Trip of a Lifetime for Dr. Zhang!

Guest Blog: Dr. Jennifer Zhang

Trip of a Lifetime!

Last month, I took some time off to visit the southern regions of Chile and Argentina, most well known as Patagonia. What a magical place it was! I started off in the heart of Chile, the capital, Santiago, right in the middle of their summer time. There were lots of hustle and bustle on the streets, typical of any major city, but the scents and sounds remind you that you are no longer in Nashville. I climbed to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to watch the sunset on my first night in South America. It was amazing to see the entire city with the sun setting in the background. What a view!

The next day, I set off to the laid back and serene town of Puerto Varas with many European influences and views similar to the Swiss Alps. There you can find Osorno peaking behind Lake Llanquihue, one of the active volcanos in the area with snow capped covers. I spent a day exploring the nearby town of Llanquihue where they happened to have an authentic German Bierfest. Turns out there is a heavy German influence in this region of Chile due to the arrival of German immigrants in the 1800s. I think it was safe to say that all the German descendants came out to party that day. The second day I took a ferry to the well-known Chiloe Island, a place full of traditions and mysticism. This island is the second largest archipelago in South America after Tierra del Fuego (also in Chile). The coastal range marches along its entire length showing us what nature is capable of doing. I visited the local area and a small market in Ancud, a city considered to have the best infrastructure in Chiloe. It was an international seaport until the end of the 19th century, with narrow streets lined with commercial houses and classical Chilote architecture. Then I visited the San Antonio Fort, erected in 1770, South America's last point to where the Spanish flag flew. I continued my journey to the Pacific Coast where I sailed to the Islands of Punihuil, where I observed a penguin colony in their natural habitat. If you thought Happy Feet was a cute movie, the penguins are even cuter in real life. 

The next morning, I started my journey across three lakes via bus/catamaran/bus/catamaran/bus/catamaran/bus (say that five times!) to arrive in Argentina! The famous lakes crossing had the most spectacular views I have ever seen. My favorite lake was Lake Todos los Santos, also known as Emerald Lake because of its vivid blue-green colored waters. My first stop in Argentina was San Carlos de Bariloche. Skiers, hikers, cyclists, and adventurers from all over the world define it as the perfect hub for their mountain pursuits. On my first full day there, I set off on a day of hiking in the Nahuel Huapi National Park. I saw forests, lakes, beaches, mountains, and waterfalls, as well as the highest mountain in the area, Tronador, which rises 3,478 meters above sea level and forms a natural frontier between Argentina and Chile. Besides the magnificent scenery, there are unusual natural wonders such as the "black glacier" which originates from the spotless white ice at the top of Mt. Tronador. I spent the following day relaxing at a nearby beach in town, thinking I never want to leave...

My next stop was El Calafate to see the famous Perito Moreno glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park. Known as the "Third Pole", the park extends over 60,000 sq. km (23,000 sq. miles) and gives birth to several major glaciers along the Patagonian Andes. After putting on my crampons, I started the hike over the glacier, admiring the various ice formations such as cracks, drains, and little lagoons. The ice surface where I hiked was irregular, but very firm. I've never seen so much ice compacted together like that in my life! Unfortunately, due to global warming, glaciers like Perito Moreno may not be around forever so I am so happy to have seen it now. 

My last stop of my trip was to the eighth wonder of the world, Torres del Paine National Park. This place was truly magical. Everywhere you go, there were fields of green surrounded by glistening green and blue lakes, with the most majestic mountains displayed in the background. Herds of sheep and guanacos (wild relatives of the domestic llama) grazes the sprawling steppes. Fields of wildflowers cover alpine meadows. Lush, southern beech forests cover the hillsides observed by soaring condors, and icy rivers round out the scene. No words can really describe the feeling you get when you witness such wonder. I spent two days hiking through the park only to have witnessed a small portion of it all. On the very last day, my fiancé and I hiked a torturous 10 hour hike, with steep hills, and giant boulder crossings, to reach the base towers where we came upon the most breath-taking view of the three granite towers that the "Torres" is named after. If was a gruesome hike but so worth it and at night, we rewarded ourselves with Argentinian meat, whole lamb grilled over an open fire.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my adventures in Patagonia and I can't wait to tell you more when I see you at your next appointment! As they say in Patagonia, ciao!

Dr. Jennifer Zhang Nashville Dentist

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