July 30, 2019
To everyone back home,We wrapped up our time together by exploring the bustling markets, landmarks, and sights of Santiago. And of course we shared steaming cups of mate, hacky sack rallies, and final card games up until we boarded the plane. The following quote was shared at our first Moonup and at our last morning huddle together and we’d like to share it with all of you:
“An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks, or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way.”- Shawna Grapentin
We can’t thank you enough for an incredible 21 days together! We have drank mate, hacky sacked, and laughed until we cried our way around South America. We will never forget our time here from hiking through the snowy mountains of Patagonia to sleeping under tents in the desert. We have all left a little bit of ourselves in Chile and Argentina. In return, this place, through its beauty and its wildness, has taught us about what we love, what we cherish, and the deepest truths inside ourselves.
July 29, 2019
Hola familia y compadres!
As travel pros now, we skillfully navigated the Santiago airport and departed for Calama, a mining town and gateway for our next adventure – the Atacama Desert! Landing into the dry, stark landscape, we were expecting warm temps but instead were greeted with the chilly high-altitude desert and our new guide, Cristobal. We drove through a seemingly barren and arid land that is actually the copper mining capital of Chile, employing some 50,000 people. As the drive continued, the landscape turned even more otherworldly with dominating volcanoes, salt canyons, and herds of guanacos. Upon arrival to San Pedro de Atacama, we quickly transitioned into hiking mode and followed our LODs Sierra and Sy for an afternoon hike in the picturesque Valle de la Luna. Sunset was enjoyed at a lookout with some friendly games of hacky sack and shared cups of mate to keep us warm. Our LODs led another lovely Moonup – our first outside and under the stars!
In the morning, Cristobal led us further into the desert to begin our desert camping adventure. Elly accompanied MK and Martin and headed straight to camp where they sought refuge from the winds under a shelter conveniently situated near 2,500-year-old petroglyphs. The rest of the crew was dropped off in what seemed like the middle of nowhere to begin their 10-mile journey to camp, led by LODs Parker and Dabney. Bushwhacking through the open desert provided ample opportunity for trail chats and epic photos. Meg continues to be a shining star on the trail leaving the rest of the group with laughing induced stomach aches. Mile 7 or so led us into the Valle del Arcoiris or the Rainbow Valley, named self-evidently for its unbelievable colors and a landscape that evoked an encouraging energy which pushed us through the final 3 miles. Camp welcomed us with warm smiles from MK, Martin, and Elly, hot mate, snacks, and a forceful wind.
Due to the gusty winds, we opted out of climbing to higher elevation and enjoyed a long hike right from camp. LODs Bo and Madden kept spirits high despite challenging winds. We crossed the Rio Grande in a deep canyon and climbed high ridge lines with expansive views. After lunch in a picturesque slot canyon, protected from the winds, we enjoyed some solo hiking time to contemplate our time together and reflect on the trip thus far. We were again greeted at camp with warm drinks and tasty snacks and also tents flattened by the strong winds. Cristobal showed up the sack crew with his incredible footwork but we continue to hone our skills. The altitude and wind prove to be great training aids.
After a sleepless night for all in what was the biggest wind and sandstorm in 5 years, we finally sought refuge at lower elevation in San Pedro. Turns out we were not the only ones to endure a desert winter storm. We arrived into town to find sand blown streets. Per usual, this all-star crew made the most of the change in plans. We emptied our boots and packs of sand and enjoyed much cherished showers. Mostly clean, we spent the afternoon enjoying the cute, dusty town of San Pedro de Atacama. In the spirit of Christmas in July, we drew names and ran around town collecting secret Santa gifts for each other. Cristobal and his crew prepared a delicious taco dinner that we enjoyed outside and pretended like we were still camping as originally planned. Quinlyn and Julia led a fun Moonup that ended in our gift exchange. We are so impressed by the thoughtfulness expressed in the gifts. What a quality crew!
Well rested, we got back to our hiking legs and journeyed through a cactus lined desert canyon with Cristobal and his trusty doggo sidekicks. Unfortunately, the winter weather still rears its head at high altitudes, and we are unable to visit the notorious geysers and hot springs in the area. On the other hand, we have enjoyed exploring San Pedro and some competitive card games in the sunshine. Our first all-male LOD team, Parker and Martin valiantly led the group during all activities, particularly in some rallying hacky sack where we got a record rally of 20 touches!! Taylor has perfected the “extendo” move and miraculously avoided pulling a muscle to do so. After Moonup, and not yet ready to sleep, many of us enjoyed some friendly card games – Leah, Sierra, Meg and Tyler playing Hearts, Dabney and Court continuing their streak of Spit (p.s. Court is winning 11-5), and most everyone else playing Capitalism.
Our last day in the desert was celebrated with a morning of sandboarding (snowboarding on sand) in the Valle de Muerte amid expansive, otherworldly desert views and towering sand dunes. MK and Madden proved to be stellar cheerleaders, encouraging everyone’s hidden sandboarding talents. We had some olympians of sand-boarders who crushed the dunes and even impressed us by landing some jumps! For lunch, we gorged on homemade empanadas – a local delicacy. A crowd favorite is the original flavor, pino which consists of beef, onions, hardboiled egg, and olive. Though cold showers, we welcomed the opportunity to bathe the copious amounts of sand from our bodies, although we will still be finding sand in every crevasse for days to come. Dinner was a most enjoyable barbecue out in the desert that was followed by a fantastic lesson on astronomy. We learned how to navigate using the southern hemisphere stars and identify notable constellations. We saw star clusters thousands of light years away, planets, dying stars, and other celestial wonders through telescopes. Some crowd favorites were planets Jupiter and Saturn – we even got to see the surrounding rings! Turns out observation spheres not only allow for optimal star gazing, but also create crazy acoustics as Court and Meg discovered. After an evening full of awe and wonder and shooting stars we returned to our hostel starry eyed and ready for Sierra and Sy to again facilitate a fun Moonup together. As the end of our time together draws nearer, we continue to cherish every bit of time left and prolong retreating to our beds as long as possible.
We finally bid farewell to the beloved Atacama Desert and made way back to the bustling city of Santiago. Jamming out to our special playlist on the way to the airport, we got all the feels realizing the end is closer than we would like. LODs Bo and Leah led a very tear filled final Moonup that will be long cherished by all of us. Over the course of our six hour (!!) Moonup, we laughed and cried, filled our hearts, and cleaned our hostel of all Kleenex. Tomorrow we will explore Santiago and more importantly, soak up our last bit of time before traveling back to the states.
July 22, 2019
Hola from the trails of Torres del Paine!
After a well deserved night of rest, on day 7 our team commenced our trekking excursion of the Torre Del Paines, one of the most breathtaking spots on the planet. We arrived at the trailhead where our LODs, Julia and Martin led the group in a warmup and stretch in the midst of some windy weather. Warmed up and as ready as we would ever be, we began our hike up a spectacular, golden valley. Along the way we saw rainbows, snow dusted peaks, glacial streams, scampering hares and turquoise lakes. The wind attempted to restrain our forward movement, but the group resiliently pushed through the billowing headwinds to arrive at our lake front refugio at the base of Torres del Paine’s towering peaks. Some of the group engaged in some group stretch turned competitive rock skipping on the bank of the lake where Sy showed off his handstand skills.
Day two of our trek was certainly one that our group will cherish and remember for years to come. After a chilly wakeup and some much needed tea, we once again took to the trails for another day of hiking that rewarded us with more unforgettable scenery. A steep uphill complete with river crossings, ice fields, and puma characterized our mystical journey through the mountains. A fierce rumbling in the background prompted our group to turn our heads to the top of the Paines Grandes where our eyes caught the sighting of a small avalanche coming down the mountain. Don’t worry folks it was fall off in the distance! Late into the blue-sky day, we arrived at the anticipated viewpoint where we enjoyed a brief photo shoot while making sure to absorb our surroundings advancing our profound appreciation for all that earth offers… and of course some tea and hacky sack. Let us not forget that LOD Sierra wore her LOD banana costume for the entirety of the hike, adding some literal and figurative color to every photo. Our other LOD, Bo was slightly more selective with his tutu LOD costume appearance. We welcomed warm tea and a hearty dinner and watched awestruck as an eclipsed Moon appeared over the stunning lake. Sierra and Bo led a touching Moonup by a roaring, warm fire where Sierra recited a poem that we would like to share with y’all:
Prayer for the 21st Century:
May the road be free for the journey.
May it lead where they promised it would.
May the stars that gave ancient barrings
be seen and be understood.
May every aircraft fly safely. May every traveler be found.
May sailors in crossing the sea, not hear the cries of the drowned.
May gardens be wild like jungles. May nature never be tamed.
May dangers create of us heroes. May fears always have names.
May the mountains stand to remind us of what it means to be young.
May we be outlived by our daughters.
May we be outlived by our sons.
May the bombs rust away in the bunkers.
May the doomsday clock be rewound.
May the solitary scientist working, remember the holes in the ground.
May the knife remain in the holder.
May the bullet stay in the gun.
May those who live in the shadows
be seen by those in the sun.
Day three of our trek led us to an abundance of landscape that was completely new to us. The trails of Torres del Paine were buzzing with conversation as we continued discovering the ever-changing yet never disappointing terrain. This valuable time undoubtedly brought like-minds together which was made even more special that we were able to bond in our new favorite place. Day three was completed with rolling terrain and unmatched views of the glorious glacial grey. After another accomplished day, the team arrived at our cozy refugio just as the rain began to fall. Despite a torrential downpour, Taylor, Court, Martin, and Tyler could not be kept away from the glacier and they continued hiking with our guides, Chapa and Chalo to a picturesque, up front lookout of the expansive glacier and iceberg filled waters. The remainder of the crew elected to stay warm and rest in front of large windows and a warm fire. LODs MK and Quinlyn facilitated yet another lovely Moonup that brought everyone to tears and ended in the warmest of night night hugs.
Day four of our trek finally presented some winter conditions – strong winds and snow. After hiking back towards the refugio, the team boarded a boat that transported us across the crystal blue lake. Due to the winter, off season with limited options for lodging, we bused to a lodge at the entrance of the park. There, we were greeted by warm hospitality and an abundance of chilean snacks and more tea. Sy, Parker, Martin, Tyler, Elly, and Chapa enjoyed an epic and memorable tea induced hacky sack party. Dinner was an absolute feast of warm soup, salads, beef and rice, and a warm pie dessert! After dinner, the group engaged in an intense game of haybarn where Sy ultimately won after a veggie-off against Court. The night was completed with a lighthearted Moonup led by Leah and Court and some seriously competitive card games by headlight.
We woke to a winter wonderland on day five and boarded our bus back into the park. The park rangers notified us of road and trail closings in the park including the access to the Towers – our scheduled route. This resilient group insisted on making the most of this change and rather than a big push for the Towers, we drove to other highlights in the snowy park and consumed copious amounts of tea. Lunch was enjoyed back near the border crossing of Chile and Argentina, where the five miles in between the two countries is now referred to as “GIINDRYYYY”. Upon arrival back, the hacky sackers again improved skills and kept warm with some impressive rallies. Meanwhile the girls, led by Madden and Dabney, serenaded the streets of Puerto Natales with some Lion King classics. Some of us crazies – Leah, Taylor, Court, Meg, Dabney, and Elly decided to pursue a polar plunge and actually ran into the white-capped waters of the Pacific. Cold is an understatement. Quinlyn and Julia played hairdressers, giving Sy and Parker a new do. Taylor, Court, Elly, Leah, Parker, MK, Sy and Sierra took Chalo’s invite to climb at Boulder Natales for a little afternoon activity. LODs Meg and Martin led Moonup at the bouldering wall for a nice change of scenery.
Early start for this crew again as we headed to catch a flight northbound for a rainy and wintery Santiago. Sad goodbyes to our favorites, Chapa and Chalo and on to our next adventure in Northern Chile. LODs Taylor and MK took the initiative to help plan out our afternoon in Santiago which included a supermarket adventure and our first home cooked meal!! Tomorrow we will head back out to the wilderness to begin another trek.
I feel obligated to mention the levels of tea consumed which border on gluttonous. The Chileanos introduced us to this wonder and we have not been able to break ourselves of this tradition. Our hacky sack adventure through the southern tip of South America has been fully sponsored by this plant. We love tea, and to an extent, tea loves us too. So today, as the rain falls outside our little hostel in Santiago, we snuggle, sack around, play cards, and indulge in our favorite new drink: mate (tea).
*Sponsored by Piporé Mate
With love,Tyler and Elly
Shoutouts from the crew:
Parker- Hola Mom, Dad, and Allison! I’m having the best time here in Patagonia! Every view we’ve seen has been absolutely stunning and I’m not sure if i’ll be able to leave. I love and miss you guys and I cant wait to fill you guys in on some of the crazy memories i’ve already made on this trip.
Court- Mom, Dad, Cooper, Grizz & Coco: Patagonia has been the most amazing experience so far and I am absolutely loving my time here. I have made so many amazing friends and seen so many new beautiful places. I hope all is well back home and although I am not ready to leave, I have so many stories to share. (Also hey Taylor’s parents, I am so excited to have a place on the dorm room floor at W&L this year!)
Madden- hi mom, dad, stiles, harlow, and JP! I’m having sooooo much fun and don’t want to come home! JP- hope you had fun at tennis camp!! LYTHAB!!!! see you soon (sadly)
Taylor- hey family! Im in Patagonia! Insane! I am most certainly alive and well and loving life. We got to Chile a few days ago from Argentina and im not quite sure exactly where but the days are short and the temps are chilly. nothing a little mate cant fix. te quiero y nos vemos (also hello to Court’s parents. ill see yall in park city this winter)
Dabney – Heyy The Best Fam Bammm! Well, I having an absolute blast in Patagonia! Still can’t believe I am here and with the best group ever! You better believe I’m coming back with the hottest new bod bc this trekking is a workout. Gahhhhh Leeeeee. Any who… Love y’all! Miss you always! XoXo, Dabs — p.s. pls tell everyone I say hellooooo
MK – Hey y’all!! I am having the absolute best time in Patagonia. I have met the most amazing people, this group and the people who live here. Tell Cecilia and Jay happy birthday and the pups hello. I guess I will have to see y’all in a few weeks but honestly I don’t think I will be coming home. Staying curious! Love and miss y’all (you too greer) 3LW MK
Leah – hey guys! patagonia is so cool. i love everyone on my trip. hope you guys are fine im doing great see you soon! also dad i havent seen any chilean bucket hats but ill see what i can do when we get to Santiago.
Julia – hey everyone! what’s up? I’m having so much fun in Patagonia! It’s so cool (literally and physically)! I hope wherever yall are in the world is awesome! I cannot wait to hug yall and show you the most wonderful pictures from here. thank you so much for sending me on the mystery trip. I love and miss you!️ also HAPPY BDAY SHELBZ!!
Sierra – hey guys! I’m truly living my best life and absolutely thriving. I love all of you and hope you’re having a great time. Well anyway, I’ve made some amazing friends, and I’m gonna be visiting everyone all year. Don’t want to leave but can’t wait to talk all your ears off (what’s new?!) about all of the unbelievable things we did when I get home. Love ya!!
Mary Margaret – Hey y’all!! its meggie moo out here in PATAGONIA!!! I am having the absolute time of my life with the coolest people ever! Thank you so much for this amazing trip and the life long memories. Hope all is good at home! Love and miss y’all! XOXO
Martin – Hi Mom and Dad! its halfway through the trip and I have been having the time of my life. Down here it is winter and I have never seen more snow in my life. We are almost done with our first expedition and today it is pouring snow, which can only mean a snowball fight. I am keeping my eyes open. I love you guys so much! See you soon.
Quinlyn – Hi mom and dad! I’m already daydreaming of the huge winter coats I plan to buy when I come back home. But beyond the drastic climate, this place is so beautiful. You guys are going to love it when you come in October—you’re still welcome to bring me. Apart from that, I miss you and give Oliver a hug for me. Also, don’t forget to check my college stuff!! I love you
Sy – Hey everyone! I miss you guy so much, and I cant wait to share all of my memories with yall! The trip has been amazing so far, even though it has been freezing cold everyday! Love yall and see you soon!
Bo- Hello family. Im having a blast! See you soon.
July 16, 2019
Hola familia y compadres!!!!
BIG reveal…. we are in… Disney World. Psych!
We are chilling with the guanacos (our llama-like friends) in PATAGONIA!
As fortune told us (Tyler/Elly revealed our destination via fortune cookies) in the Atlanta airport, we boarded a plane headed south. Way south. Many hours later we landed in a crisp, cool Buenos Aires and hit the ground running with our local expert and guide, Augustine. We quickly dropped our bags at the hotel and hopped back in the bus with our favorite guide Augustine and driver, Daddio. We were given a quite comprehensive tour of Buenos Aires including the La Bombanera futbol stadium, the colorful Caminito neighborhood, and the amazing Recoleta Cemetery. After the tour, the group enjoyed our first dinner together – Argentinian pizza, a fun first Moonup complete with some super sweet puffy jackets for alumni gifts, and lovely goodnight hugs. We had an early start for this crew as we made way even further south to El Calafate. With the help of our positive and energetic LODs, Taylor and Leah, we hopped up for our 2:30 am wake up to a tremendous storm. So tremendous that it delayed our flight. Although we were quite delayed, your kids were troopers and took the extra airport time to get to know one another and hacky sack squad of Tyler, Martin, Leah, and Parker! We finally hopped on our plane and soon enough we were seeing our first aerial views of the iconic beauty that is Patagonia. We were eager to get off and see these views from the ground and meet our next guide, Juan. He greeted us with enthusiasm and sack lunches to enjoy on the road, while we got a fabulous tour of a glacial valley on the way to El Chaltén – the town that would be our home for the next 2 days. Upon arrival to the cloud covered postcard town, we laced up our hiking boots and hit the trail for a beautiful, snowy hike. The walk was much welcomed after the long travel to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh mountain air. Thanks to early sunsets, we rolled in to the hostel at dark and indulged in warm drinks and a filling dinner of Argentinian beef and flan dessert. Our Moonup was enjoyed in the cozy indoors while we watched snow fall onto the streets outside. We woke up to a fresh snow turning El Chaltén into a winter wonderland. LODs, Madden and Parker, started us off with a motivational morning huddle before embarking on another day hike. Between off season emptiness and the snow, only our footprints broke the silence on the streets. We climbed above town to unmatched views of the valley where we stood in awe of the beauty. Sierra has quickly become Miss Congeniality with her popular trail companionship and enjoyed conversations. Lunch was enjoyed on a frozen Laguna Capri. A single snowball thrown by Martin quickly escalated into a full blown snowball fight on the lake where Bo’s arm was a force of nature. Julia, Meg, and Elly built a lovely little snow woman who adorned a frisbee beret. The hacky sack crew continued to practice their skills on the frozen lake for some extreme hacky sacking. After hiking all day with our fingers crossed for some clearer skies, the clouds finally lifted upon our descent back into town. We even got a glimpse of the majestic Fitz Roy peak – the iconic Patagonia brand logo. Golden hour at a viewpoint over the valley proved to be an epic photo location where we relished in the light and filled our SD cards. We arrived back to the hotel with just enough sunlight to go enjoy walking the streets of El Chaltén where most businesses are closed due to the winter season but we managed to find some Knick knacks and additional warm layers. Everyone pitched in a couple of favorite songs to create a playlist to enjoy for our travel from El Chaltén to Puerto Natales, Chile. LODs Court and Meg got us ready to rock out and kept the group in high spirits during the long, chilly errr Chile travel day across the border. Juan suggested a couple of historic stopping points where we could stretch our legs and further our education on the area. MK has demonstrated admirable leadership throughout our whole journey. Bo enjoyed some much needed R&R and enviably slept nearly every minute of the full day journey. Upon arrival in the picturesque town of Puerto Natales, Quinlyn, Taylor, Martin, Meg, Sy, Court, and Elly went for a jog along the water watching the sun sink behind snowy peaks and pink flamingos stand in the cold water. Our cozy hostel appears to be straight out of a magazine, complete with sheep skin throws over the chairs. After a filling dinner, Court and Meg led a Moonup for the books that left us even closer with one another. The next morning we met our guides “Chapa” and “Chalo” who took us to a nearby cave for a day hike. We met up with a local, Jorge, who owned the land nearby the cave and showed us around parts of his mild 10,000 hectares of beauty that included caves, petroglyphs, epic views, and some local wildlife, notably some massive condors. This was probably everyone’s favorite excursion thus far as the weather was as beautiful and sunny as our LODs Sy and Dabney the reeny-bopper. We finished up our “rest day” hike and headed back to the town to look in local shops. We are currently preparing for our first major expedition: a 5-day backpacking trek in Torres del Paine! We are so excited to explore more of this special part of the word. So far this trip has been a BLAST! We couldn’t be more fortunate (see what we did there) to share this adventure with your wonderful children!
Adios y Paz,
Elly & Tyler
July 11, 2019
Hello Mystery Trip friends and families!
The moment we’ve all been waiting for…. the group has all arrived safely in Buenos Aires, Argentina to start their adventures in the Southern Cone! Can’t wait to hear what they’re up to next…