That One Time I Followed a Stray Dog up the Side of a Volcano and there was a Magnitude 8.3 Earthquake

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September 12th, 2015: I arrive in La Serena after San Pedro. Missing my friends Phil & Brenda, I waste no time meeting some new people at the hostel. We take a walk to the beach where it’s so nice to see the ocean… and for me that’s about it. I’m reminded of the inner uneasiness of not being quite a city guy. People, trash, loud noises. I find myself often thinking of peaceful quiet places in loud busy moments.

“The mountains are calling & I must go.”

I unsuccessfully try to go on a star gazing tour on supposedly one of the few cloudy nights of the year. Thanks el nino. Deciding I’ll skip the big cities of Valparaiso & Santiago (where I was supposed to spend a year teaching English abroad until I decided to just travel where ever I felt, thank god) I end up just (and by just I mean by seconds) making the transfer amidst my 24 hour bus route all the way to Puerto Varas!… except for the fact that I…

Just fell asleep on the bus for way too long and ended up in a city further away called Puerto Montt. (A quick note: was interesting to be on a bus that was boarded in the middle of the night by police and drug sniffing dogs. Waking up with a cop standing in front of you talking while holding a giant gun is enough to get your attention. Except for me who sleeps so heavily that when I wake it takes me a few seconds to process what’s going on.) In any case, I just overslept, no biggy, it’s only a 30 minute short bus ride away! Woot! I bus it to Puerto Varas and find myself with no knowledge of where I am or going to stay. It’s such a freeing feeling. As I walk around looking for a good hostel, which a couple people recommended one in particular, I roam the streets with the pokemon travel theme song stuck in my head. Just me & my backpack. No one knows where I am and I don’t know where I am nor where I’ll be. After finding a hostel, I prepare for my journey to and hike up Volcano Osorno the next day. I’m told it’ll be cloudy so I may not see the top. Heck with it. I’m here and doing it!

September 16th, 2015: This date is an important day for the planet earth. More on that later… As I arrive outside Todos los Santos lake, a quite beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, I am greeted by a friendly sheep dog. I pet him and he follows me around a bit. He has no collar so I assume like most South American dogs that he’s another stray. As I hike up the Volcano, this dog is always next to me or in front of me. After a while I realize that this dog knows exactly where I intend on going. This dog is leading me up the trail of this giant volcano Osorno! I name him Wonder Dog. As I hike this volcano, I begin wondering why the hell there’s sand everywhere. It’s tougher than your usual hike of rocks and other stuff with sand everywhere! For every step I take my feet slide back a few inches. For a 8 mile up hill hike this is starting to become a bit frustrating. Then I realize… this isn’t sand you idiot, it’s volcanic ash! No way sand would get this high up. Finally, I start to hit snow and the hike gets easier. I see the volcano in all it’s glory. I am standing high up on top of this beautiful monster. Looking to the side I see Vulcan Calbuco which by the way has erupted earlier this year. In a moment near the top as I look at the dog… up at the top of Osorno Volcano, Calbuco, the lake surrounded by the mountains, I think to myself, “What if this were to erupt right now?” I imagine the ground shaking and that I’d have to book it at an incredible speed to the lake. I shrug off the thought… As I enjoy the views and then return I hear word that there’s been a giant earthquake outside Chile and that there’s a tsunami warning. As we look into the data at the hostel, we see that it was an 8.3 category quake off the coast. The area it hit was just outside of where I was the day before and today I was on a volcano while the largest quake in the last 3 plus years of earth’s history just hit today.

I found myself within my thoughts thinking how I was just thinking about something like this earlier. Did I have a sense of what was happening or about to happen as I was on top of this volcano? I believe that if we are in touch with our instincts and the earth underneath us to such a point that we can ‘feel’ these things to an extent. It was a surreal feeling of what happened. As time passed, thankfully Chile is a country well equipped for such an earthquake and the damage was pretty minimal. Also, thankfully no tsunami like in Japan a few years earlier. Who knows how close I was from narrowly avoiding a devastating natural disaster.

When I log onto facebook I see a message from my oldest brother Gio asking, “What did you punch!?” I didn’t want to make a big deal out of basically nothing that really happened so I kept to myself about it whereas many other hostel friends were declaring themselves ‘Safe’ online. When I set out on this trip, I had no intention of playing it safe or preaching that I was being safe. I knew that in order to experience a trip like this to the fullest and to grow as a person I’d be taking risks and sometimes I might be thrust into dangerous situations. I feel fine with that and in fact embrace whatever chaos may come. I realize that this comes about from a past of chaos. This trip suits me just fine I think and with the way things have been going, I’m sure there’s going to be more to come.

 

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