Now that I have been back a couple of days, this is the phrase that keeps coming back to describe our trip. We were happy to be there, happy to be experiencing everything together, and amazed at how much we did in such a short time. At the end of the trip we were trying to remember our first full day and it seemed like months, rather than weeks, had passed.
The first part of the trip was a joyful romp through the gardens of gardens designed by Juan Grimm. The Allende garden was one marvel after another of both design and horticultural skill. The Muller and Grimm gardens combined spectacular scenery with well-chosen and placed plants and other garden elements. We also enjoyed the fine foods and wines of the northern areas.
The Lakes District found us frolicking through temperate forests with plants that were both exotic to us, like Philesia magellanicaand common, like monkey puzzle (Auracaria auracana). The Valdivian rain forest was especially exciting, because there are so many gorgeous plants we can potentially grow here. Some, like Gunnera tinctoria and Embothrium coccineum, have found their way into collectors’ gardens, but there are so many more. Dan stayed behind for a week to collect more for potential use in future gardens at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, so stay tuned!
We finish with a truly joyous stay in Patagonia, exploring Torres del Paine National Park. Everything there was wonderful! Patagonia Camp, where we stayed, had amazing views and food and it made a perfect home base. My blog entry about us not returning was only half in jest. That first day we walked around with huge grins on our faces, taking in the scenery and plants in something of a daze. We saw chunks calve off the icebergs with a huge splash into the lake, orchids in full flower, baby guanaco chasing each other like puppies, and an Andean condor soared beneath our cliff, giving us full view of its splendor. We had sunny weather there that our guides said they had not seen for months.
Each of us found our individual joys. I was very pleased that Spanish came back to me very quickly. The first day, in a jetlagged fog, I tried to order a double latte at Starbuck’s (yes, they are all over Santiago) and got two lattes instead. Hey, it got the job done. But just a week later words were returning to me and I was conversant, if not fluent, and that made me very happy. I also learned I love yurts. I did not know this about myself, but I found great joy in my cozy yurt with a view. I now want a yurt of my own, preferably with a view of Torres del Paine.
One of the greatest joys was in being together, sharing such an intense experience with amazing people. Some of us knew each other at least a little at the start, but all of us were friends by the end. I look forward to our planned reunions and to sharing future experiences with them.
I want to thank Tracy Mehlin for her support on the technical end of this blog. I knew going into it that there would be challenges and computer access and speed were certainly difficult once I left Santiago, but by sending updates over my Droid phone, we were still able to keep you all abreast of our activities.
Where will UWBG go next? We are talking to Holbrook about possibilities, so stay tuned!