It's hard to believe that it has only been one week since we left the comfort of Australia and began this crazy journey through South America! Since arriving here last Wednesday, we have already covered over 1500km as we made our way from Santiago, Chile to the wine making region of Mendoza and we now find ourselves in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires (you can follow our route on Our Map).
I suppose I should start this blog back in Santiago where we left off.
Santiago has the potential to be a beautiful city. The people are lovely and the way the snow capped Andes frame the city makes for some truly picturesque views. Sadly due to the geography of the city and the fact that it is grossly over populated, the view is almost impossible to see on most days due to severe pollution. We were lucky in that it rained on our first night in Santiago. For anyone who knows our history with rain, you would know that normally I don't consider it to be very "lucky"! However, when it rains in Santiago, the smog is suppressed for a short period of time and the view from the many hills in the city becomes priceless.
We took the funicular - a small train that runs up a 45 degree angle - to the top of Cerro San Cristobal. The view was beautiful as we had made the trip early in the morning after the previous nights rain, but even in the short time we spent there, the smog started to move in as we wandered around the many stairs and walking paths that cover the highest point in Santiago's city.
After an intense two days in Santiago, it was time for us to embark on the first of many long distance bus trips we will be taking and also deal with our first border crossing. This eight hour journey covered some of the most incredible scenery we have ever seen. The road weaves up through the Andes where in only a few short weeks, the road may become impassible due to heavy snow. It just so happened that there has not yet been enough snow to affect the roads, making our journey that perfect compromise between snow covered mountains but dry roads. The fact that the bus was like a business class flight also helped the cause, with a meal and snacks being served throughout the trip on our almost fully reclining leather seats!
The view from our bus window. It was much more beautiful than this photo gives it credit for!
Crossing the border from Argentina to Chile was much quicker than we had read in some online forums so we were super impressed with the efficiency although somewhat confused with their bag handling procedures. Being a customs/immigration point, X-ray bag checks are necessary before continuing the journey. As the bags are unloaded from the bus, men walk around with a small styrofoam cup shaking it for money. Wade and I stood in awe wondering if this was some sort of trick because if we did this at any Australian airport , I'm pretty sure it would be considered bribery! It turns out that every time someone touches your bag, they expect a tip however it did seem mildly convenient that the non-tippers were also the people whose underwear was soon on display while their bags were searched!
After a long journey we arrived in Mendoza, the wine making region of Argentina and one of the top regions in the world for the variety of red wine, "Malbec". We decided there was only one way to mark this occasion so we went out for an all-you-can-eat parrilla (Argentinian BBQ) accompanied by some delicious Malbec. Now I blame the fact that the waiters had us drinking wine out of tumblers rather than wine glasses, but somehow four empty bottles of wine ended up on our table that night..... oh the shame!
Luckily we had Sunday to recover from the previous nights festivities - does eating too much meat give you a wicked headache and the urge to hug the porcelain??
On Monday we did the obligatory wine tour around the region, tasted some incredible locally made olive oils and had a delicious lunch of empanadas (small meat pastries), a local dish similar to shepherds pie and a sickly sweet dessert filled with dulche de leche (a local caramel used in just about every dish).
We spent the day with a Canadian couple who were the only other English speakers on the tour but also happen to have multiple stops on their journey that will also coincide with ours. Gerry, the dude, is actually going to the same FIFA match as us in Rio so we are hoping to meet up again soon.
So after spending a few days wine tasting and strolling the beautiful wide streets and park-like plazas of Mendoza, we caught an overnight bus to Buenos Aires. Tonight we are recovering from the uncomfortable bus-sleep by having a quiet night in our apartment - booked through Airbnb - and enjoying a few beers, a movie and a home cooked meal.
We have heaps of sight seeing and touristy activities to do while here in Buenos Aires over the next week so expect an action packed blog next time you hear from us! Make sure you check out our most recent photos in our Argentina photo album!
Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.