Sanjay Ramdas’s Gap Year: Chilean Adventures

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Following graduation last spring, instead of heading off to college like his peers, Sanjay Ramdas (’18) took a gap year. He spent the first part of his gap year trekking through the mountains and rivers of Chile. Sanjay travelled through the southernmost part of Chile from September to mid-December with the National Outdoor Leadership School. During his trip, he spent his time backpacking, mountain-climbing, and kayaking.

Once the expedition began, Sanjay and his peers faced a fair number of obstacles throughout their travels. Sanjay revealed that the first month was particularly challenging because of hunger. One of his greatest tests was adjusting to tight rationing. In fact, Sanjay’s group actually exhausted their rations at one point in the trip: “Before we ran out of rations, we ran out of all of our spices so we had a couple of really bland meals. Just totally plain couscous and cream of wheat. No salt or anything. Then the instructors thankfully had some food left over that they shared with us for a couple meals. And some other food groups, around 10, came together and gave us a little bit of food.”

Another one Sanjay’s greatest trials was the discomfort he endured, specifically during the kayaking portion of his trip. Sanjay said he had expected kayaking to be somewhat easier than the rest of the trip. Apart from the slightly lessened backpack weight, however, he quickly discovered that almost every other aspect of kayaking was more difficult than mountaineering. “Your hands were always wet, and by the end of the trip they had just turned to cuts. Damp was the new dry. All of your stuff was always wet and there were so many storms and getting up really early.” He admitted that he would probably repeat his Chile trip if he was given the opportunity, as long as he could swap the kayaking portion for mountain travel and rock climbing.

Sanjay described one of his wildest memories from the trip — his group set up camp directly over a marsh. Their tents were essentially in the swamp, so whenever they would push their hands down against the base of the tent, water would soak through. “I couldn’t even believe it at first. All of us were a little hysterical, laughing like, ‘Oh my God… we actually have to sleep here tonight.’ ” He recalled feeling extreme relief waking up the next day, when the tent groups were able to re-ration new food among themselves.

Later that same afternoon the groups were finally able to move a little bit further along their route after the weather had improved. After forty-five minutes, the groups encountered yet another problem — they discovered a hole in one of the boats. At first, they were in a panic. “We were all freaking out.. ‘Oh my god, we’re not moving at all. At least we’re not on the swamp beach anymore though.’ It wound up being a blessing in disguise because around four or five that night, the sun came out. We hadn’t seen the sun in five days. Everyone’s stuff was just wet. All the clothes we had. And so the entire beach is just covered in everyone’s clothes. Clothes, pants… people were literally just rejoicing. I would say that experience was pretty cool.”

Sanjay enjoyed an action-packed three months of thrilling exploration in Chile. He is currently working construction in Arizona. Sanjay plans on attending Lewis and Clark College this fall in Portland, Oregon, where he will undoubtedly continue to thrive and gain new experiences filled with excitement and adventure.