaks Spanish, Mendoza is the place to be (sorry Buenos Aires). It is beautiful here. The mountains are like a picture postcard. It´s been cold lately. They say below zero, but in Fahrenheit its only about 30 degrees. However, it was snowing yesterday and is supposed to snow again today. I never thought I´d see snow in August, but there it was. There is a lot more snow in the mountains than down here in the city where it hasn´t yet stuck to the ground.

I finally figured out how to upload photos here, so here are some photos of my first weekend here with my host family. We went on a little family trip to the mountains; my host mom, sister, older sister that doesn´t live with us, her husband and their daughter, who´s three.

My host family at our picnic at the Old Manzano

This is my two host sisters and my cuñado.

my host sister and I

My host sister Vicky and me in the nieve!

beautiful view of the mountains

The view of the mountains as we drove through.

sunset and moonrise in the farmlands

As we drove home, the moon was rising just as the sun was setting with bodegas, and fruit trees all around us.

It has been an excellent first two weeks in Argentina.

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