As hard as it is to believe, it’s been a month since we left New Zealand for the start of our big South American adventure!
On one hand, time has raced by but on the other, we’ve started to find our feet here, making new friends and experiencing all sorts of amazing things. Unfortunately, we can’t report a significant improvement in our Spanish but that will hopefully come with time!
Buenos Aires, Argentina
We started our journey was an unexpected delay in Buenos Aires which left us with 24 hours in Argentina’s largest city. We spent much of that time sleeping off our jet lag (or attempting to, at least) with a little city exploration thrown into the mix.
I must admit, both of us left feeling pretty underwhelmed by our experience in the Argentinian capital but we’ve heard so many people rave about it that we’re excited to give it another chance once we finish up in Patagonia.
If you have any tips to help us make the most of this cosmopolitan city, we’d love to hear from you!
Accommodation: Tribeca Buenos Aires Apartments @ NZD55.83 (USD40) for one night, booked incredibly last minute.
Santiago (and Valparaíso), Chile
Better late than never, we made our flight connection through to Santiago – a city that would surprise us in an altogether different way. We’d not heard a lot about Chile’s largest city but were pleased to find it to be so modern and friendly. Yes, the Chilian’s speak incredibly quickly (which makes learning Spanish next to impossible) but they do so with great smiles and a truck-load of patience.
Accommodation: 5 nights in a centrally located (Providencia) Airbnb @ NZD36.20/night for both of us (USD26)
Activities: Our intention in Santiago was to sleep off our jetlag (which hit us surprisingly badly) and practice our Spanish. By the time we were ready to hit the city properly the rain had well and truly set in, limiting our activities. We’ve heard great things about the views from Sky Costanera and Cerro San Cristobal and have also been told that the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos is incredibly moving and informative (though some of this is only in Spanish).
The highlight of Santiago was our day trip to the colourful port city of Valparaíso. If you’re wanting to make the journey, you’ll find our Valparaíso city and travel guide handy to help you get organised.
Onwards travel to Pucón: Bus tickets purchased through Recorrido on Pullman. Salón cama @ USD31.30 each (CLP19,600), leaving at 9.45pm and arriving the next day at 7.15am (9.5 hours).
I was excited to venture over to Pucón, the adventure capital of Chile, but nothing could prepare us for just how much we’d love it there!
Accommodation: 2 nights in a Chilian Airbnb just out of the touristy part of town (a great way to practice some Spanish) @ NZD40/night for the two of us (USD28.70).
From there we moved to Chili Kiwi to meet others travellers. What was meant to be only three nights ended up being two weeks! We stayed in the hobbity hollow (@ CLP28,000/night for us both = NZD62/USD45) before moving into a four bed dorm which we were lucky to have to ourselves (@ CLP10,500 each = NZD23/USD16.80). If you’re considering staying in a hostel for the first time, this is the place to do it!
Activities: Pucón is all about the activities! Horse riding, hydrospeeding, snowboarding, waterfall chasing, geothermal hot springs, kayaking, trekking through snow-covered national parks – we had a blast doing it all. Had my fitness been a little (actually, a lot) better we’d had hiked up Volcán Villarrica to catch a glimpse of the molten lava inside.
Onwards travel to Bariloche: We shared fuel costs and grabbed a ride to our next stop with some newfound hostel friends but had we travelled independently, we’d have caught a bus either via Osorno in Chile or San Martín de los Andes in Argentina. It’s worth noting that buses in Argentina can be noticeably more expensive so be sure to compare the price of your journey.
A favourite getaway destination for Argentinians, this substantial town (AKA San Carlos de Bariloche) sits on the side of the beautiful Río Negro. Known for its chocolates, craft beer and snow dogs, it’s practically the Switzerland of South America.
Accommodation: 5 nights at La Justina @ ARS200/night each (NZD16/USD11.50). Again we were lucky to have a 6 bed dorm (with ensuite) to ourselves for the whole time! Leonardo, the manager, was incredibly helpful and generous and the hostel was warm and tidy.
Activites: Aside from munching on lots of chocolate and steak (check out Alto el Fuego – yum!), Bariloche also offers lots of snow activities in the winter and beautiful hikes. Check out the Circuito Chico, a loop taking in some of the best scenery in the area. We hiked up Llao Llao (pronounced Shao Shao), took in the views up Cerro Otto (which can be accessed either by cable car or driving) and enjoyed the crystal clear waters of Lago Gutiérrez.
Onwards travel to Puerto Varas: Bus ticket purchased directly through Andesmar Chile. Semi cama @ CLP22,000 each (USD35), departing 10am, arriving 5.40pm (7 hours, 40 mins).
The last month has been a bit of a balancing act, trying to find the balance between travel and work but it’s been fantastic. It’s not every day you get the freedom to travel around, experiencing a new culture whilst continuing to clock into work (for those of you that aren’t aware, Nathan’s continuing to work for the family business back home whilst I’m focusing on Exploring Kiwis).
As we head into our second month on the road, we’ll be aiming to improve our Spanish and build our fitness – with some massive hikes in Patagonia planned, we’ll need it!
Lessons Learnt on the Road
- Who knew how much we’d appreciate being allowed to flush our toilet paper? Most toilets in Chile have a rubbish bin strategically located for paper to be thrown away.
- Packing cubes are a must-have piece of travel kit! Because we have gear for both winter and summer seasons, it’s been great to be able to store the clothing we don’t need! As a bonus, the packing cubes compress everything down a but extra which is appreciated when you only have 40L bags to work with in the first place.
- Chilian’s talk really quickly and use a lot of slang; they’re pretty much the Ozzie’s of Latin America!
- Everyone has been incredibly friendly and patient. Though I don’t doubt there are some parts of the continent that aren’t quite as welcoming, it’s certainly not the scary place it’s sometimes made out to be.
- It’s not as cheap here as we’d expected it to be – food is particularly expensive with prices sometimes rivalling New Zealand.
- Chile is unbelievably gorgeous and reminds us a lot of home!
- Figuring out our work schedule can be challenging at times. Some days it feels like all we do is sit in front of the computer to make up for days spent travelling or out on activities – not that we’re complaining!
- Getting out of bed when you’re travelling long-term in the wintertime can be a real struggle – the bed’s just as warm and snuggly at home but here we don’t have bosses to ensure we get up at a decent time. We’re still working on getting to bed earlier and getting up at a reasonable time… Let’s see if we’re any better in a month’s time!
If you’re thinking about making a change, I’d encourage you to take life with both hands and do exactly that – I’m so pleased we have.
What a start to our adventure!
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