My legs really hate me today, but yesterday was so worth it. I left my house at seven a.m. to meet six other girls from my program in Valparaíso to take a train and a bus to La Campana National Park. The park is about 25 miles from the coast, but the landscape changed dramatically once we left the city. In Valparaíso and Viña del Mar the geography is flat near the beaches and then extreme hills a mile or so inland. However, in the countryside there are more mountains than hills and beautiful green spaces. It somewhat reminded me of driving through Tennessee, but with less traffic and urbanization.
The train ride took about 45 minutes to get from Valparaíso to Limache, which is a small inland town. From there we took a bus to the entrance of the park in Olmue. We decided to take the Sendero Andinista; originally we were aiming for the absolute peak but only two out of seven made it that far because of how quickly one needed to go up. So a round of applause to Rachel and Margot for being super humans! The rest of us made it to the first “mini peak”. The hike up was absolutely breath-taking for two reasons. The first was of how beautiful it was. The second being how difficult the actual hike was. We only climbed 5 kilometers up the mountain but a lot of it was actually going up. I personally grossly underestimated how difficult the trek was going to be. However, I was impressed with how well-kept the trail was. It was clearly marked and easy to follow. I would highly recommend going if ever in the area!
We hiked with a group of Chileans who we met at the bus station and we ended up having about the same pace. They were very interested to hear about the U.S. and our opinions about the president. I’ve yet to meet a Chilean who has a positive opinion about Trump, and in general they seem to be quite relieved when I tell them how strongly I, and other Americans, disagree with our President’s policies. Besides politics they asked us about TV shows, music, and other things from pop culture. They were definitely patient with us when we struggled with remembering some Spanish words.
It took us about five hours but we completed the hike. For me, it was an awesome challenge that pushed me to keep climbing. But also, it was a great way to train for Paine del Torres in the beginning of April! This trip has already begun to push me mentally and physically, but I am so excited to be here.