[dropcap style=’box’]W[/dropcap]ords cannot begin to express the joy, gratitude, and refreshment experienced during this journey to Argentina. After 26 hours of travel we arrived to a generous welcome in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (“Bariloche” for short). A team of eleven students and staff from Biola University partnered with a group of seven from Summit Adventure to support the ministry of one of Summit’s former employees. Our first few days in Bariloche were packed with an orientation of the ministry, Argentinian culture, and spectacular scenery.
Editor’s note: Upon his return from Summit Adventure’s inaugural trek & serve course in Patagonia, participant Miles Bocianski wrote a brief recap and reflection of his time on course. Read his thoughts on trekking in Argentine Patagonia below.
On Saturday, we hiked to a lake nested about four hours into the mountains, near a place known as “Refugio Frey” (more on refugios in a bit). The crystal clear water was absolutely freezing, but refreshing on the feet after our ascent.
We arrived back to our host around nightfall, to be greeted with a staple Argentinian entrée: bife de lomo, which is known in the US as “filet mignon.” I am not sure if there is simply an abundance of cows or secret ranching techniques, but lomo in Argentina is inexpensive (about $4 US per pound) yet of superb quality. We ate lomo on three or four occasions–it was, as they say in Argentina, lo mejor (“the best”). On top of that, we frequently consumed fresh fruits and vegetables. The meals were simple, but oh, so tasty.
Easter Sunday we attended a sunrise worship service by the lake. Worshipping with an array of God’s people from different parts of the world in the midst of his beautiful creation was amazing. After that, we set out for a grand adventure.
The larger portion of our trip was spent a bit further south near a town called El Bolsón. From here we set out into the mountains for a four-day trek. The first day consisted of seven hours hiking uphill, totaling 15 kilometers. The trail quickly became a place for encouragement, laughter, camaraderie, and deep conversation. I am convinced that something magical happens when a group of people spend more than 24 consecutive hours of time together. Relationships flourish to a new level as we step into one another’s lives, especially as we unplug from our overstimulated, frantic existences. Instead of turning to our phones and Facebook during downtime, we enjoyed conversation and fellowship that left us feeling like a small family.
After our long days of trekking, we were warmly welcomed at refugios, which became our temporary homes in the wilderness. Refugios, or “refuges,” are like hostels in the sense that you pay for them each night (only about $10!), but you can only access them via hiking. These cabin-like establishments are often privately owned by families who maintain them during the hiking season. The amenities vary, but we often found showers, beds, and the option to order food (if available, try Argentinian pizza).
We rested at the appropriately named Refugio Hielo Azul (“Blue Ice”) for a day and explored the resident glacier. Meltwater of the glacier possesses a slight blue haze due to sediment trapped and pulverized over time. All of the water on our journey–including the glacier, tap, and river–was drank without any filtration (needless to say, I was fairly disappointed in Los Angeles water when I returned from the trip). In short, the day was restful and filled with more adventure and conversation.
The remainder of the trek proved to increase my amazement of God’s creation in nature and people as we explored the mountains and each other’s lives. Coming back to Bariloche for the last few days contained other adventures as we interacted with travelers staying at our hostel. We spent time sharing our lives and faith with them through rock-climbing, meals, and discussion. To see how open other people were to talking about their faith, and even hearing about Jesus for the first time, amazed me.
Overall, I highly recommend making the trip down to Patagonia sometime, whether alongside Summit Adventure for a few weeks, or to spend more time on your own adventure of sharing and living out the gospel with our friends in Bariloche. I was humbled, blessed, and encouraged by so many things that took place, and hope to return in the future.