What I’ve Been Up To, Part 2

When I left the last piece, I was just heading to Bariloche, Argentina, which marks the northern part of Patagonia and is probably the main tourist jumping off point for exploring the lakes region of Chile and Argentina. This was a major piece I was still lacking in my Chile puzzle. Fortunately a new friend of mine wanted to explore this area of the world as well, so we decided to travel together.

So off I went to Bariloche to rendezvous with my buddy Yvan in what would be my last stop in Argentina… for now. I will have to come back and see Salta, up in the desert, and Puerto Madryn, out on the coast! But Bariloche was an excellent place to end the Argentinian leg of my adventure, because it was a cute little tourist town (where they are obsessed with beer and chocolate) surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes. Fortunately we had good weather luck before we took a bus outta town and headed to Chile.

We first arrived in Osorno, which as a city is not particularly charming but is a real Chileans-live-here-this-is-not-a-tourist-town place. It had its casinos, sopaipillas, and everything else you can expect in Chile. But we used it as a jumping off point to rent a car…which was dicey for a bit, because we forgot to factor in that it was Semana Santa and that a lot of Chileans were on vacation, so the first couple places we checked had nothing. But we managed to find a car at a decent price (things have a way of working out) and set off for Chiloe.

Chiloe is this island of myths and legends in the south of Chile. Many of these stories seem to involve cunning figures that try to lure members of the opposite sex into the woods, such as the Trauco. Seems a little strange to me, but to each their own. At this time of year especially, fog and wood smoke from the chimenys creates such an eerie environment that it is easy to imagine there are mysterious dwarves, goblins, and nymphs hiding around the corner.

We didn’t run into any nymphs, nor did we run into much of the wildlife that Chiloe is known for – no foxes, no tiny deer, no blue whales (although it was off season for them). But we enjoyed walking through the lush greenery, exploring the cities of Castro and Ancud (strong preference for Ancud) where we based ourselves, and hunting down some of the UNESCO World Hertiage wooden churches. The churches are beautiful, and represent a blending of local building methods and religious beliefs brought over from Spain.

Yvan and I also went to Puerto Varas, which is very similar to Bariloche, and as I would find out, also quite similar to Pucon a little further north. Cute German-influenced village where you can drink artisenal beer while taking in the view of a stunning lake with a tall volcano in the background (well, Bariloche didn’t have the volcano right there). If I had to pick a fave, it would be Puerto Varas. The town has everything you need, feels a little less Disneyland than Bariloche, and heading up the Osorno Volcano was stunning.

It was time for Yvan and I to part ways, and I cried. Seriously, I did. It was so nice to have a travel buddy for awhile, and finding someone you can actually travel well with can be difficult. After my dramatic scene at the Osorno bus station, where a Chilean imparted the wise words “don’t cry from sadness when he leaves, cry from happiness when you see him again,” I was off to Valdiva.

Here I got to visit a friend that I met in Antarctica (I LOVE being able to say that), and I stayed at his place out in Niebla, a good base to explore the surrounding area. In the mornings, I got to see how it earned its name (niebla means fog in Spanish). Valdivia is a university town with great beer, good coffee, and a cool vibe. The surrounding area is full of Valdivian Forest, which made for some lovely day hikes, and Spanish forts. As a history lover, it is crazy to me that the Spanish were already over here, on the other side of the world, working their colonial “magic” before the English even managed to get their asses over to the part of the world I call home.

But my time in Chile was coming to an end, as I wanted to head up to Colombia soon. But I couldn’t leave before I went to Easter Island…

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What I’ve Been Up To…

Wow, I can’t believe it has been a month since I have sat down and written anything. Brazil and Buenos Aires seem so long ago, possibly another lifetime. Since then, I’ve cut a route through the middle of Argentina, returned to Chile, met up with friends there, and crossed off another major bucket list item.

After Brazil, I ran briefly through Buenos Aires to make a connection to Rosario, the third largest city in Argentina and the birthplace of one of the most famous Argentinians: Che Guevara. I walked by the house he was born in, strolled along the river, and visted the nation’s flag monument. The monument commemorates the location where the blue and white flag of Argentina that we all know today was first flown in a revolutionary action in 1812. But the weather was so hot, humid, and frankly disgusting (with these giant cicada/dragonfly things flying into you at every turn) that I quickly decided to move on to my next stop: Cordoba.

Cordoba is the second largest city in Argentina, center of the Spanish colonial activity in Argentina for a long time, and home to the oldest university in the country. The Jesuit Block (#UNESCOWorldHeritage) dates back four hundred years, and the cathedral here is perhaps one of the most gorgeous I have ever seen. It’s also surrounded by glorious countryside, with lots of little mountain towns around where Argentinians and Germans (lots of them pass through or settle here, not just Nazis) come to enjoy the Alpine-like beauty and some nature walks. I decided to head out to the pedestrian city La Cumbrecita for a couple of days to enjoy some fresh air and nature.

After days of hiking and drinking beer, I went back to Cordoba for a bit. Far from being old and out-dated, the univeristy population means it’s a vibrant, libral center of activity with clean parks, great restaurants (I swear I had the best hummus of my life here), and cheap bars. Unfortunately, I also had the flu while I was here so although I stayed here about a week, three days were spent not moving from my bed. Even so, I still really liked this city.

But cheap bars don’t hold a candle to wine country, and in South America Mendoza Argentina is the Mecca for us wineos. Naturally, I couldn’t leave Argentina without going there. It’s a beautiful mid-sized city, lined with trees, in the shadow of the Andes, and surrounded by a dizzying number of vineyards (or maybe it’s all the wine that makes you dizzy?). In addition to walking around the flat, leafy town, I took a wine tour.

Although there are bike tours and the wine bus (which someday I will return and try) I decided I wanted to splurge and do the whole thing up right, where a van picks you up at the hotel, takes you out for tours and tastings at multiple vineyards, serves you a gourmet lunch, and drops you off with a full tummy and that dizzy head I was talking about earlier. I was with a good group, we had a fabulous time, and I would love to do it again sometime.

But for the forseeable future, I continue my travels. After a couple of weeks traveling alone, my next stop was to head down to Bariloche to meet up with a friend I met through Spanish class in Buenos Aires. I’ll save my re-entry into Chile for another post. Happy travels!