I am writing this post feeling distinctly worse for wear after our third expedition with Sube Conmigo on Saturday. I consider myself to be in fairly good physical shape and it is not like we are climbing Mount Aconcagua or anything that dramatic, but yet today various parts of my body are complaining slightly. It would be interesting to know how the students feel the day after our expeditions, because it struck me on the hike down the mountain yesterday, that even though they were all tired, their energy levels were still incredibly high.
But let me start at the beginning. We headed to Cajon del Maipo which is a valley that extends far into the Andes Mountains to the South East of Santiago. Luckily for us the valley is fairly well protected from the contamination that plagues Santiago in winter and the fact that an environmental alert was declared in the city for Saturday did not affect our expedition.
The hike started with a bit of an adventure through thick forest because we took the wrong path.
Melinda and Bárbara – two of the monitors from San Luis School surrounded by the thick vegetation.
The adventure didn’t end once we were on the right path. There were one or two places where we had to do some interesting manouevres around trees and climb over a few large boulders.
In this photo one of the monitors is helping Olivia (the coordinator of the Sube Conmigo programme) scale a large boulder.
Taking a break with Ignacio and Daniel (two of the students from San Luis School) and Olivia
It seems like there are many paths that lead to the top of the mountain and about 3/4 of the way up, we had to decide which way to go.
…however in the end we found the easiest, widest and safest path to the top.
The greatest thing about climbing a mountain, is getting to the top and being greeted by a spectacular 360 degree view. This is especially true in the Andes and when we reached the top of Cerro Palestro, the view of the snow-capped peaks to the east was worth all the effort.
The snow-capped peaks of the Andes in the distance.
Manuel and one of the teachers admiring the view from the top!
Once we reached the top of the mountain we all enjoyed a well -deserved break in the shade and lunch. Some of the group even managed to fit in a quick siesta before our activity for the afternoon.
Two of the teachers from San Luis School having a quick nap in the shade.
On every excursion of Sube Conmigo there is a theme or topic for the day and this time it was on safety and first aid in the mountains. The key thing about any excursion into the mountains is to be prepared for any eventuality and know what to do in the case of an accident. For this reason four of the monitors who have experience in first aid gave mini talks on how to deal with difficult climatic conditions such as extreme heat or cold; fatigue; dehydration; sprains and other injuries.
Manuel telling us about how to prevent sprains and breaks, especially when descending a mountain, and in the case of an injury what to do to minimise movement and prevent further damage.
Patricio, the “actor” of the group, being used by one of the teachers to demonstrate what to do in the case of cuts and open injuries.
At the end of the hike, once we had made it down the mountain safely, we had a moment of reflection and one of the monitors asked us to think about what it is that makes us want to participate in Sube, either as students, teachers or volunteers. I tried to think of the main reason why I am enjoying being part of this programme and to be honest I couldn’t find just one…
I think many Santiaguinos don’t get the opportunity to explore the marvels of nature that are right at their doorstep and those that have the means to enjoy their surroundings don’t necessarily make the most of them, choosing instead to spend their weekends indoors or at a mall. So firstly, I feel extremely privileged to get to explore the wonders of the mountains.
The company – the students, the monitors, the teachers. Everyone involved in Sube Conmigo make for great company on each excursion. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the energy of the students is incredible and while on occasions we have to offer encouragement to those that are tired or who find the climb really difficult, no one ever gives up and everyone makes it in the end. Laughter, singing and jokes keep everyone entertained throughout the day.
There are many other things that I love about this programme and as busy as I am right now, I find myself really looking forward to the second Saturday of each month, to get out and explore another mountain and reconnect with the monitors and students.
Group Photo! (Credit: Emil Namur Yunis)