The trail that led me to Laguna de Inca, Santiago Chile

The feeling happens inside of me. It’s like a delicious ping of the good juice. The release of endorphins, or a similar body chemical, tells me to get curious. If I am smart, I follow its direction.

Six months ago, I recommitted to learning Spanish. It was obvious to me that my passion for South America would not ebb any time soon. I hunted online, and in the real world, for a new tutor. Hours invested in reading profiles, asking around, filling in course forms. Then one day I pinged. Tatiana's profile on Air Tasker triggered it. I can't pinpoint the exact reason she stood out, but I knew she was the one.

Life, lessons and laughs rolled on like a tumbleweed. A friendship formed through the computer screen. I live north of Sydney. Tatiana lived in Melbourne when the lessons started. Soon after that she returned to her home of Argentina, then onto Santiago, Chile.

I spied Tatiana standing on the edge of the footpath, as I came out of my hotel. My flight from Sydney had landed in Santiago a few hours before. It was the first time I had seen her in full form, no longer only a head and shoulders bound within a computer screen. She now had height, shape and a classic-casual style. The smile that flowed through our hours together, now beamed into full life.

We wandered and chatted with the energy of long-separated school friends. Over coffee we hatched plans for the next day. A day walk to Laguna de Inca de Altos de Chicaum, an hour from the centre of Santiago. Be ready for an early start, she noted, eight am.

In South America everything always goes according to plan. That is, as long as that plan consists of only one important detail - to have fun.

By ten am, five humans had packed into a small, black hatchback and we scooted along the highway. Then, within 24 hours of landing in South America, my feet climbed toward the roof of the world in the Chilean Andes.

Kirrily Dear