Our team leaders are kind, funny, intellgient men who find common ground in their love of nature despite coming from opposite sides of the earth. Dr. Kurt Heidenger (pictured right), is a philosopher and director of Biocitizen, who lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts. In 2009, Kurt created the school of Biocitizen with the goal of educating people of all ages about field environmental philosophy. Emilio Garcia de la Heurta Sutil (pictured left) and his partner Valentina Carvallo Pirola, from Pichilemu, Chile, run an ecotourism company called Superfun Chile. Since 2004, this dynamic duo has been taking people into the outdoors for surfing, mountaineering, rock climbing and so much more. While they do extreme sports they are also promoting a sense of respect and love for nature.
These two organizations planned out the “Now Voyager” itinerary in the spring of 2016 and our team put this itinerary to the test this past winter. The itinerary was tight and packed full of activities from surfing, to writing, to volunteering. Our days flew by. Kurt kept saying, “How many days have we lived today?” implying that we were moving so quickly and living multiple days in only a 24 hour time block. The only thing that was consistent was our daily reading of Pablo Neruda poems which was a moment for us to sit, listen and think. It is hard for me to explain what we did each day because it is too much for this post. However, I want to give my readers a taste of what is going to come from this blog.
In Pichilemu, we would start our mornings with a light breakfast and head down to the beach for a surf lesson. Surfing is surreal and brings out a respect for the ocean that I’ve never felt before since you really have to understand the ocean to be a successful surfer. After surfing for hours we would meet back on the black sand beach, drink homemade chai and eat marzipan cookies. Once we were full, happy and exhausted we would head back for showers and lunch. Our nights were always different activities intended to immerse us into Chilean culture. We attended dinner every night at a local restaurant “Rancho Solitario” where we ate traditional Chilean food. We repeated this schedule for almost 4 days.
We had an in between day that allowed us a practice run of camping in a beautiful old growth Chilean forest. After this we drove four hours to the Andes, up a one way road to our destination of Termas del Flaco. We spent one night in this small touristy town and prepared for our mountaineering trip. We camped for two nights in the Andes. One day up, one day trip and one day down. I realized it is really important to stay extremely hydrated when hiking 7,000 feet in elevation which also means going to the bathroom outside a lot of times.
For now, I just want to say thank you to our two fearless leaders, Kurt and Milo. Taking on this endeavor was a dream of theirs and I’m happy to be apart of making this dream come true. During my college career I have looked for an abroad program that meets what I am looking for. I was looking for a way to learn new things, to get out of my comfort zone, to experience a new culture and to be immersed into the environment with a small group of people. Now Voyager met my personal criteria and gave me even more – an experience of a lifetime.