I live less than a half an hour (driving) from the Andes Mountain Range. (That’s so cool to say!) When I realized how close I was, I decided to take an adventure and go exploring. My friends, Emily and Mary, joined me.

We started on a bus and took it to the last stop. The driver asked us where we were going and we said we don’t know but we’re looking for a way to get closer to the mountain. He told us to backtrack a bus stop and take a different bus up to a large park. Our adventure started even before we approached the mountains!

We hiked up the mountain for over an hour. It was hot, sunny, and there was very little wind. The higher we climbed, the more out of breath we were. At first, we were all wondering (silently) if we were that out of shape! Then, we realized that we must have been at a pretty high altitude, because we need to rest every few minutes to catch our breath. It was a really nice hike. We talked and enjoyed silence.

We didn’t have a specific path, so when we reached an intersection of two, we would choose one and go with it. Often, we chose the one that looked less traveled.

The view of the city from above is amazing. Santiago is an odd city. I like to think it’s a very beautiful ugly city. It is extremely ugly, but at the same time, there are things about it that make it so beautiful it takes your breath away — like the view from the mountain. Or looking at the mountains that line the city. That is pretty. Unfortunately, the air in Santiago is very polluted, which makes it difficult to see very far. I’ve heard that after a rain fall, the smog clears up for a while and you can see forever. I’m excited for that.

Anyway, our hike was really great. We climbed very close to the top, but we could never seem to find a path to take us up there. We didn’t want to give up and go back down, but it was getting late, we were out of breath and getting tired, so we decided to turn around and go back home. The way back was so much easier. I felt like we ran down. On the way down, we realized how steep some of the paths we took were; we couldn’t even walk down them without sliding!

When we got to the final main path, we were walking together and talking when the wind took my hat and it flew to the ground a few feet away on the edge of the path. My friend, Emily, bent down to pick it up for me and I screamed! When I screamed, she quickly backed away. I couldn’t even say what I saw– all I could say were a few profane words(that I never would use normally!). Why did I scream, you may be thinking.

Well, I think you would scream too if you saw a tarantula the size of your fist hunched a few feet away from your hat. Yes, a tarantula. OH MY GOSH. Ah! Just the thought of it still makes me squirm. (I’m ready to go back to a state where the only tarantulas are in zoos and crazy people’s homes as pets! If I ever encounter a tarantula in my house here, I am getting on the next plane to Appleton.)

Finally, as we sat, staring and taking pictures of the tarantula, it decided to graciously crawl away. Thank God. The hat wasn’t even mine– it’s Tona’s. I couldn’t just leave it there and run away like I had wanted to do. Eventually, I got my hat back, but was too grossed out to wear it. Gosh, that thing could have been on top of my hat when the wind blew it off… ahhh.

When I finally returned home, I told Tona and my host sister, Maite, about the tarantula. They just laughed. They told me tarantulas are not harmless. Yeah right they’re not! They told me what I need to look out for are the small black spiders in the house. They are the dangerous ones… Oh my. Save me now.

Breanna Mekuly studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, during the Spring 2011 semester.