Now about three weeks into the travels. Patagonia has been great. Santiago was fun to hang out in for a couple of days – counting my lucky stars that we passed through before the giant earthquake hit. My thoughts go out to the friends that we met in Santiago and in Patagonia and wish them a speedy recovery and lots of strength moving forward. The quake came as a huge shock to me as it was only two week prior that I was staying at the Andes Hostel in downtown Santiago. I haven’t looked to see the state of things as the Andes, but from what little I’ve been able to understand from the news looting has been running rampant and it would be a dangerous place to be right now. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like if we had been there. We have a bit of cash on us, but not enough to cover us for several weeks at a time in the event, as has happened in Santiago, most of the ATM’s have gone out of service and it’s hard finding even the most basic of items like fresh water and food.
The earthquake occured the morning after we got back from hiking 8 days in Torres de Paine. The hostel’s owner, Omar, was watching the TV early in the morning, which was a bit unusual and he turned around to us and told us that an earthquake had just struck Santiago and had registered above 8 on the Richter scale. It seemed like only yesterday that the tour guide at the Undurraga winery was telling us how Santiago was due for another big quake any day now and how the city was so much better off now that many of the buildings had been earthquake proofed. However, when I saw several of the 15 to 20 story building laying on their sides in downtown Santiago, I was powerfully reminded that no matter of “proofing” by humans can match the might of mother nature.
An article on CNN was saying something ridiculous that the quake had probably shifted the axis of the earth a bit and that we’ll now have shorter days… I didn’t bother reading the article as it seemed like the typical kind of thing to not give a shit about in these kinds of situations. The quake in combination with several long conversations with an Israli traveler that we met in El Chalten has pushed me towards seriously considering volunteer work for many sections of our trip. He told us about the site Helpx, which we are browsing through right now and that it’s not too hard to get hooked up with families or organizations who are looking for volunteers and will often exchange lodging and maybe some food for your services. While we don’t have intentions of going back to Santiago, the idea of helping out using our computer skills or something else entirely sounds like it would help fill a gap that both Hisako and I are feeling so far on the trip.
Patagonia has been an absolute blast and we’ve needed a full 2 to 3 weeks to see all the parts and get enough rest between hikes. Our next trip will take us up to Buenos Ares and from there the schedule becomes a lot less structured. I think it is from that point that we’ll begin to get out of the vacation mode that we are in right now and start mixing it up with volunteer work and meeting more local people. I need a Spanish class badly or at least sit down for a week and really focus on Spanish. A few words are sticking, but for the most part I’m pretty hopeless at this point. If anyone out there has recommendations for sites dedicated to volunteer work throughout the world or sites devoted to getting off the beaten path, please let me know.