The Edge of the World

I am currently enrolled in a South American study abroad program with my university. The first week of the semester took place in the extreme southern region of Chile in a relatively small town called Puerto Natales. This rustic town’s culture is evident on every corner from the quaint coffee shops to the hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I have a few pictures of the town that I would like to share. On our free day, a few friends and I decided to explore the town and stumbled across an abandoned building along the coast. This town will always have a piece of my heart.

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Before we arrived in Puerto Natales, we stopped at Parque Ñandú where we ate delicious locally grown food and had the privilege to interact with some native animals. Being in the middle of nowhere, Parque Ñandú felt especially magical.

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Our first big expedition took place on Grey Lake where we saw several glaciers in the Torres del Paine National Park. The boat tour could only hold a certain amount of students, so Andrew Saunders and I were placed on a different boat that was leaving slightly earlier than the rest of our group. Being two of the few students on our trip that cannot speak much Spanish, I’m not sure why we decided to take on this challenge. All was going well until the boat had a malfunction and we were taken back to shore. It was here where we were reunited back with our group. The boat repair was scheduled to take a while, so we decided to go out and explore the surrounding area. After a couple hours passed, we filed out onto a boat in the rain. Somehow, the boat filled up once again and I was left on the shore in the freezing rain, alone. Fortunately a few members of our group showed up and we huddled in a small shack with one of the workers. We talked with him and learned he had been working for the glacier boat tours for six months, but had been working in the park for over seven years. We soon boarded the next boat and endured a numbingly cold and rainy boat ride. We hopped on a different boat that fortunately had a roof, sat back, and enjoyed the ride. No words can describe the enormity of the glaciers we saw that day. I have never seen anything so unworldly.

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Our next adventure took place within the Torres del Paine National Park. We took a bus and travelled through the park visiting several viewpoints along the way. After stopping by a massive waterfall and witnessing several beautiful rainbows, we pulled over at a lookout point. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were hit with winds reaching close to 60 mph. 70 mph wind is capable of blowing a person off their feet. I just googled it. The place where we ate lunch was easily the single most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my entire life. We hiked up a nearby hill, and got a wonderful view of the mountains towering over the Baja Blast Mountain Dew colored lake. I have never been more impacted by nature. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The gargantuan mountains. The crisp arctic air. The powerful wind. It quite literally makes me want to be a better person. I’m not sure how and I’m not sure why, but it does. I found myself trying my best to fully embrace the moment, but failing. There is no way fully comprehend the majesty of the place. I did nothing to deserve those views. I did nothing to deserve to be here. I am eternally thankful I had the privilege to visit such a magical and beautiful piece of the Earth.

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We were leaving Puerto Natales and headed for Viña del Mar when we took a surprise Penguin Expedition. Tom, our director, was able to keep this trip a secret with the exception of a couple students. El Monumento Nacional de Los Pengüinos is an Island completely inhabited by 60,000 pairs of penguins. They warned us beforehand to mind our own business and not touch the penguins, however, I had the absolute perfect opportunity to approach a rogue penguin. There were no guards in sight and there was a penguin right on the edge of the path with his back towards me. I stealthily approached the penguin and knelt down, when it quickly turned around and without hesitation opened its beak and bit my knee. I quickly stood up and fled the scene. I still feel bad that I angered a penguin. The next stop on the boat ride took us to an adjacent island home to thousands of sea lions. Our group was able to get on top of the boat and have a front row seat to the chaotic island. As we approached the shore a group of sea lions neared our boat and put on a show. The deafening roars of the sea lions were actually terrifying. I have never seen any body of land teeming with so much life at once. It is encouraging to see places of Earth still completely untouched by humanity.

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Written and photographed by Bronson Crabtree [currently attending HULA]

His original blog post here.

For more information about HULA visit our website: www.harding.edu/international

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