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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Ode to Patagonia

As our group transitions from Chile to Peru, we are filled with excitement to explore a new country as well as sadness to part ways with Patagonia. As a way to reflect and express our gratitude, we wrote a letter to thank Pachamama and Patagonia for all that they provided. On the last full day of our climbing expedition we read the following out loud as if to speak directly to Patagonia:


Dear Patagonia,

      As our time with you expires, we must express our deepest gratitude for the gifts we have cherished this last month.

      Though we arrived in two groups, we were collectively mesmerized by your setting sun, drawing us closer to Chile Chico and to each other. As we were pulled across the open waters of Lago General Carrera, we landed in the open arms of the people in your towns, including Kathy, Doña Chabela, Luis, and many more.

      Every day your steep mountains and dense valleys provided us with a new challenge, yet the beauty of your landscape pushed us through. With your reviving sunshine we overcame brush, blisters, and burrs.

      Your condors reminded us to appreciate what Pachamama provides. We drank and swam in your glacial waters, and you challenged our preconceptions of who we are in your space, whether knees deep in a river or aisles deep in el supermercado.

      You taught some of us to climb, some of us to walk, and all of us to breathe deeply and be present. Thank you.

Yours Truly,

Andes Leadership Semester