Study Abroad Blogger: Julia McClellan Post #4
I am back in Buenos Aires after my nine-day adventure of traveling around Argentina and Chile. This was not your typical college spring break however. Waking up to the Andes Mountains, hiking alongside black glaciers, and hopping from one organic wine vineyard to the next…hands down beats any booze-cruise. The trip began with a bus ride from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile for the two-day music festival Lollapalooza (held every summer in Chicago). Seeing some of my favorite artists such as Calvin Harris, MGMT, and Above & Beyond perform live was amazing in itself, but seeing local artists as well made the experience even more unforgettable. It was also interesting to see (North) American bands, such as the Foo Fighters, draw in a HUGE South American fan-base.
The warm weather and pleasant atmosphere of Santiago reminded me a lot of a less metropolitan Buenos Aires. Although I did not get to spend a lot of time in Chile outside of the music festival, I did manage to eat about twelve hotdogs—panchos—during my stay. Decorated with guacamole, ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, mayonnaise, small crispy french-fries, and every other topping imaginable, I think I gained about fifteen pounds in the three days I was there.
After a fantastic start to my adventure I boarded the second of many Micros (similar to a Greyhound bus) to come. The difference between cama and semi-cama seats gains the utmost importance when you end up spending 68 hours on a bus. Semi-cama seats allow you to lean back half as much as cama seats do, which was quickly discovered on one of my 20+ hour bus rides. While the food on these buses was nothing to write home about, I managed to finish every morsel of each serving. In addition to food, the buses often play, what one of my friends described as, “mediocre romantic comedies.” The bus rides to and from Santiago displayed some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, reminding me what natural beauty lies outside the cities.
Our next stop was a short break in Mendoza, which is typically known as wine-country. The city itself was relatively small, and I could tell the concierge at our hostel was struggling to come up with activities for us to do when he said “on this street you will find many candy shops.” After a good night’s sleep, we decided to take full advantage of our one full day in Mendoza. We signed up for a wine and olive oil tasting tour. Going into the tour, the most I knew about wine and olive oil is that I liked the taste of both. Coming out, I can say I still like the taste of both. The tour was conducted completely in Spanish, but the little that I did make out of the details taught me about different types of vineyards such as organic vs. non-organic, and that black olives and green olives actually come from the same plant—black ones are just more ripe.
For the final leg of our trip, we traveled to Bariloche, the lake-district and northern part of Patagonia. Coming from 90-degree weather in Chile, I was definitely unprepared for the frigid temperatures of Bariloche. However, the wooden lodges, twisting cobblestone streets, and gorgeous view give this ski-town a constant sense of warmth. Being a chocolate lover, to say the least, it was just my luck to discover that we had actually arrived to Bariloche on the day in which the largest chocolate bar in the world was being made. Much to my chagrin, I also found out that this chocolate was being given out for free to taste. This was probably around the time when I was in the chain chocolate store called “Tourist” getting 10% off of my purchase.
After briefly mourning the chocolate tasting, I was back in high spirits when I learned we were traveling to Nahuel Huapi National Park to go on an all-day hike. While my Converses protected my feet from being trampled at Lollapalooza, they were not exactly the best choice to go mountain climbing…but I survived. On our hike the nature around us varied with each step, revealing one beautiful site after the next. We hiked in lush forest to discover a hidden waterfall amongst the mountains, a large valley, and a jaw-dropping black glacier. While I fully recommend the guided hike to anyone who travels to Bariloche, the best part of our stay there was yet to come. On our last full day in Bariloche we took a local bus—which caused me to have calluses from gripping the rail so tightly, apparently there is no speed limit in Bariloche—to Cerro Otto. Here we took a chairlift to look out over the surrounding lakes. This was by far the most amazing site I have ever seen, making it difficult to put into words. The wind at the top of the site was so strong, not only did my hair stick up like Marge Simpson, but I actually thought I was going to be swept off of my feet! After an amazing week and a half of traveling, I was ready to return to my home in BA.
Despite growing quite accustomed to traveling by bus, the 25 ½ hour bus ride (semi-cama) back to Buenos Aires, was by far the worst. Having to wear every item of clothing I brought to keep warm also caused me to smell almost retched (sorry if that’s too much information). We made various stops along the way—not realizing there was a shorter, more direct bus ride—picking up many other passengers, and – I am convinced – even one hitchhiker. The movies changed from mediocre English romantic comedies to horrible Spanish telenovelas, each of which played one and a half times before the attendant realized it was over. Towards the end of our journey, I’m almost positive I would never regain feeling in the lower half of my body!
While I am happy to be home, showered, and no longer eating hot dogs, I will always remember that trip as one of the most amazing adventures of my life. My yearning to travel more has only been increased, and I am looking forward to my trip to Iguazu falls in a few weeks. My parents arrive in Buenos Aires next week, and I am beyond excited to introduce them to the culture which I have been a part of for the past 2 and a half months!