I’m currently sitting in my car waiting for a friend to get out of an appointment, thinking of what I’m going to blog about. I have a good story for you! I’m thinking of the time my friend Ben and I decided to travel to the end of the world. Ben is privileged with the ability to fly on guest passes for US Airways, but turning a certain age the privileges change. So with things changing soon, he thought it would be good to make one last epic adventure and invite me along. So December 2015 we embarked on an adventure we will never forget!
Trying to discover an epic location, I am sure that Ben googled phrases like “big mountains”, “the end of the world”, “where humans don’t exist” to find this place… I remember him calling me one day and asking if I wanted to take a trip to "the end of the world" in Chile and hike a trail in Patagonia with him. He told me the mountains were “calling him”, haha. I’m almost always down for an adventure and this sounded like none other. Dientes De Navarino is the name of the trek he found so I googled it wondering what "the end of the world" could possibly look like. I didn't find too much information, but I did find one man's journey and maybe 5 photos. Some words I saw repeated through out the post were windy, desolate, cold, isolated, punishing climate, beautiful, rugged, windy, windy, cold and windy. Sounds great!
It was early December and we were off! We planned to go for about 7 or 8 days. Traveling with Ben is always an adventure. And using guest passes with plane tickets that don't actually exist until about 3 minutes before lift off, nothing like it! But we were off! We had 5 flights one way, all the way from Pittsburg Pennsylvania to Chile!
Its pretty exciting to land in a new country for the first time. You really don't know what to expect. I remember flying into Rio De Jinero in Brazil and seeing the greenest place I've ever seen. It was beautiful...and covered with a landscape that you could seem to only imagine... Green rolling hills for as far as the eye could see! As soon as we landed the adventure began.
With all of the quick planning and, well, the lack of...we somehow managed to get into Brazil with out visas. I haven't done too much traveling in the past so I really don't know much about them, so it never crossed my mind...or Ben's. So we got off the plane and the first thing we came to was a line to check our passports and visas. Immediately, there was a lot of confusion, not much English, and tons of waiting. It really was the strangest thing talking to countless people and guards and officers and managers, all asking the same questions, "how did you get here?", "why are you here?", "where are you going?". It was like everyone there was suddenly discombobulated by us entering there country. About 12 hours in, some ladies who worked there took our passports. It was really nothing new, different employees asked us all day for them. By this time it was night. We were tired. The women didn't return. The glass box turned into a ghost town with only a guard to watch us try and sleep on the tile floor. Don't think we were upset though!...Ben and I have shared our greatest laughs in those moments.
The sun rose the next morning, and the women returned with out passports! We found it funny how casual everyone was and how there was so little communication about what was happening and where our passports went for the night. They were nice though! They even spoke good english...and we clearly understood them when they told us we needed to pay $500 for a visa to continue on through Argentina. We were determined. There are so many details from phone calls with the embassy to flights being changed..I honestly cannot type it all haha. But we managed to continue our journey after 40 hours of being stuck in Brazil. We ended up flying through Argentina and making it to the bottom of the country to a city called Ushaia. From there we took a boat from Ushaia to a drop off point in Chile, and from there, an hour long van ride along the coast to a little town called Puerto Williams. Far far away..
We stayed in a hostel in Puerto Williams for one night to rest and get ready to start our hike the next day. The landscape that surrounded the town was incredible. Snow capped mountains next to the ocean was the scenery displayed. The morning of the hike we met some guys who just finished the trek so they were able to give us a map and some tips on the trail. We were off! Our bags were heavy. Really heavy. This is another story, but a year previous Ben and I hiked a trail in Hawaii and our bags were not nearly the weight! We were ready for cold weather.
The start of the hike went straight up a mountain through thick forest. We got to the top, beyond the trees and were in awe of the beauty. It was incredible to say the least. We were on top of the world looking down it seemed. Nothing but mountains for miles. There were white markers every kilometer that we followed. As the sun went down the first night, we were determined to get to the first camping spot the guys we met in town recommended we reach.. Besides that, the trail was so steep we really had no choice. We reached our mark and set up camp for the first night around 11:00pm with light to spare. It never got completely dark at night. I remember the first night, Ben and I sleeping in a tiny two-man tent, woke up and looked at each other with the wind howling, and went back to sleep. I thought we were going to blow away! We woke up to a calm morning, and clearly saw the view before us for the first time. Incredible! Towering teeth like mountains; there was waterfalls, ponds and lakes all over.
My favorite thing about the landscapes in Patagonia, is that there was water everywhere! Lakes and rivers around every corner. Literally hundreds of them throughout the hike. I was hoping to see some cool wildlife out there, but we saw nothing but a bird. I remember Ben and I, a few days in to the hike, noticed the hawk like bird and we had to stop and enjoy it. We hadn't seen a sign of life for days! No animals live in those mountains because of the harsh climate. It was a strange place to be at times because of it..but no less beautiful.
We continued our journey through mountains and snow and thick forest and rivers and broken rock and shale and mud for 4 nights and 5 days. We endured the freezing cold temperatures with wind that would sit us on our butts, we hiked with heavy bags up and down steep rocky slopes, and we managed to navigate over 30 kilometers of the roughest terrain you could ask for. It was the hardest hiking we have ever done but it was well worth it. It's what you would expect at the end of the world!
After hiking through otherworldly landscapes and seeing beauty we will never forget, we completed the Dientes De Navarino trek and returned to Puerto Williams. Getting back to a small amount of civilization, we had to confront reality and hope for a smoother journey home. You would think it couldn't go any worse than our trip in..but I'm not sure if it went any better.. After some car rides, a boat, hostel, and airplane, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As soon as we got to the airport a similar scene started to unfold than the one entering Brazil. We did our best to be patient. Fortunately for Ben, he was "higher up" on the guest pass food chain, being a pilot's son and all, and he was able to transfer flights and do things I could not. He said he had somewhere he had to be the next day and it was important and he had to go. We made quick plans of how I was going to get back to America. A few hours later Ben was off. We hugged and he probably said something like.."see you on the other side".
I soon found out I would be stuck in the airport over night. This time I brought an air mattress to sleep on. I was prepared... We had no communication with anyone from home so I was wondering what people were going to say when Ben arrived by himself. I can't even explain what happened to get me home, but it was a miracle. I didn't think getting out of Argentina would be more complicated than getting in. It was but I made it! and when I entered the international section of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, all the familiar faces recognized me. They were excited to give me my flight to the states. I'll never forget the feeling of taking my seat on my last flight back to America and finally know I am heading home. I am thankful for the journey and excited to share the experience :)
Thanks for reading!