Our Last Weeks in South America: Mendoza and Santiago

Itinerary: 

  • Days 1-5: Mendoza, Argentina, then bus to Santiago
  • Days 6-13: Santiago, Chile
  • Day 14: Fly to London!

RTW Trip 2014: Peru→ Chile → Argentina → Antarctica → Argentina → Uruguay → ARGENTINA →  CHILE→ England → Morocco → Spain → France → Belgium → Netherlands → Germany → Czech Republic → Austria → Hungary → Croatia → Italy → Thailand → United States → Thailand → Laos → Vietnam → Cambodia → Australia → Taiwan

Dates: April 1-13, 2014

Our Odyssey: 

Today Tim and I left South America, closing the first big chapter of our journey and moving on to Europe. Before embarking on this next segment, I wanted to take some time recap both on our final 2 weeks on the continent as well as some of our general observations from spending nearly 3 months in South America.

We spent our final week in Argentina in Mendoza, in the western part of the country near the Andes mountains and known for its world-famous wine. We stayed at a great hostel, Casa Pueblo Hostel, owned by a very kind and friendly woman named Yael and her partner. We didn’t know what to expect in Mendoza, aside from the good wine, so we were excited to learn about the mountain activities we would be able to enjoy during our week there.

Our first full day there we did a bike tour of a few of the wineries. Our first stop was to a wine shop called Vinoteca La Botella that offered cheap flights of local wines and a delicious charcuterie plate. Our second stop was to a fancy winery called Trapaiche where we got to take a tour of the premises and sample some of their wines. We also met two great girls, Mary and Audrey, who are traveling in South America for a bit before moving from Europe to Sydney, Australia for the next year. They came with us to the next winery where we got dinner and exchanged contact info to make plans to hang out later in the week.

Although the day was very fun up to this point, it took a scary turn on the ride back to the bike rental shop. Tim was biking behind me and we were on a narrow road that didn’t have a bike lane. A semi-truck came up behind me too close to my bike and knocked my handle bars, causing me to swerve a bit trying to regain balance. When the trailer part of the truck drove by, I fell over when the last tire hit my bike. Thankfully, it didn’t run over any part of my body and I landed away from the truck. I scraped up my knee and bruised nearly my entire left leg. It was a really scary experience, and I was relieved that Tim saw everything and pulled over to help me. There was also a police truck behind us that pulled over and the officers drove us back to the bike rental shop so I wouldn’t have to bike the rest of the way. And on the bright side, the owner of the bike shop gave us a free bottle of homemade wine and helped us catch the bus back to town. On the downside, I’m pretty nervous about biking again and my leg is still various shades of green, blue and purple, 2 weeks after the accident.

The next day, feeling a bit more emotionally recovered from the accident, we went white water rafting. It was my first time, so I was excited and a little nervous. We were in a raft with 3 other Americans on vacation and a great guide. Our group had a good team dynamic, and I absolutely loved the rafting. Our guide had some fun with us taking us fast through some of the more intense water, and our raft nearly tipped twice. It was a great day and I can’t wait to go rafting again!

That evening I made plans with Mary from the wine tour to go horseback riding together the next day, and Tim made plans to go mountain biking. The horseback riding was really fun. We started at a ranch out towards the mountains and rode the horses up into rural hills, through a swampland, across a river and through dense forests.

Tim had a great time mountain biking- it was just him and the guide, a 24 year old who bikes competitively. Tim has ridden in races as well when he was younger, so they had a lot of fun attacking the more advanced trails. He also saw some wildlife- two snakes and a tarantula.

Our last day in Mendoza we went to the hot springs and enjoyed a full day of relaxing in the hot pools, as well as a massage and a mud bath. It was a perfect day to end the week.

The next day we took a bus over the Andes to Santiago, Chile, our last stop before flying to London. During our week in Santiago we stayed at an apartment Tim found on Airbnb. We did another walking tour, this time of the local markets in Santiago. The guide took us by a bar that is roughly translated to “the shithole” but is allegedly the most famous bar in Santiago. They specialize in making “terra mottos”, or earthquakes, the unofficial national alcoholic beverage of Chile, since they have actual earthquakes so often. This drink is made with fermented wine, a scoop of pineapple serbet and grenadine. We didn’t get to try it on the tour since they were closed but Tim and I decide we’d try to come back later in the week.

One of the highlights of our time in Santiago was getting to see one of my former co-workers and good friend, Becky, who was on vacation in Santiago at the same time. Tim and I met up with her and her friend Diane for drinks one night, and the next day I went with them on a day trip to Valparaiso. Valparaiso is known for its colorful buildings and elaborate street art and graffiti. We took a walking tour and Becky and I visited a local brewery and enjoyed a flight of beer that was actually pretty good.

The next morning I bussed back to Santiago and synced back up with Tim. We spent the day relaxing and watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. The next day we visited the Human Rights Museum, which was one of the highlights in my opinion. This museum focuses on the history of Chile before, during and after the dictatorship, and presents the documentation of the human rights violations committed by the dictatorship via videos, newsclippings and first hand accounts. It was fascinating and left us feeling inspired by the resiliency of the Chilean people. If you’re ever in Santiago, this museum is our top recommendation.

The next day Tim and I set out to hike San Cristobal, which is a hill overlooking the city with a large Virgin Mary statue at the top. We had read that you can either take a funicular to the top, or hike, so we decided to try to hike it. When we set out, we passed by one trail that had caution tape blocking it, so we figured the trail we wanted would be up ahead a bit more. We got to what looked like a rough hiking trail and started heading in. We realized pretty quickly that this may not be the actual trail but kept going on and up since it was eroded enough to look like it might be the right trail. Our second sign that things might be sketchy was when we passed by a bunch of shrubbery that had packages of junk food around it and what I swear was a person hiding in there. Yet we kept going, and eventually got to a wooden fence. At first we thought this was a great sign because it surely meant we were on the trail- but after a few meters I was thinking this fence was a little too run down to be something maintained by the park service. The last straw was when we came near a house made of logs and sticks, with what looked like an inflatable pink Teletubby or clown in front of it, holding a bright red stop sign. We got the feeling we were encroaching on some creepy psycho’s front yard so we hightailed it back down to the main road to avoid getting, you know, kidnapped or something.

We never did find the trail, and instead took the funicular up to the top. We got a great view of the city and toured a charming little stone church by the Virgin Mary statue, and spent about an hour up there looking around overall. So while our hike didn’t really pan out, we were glad we at least took the funicular up.

That night, our last Friday night in South America, Tim, Becky and I went out to dinner and for drinks. We took Becky back to the famous Santiago bar and all got earthquakes. The bar itself has a great vibe, similar to a beer garden, but the drinks taste like poison and are strong enough to probably actually be poison. We each had only two, but were sufficiently drunk to call it a night at that point. But we had a great time socializing with the locals and it was a memorable and fun way to celebrate our last weekend in South America.

And now I’m on an overnight AirFrance flight to London, getting ready to wind down for bed and enjoying the in-flight entertainment. It’s surreal to us that we’ve already been on the road for nearly 3 months. South America taught us a lot about the culture, the food, and even some of the language (though we struggled throughout with Spanish). Adios South America!

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