2007 Ondaatje Expedition

Five students embarked on the Ondaatje Expedition to Patagonia, Chile. Here is one student's account of the experience:

By Nikki Whitney, Grade 11
"I am so grateful to have been a part of the 2007 Ondaatje Expedition to Patagonia, Chile.

On Wednesday, March 7, the seven of us – Emily Freistatter, Miles Rees- Spear, Will Richardson, Andrew Casson, Mr. Yantha, Mrs. Paoli Di Prisco, and I – set off to Pearson International Airport, where we were met by our trip guide and NOLS instructor, Kat Smithammer.

Two flights, one van ride, and 24 hours later, we finally arrived in the town of Coyhaique in the Patagonia region of Chile, relieved that the traveling segment of the trip was nearly completed. Our stay at a local hostel was short but enjoyable, as we were all exhausted from traveling.

We set out the next day on a 6 hour bus ride on a road that took us further south through the mountains of Patagonia. This scenic drive was a breathtaking introduction to the next 10 days we would be spending at a very remote ranch. From the bus we could see many glaciers and large lakes that were amazing shades of turquoise and royal blue. When we arrived at Puerto Bertrand, we were met by John Hauf, who took us on a 70 minute boat ride to our final destination: his remote ranch on the shores of Lago Plomo.

After unrolling our sleeping bags and setting up our tents, we spent the first night in sheer excitement about where we were. We spent the next few days doing various activities on the 2000 acre ranch. While one group went horseback riding, the other would head off on a day hike to the nearest glacier. We spent one full day clearing trail through thick brush for the local gauchos and ranchers who rely on the trails for basic transportation on horseback. I think we all found this setting to be incredibly unreal and were so fortunate to be in a place like Patagonia.

Our 4 day hiking/camping trip started with the crossing of the Chilco River. Then we spent the rest of the day following the Solair River to our base camp, in complete awe of our surroundings. The next day some of us went on a hike in search of a glacier that seemed close at the time! After countless hours of hiking, we came to the realization that we wouldn’t be able to make it to the glacier that day. Miles spotted a small stream of water and said, “Let’s follow it!”, so we started following this stream and kept climbing higher and higher until we reached a waterfall with water pooling on various rocks. That unplanned detour turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip!

We arrived back at the ranch in the afternoon on the last day of our hiking trip. That evening we helped prepare for a traditional Chilean barbeque known as an asado. We spent the night reflecting on our amazing trip as we would be leaving the ranch in the morning.

On behalf of all of the members of our trip, I would like to recognize all of the work Mr. Richard Hagg put into the preparation of this trip, and the Ondaatje family for their generous contributions to make this extraordinary opportunity available to us. I hope that for years to come the Ondaatje Expedition will continue to be a trip that many Lakefield students can embark upon with the feeling of recognition and pride in what they have accomplished."

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Lakefield College School is a private, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12, located in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.

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