I was looking through some old photos and decided I was going to bring them back to life and share some of my experiences from my first trip to South America. I wasn't a very good photographer and my camera was just a point and shoot. But we all have to start somewhere right? Looking and working on these photos, brought back many great memories. I couldn't do too much with them because of the quality so I took a more colorful and silly approach. Have any of your ever been to South America? Share your thoughts.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
When I was 20 years old, I left to South America. I had worked my butt off for a year to save money. I arrived just a few days prior to my birthday on the New Year. It was probably one of the most memorable and interesting birthdays I've ever had. I was turning 21 in the peak of summer in Buenos Aires. Usually a 21st birthday in the states would consist of getting trashed in a bar for the first time. But since I had lived in the Caribbean (no drinking age) and I had a fake id since an early age this wasn't really of interest to me. I was lucky to have the mother of a close friend of mine also living and practicing tango there. So her help and knowledge of the city was definitely an advantage. I remember arriving there like it was yesterday. The smell of the city, the way the air felt on my skin, how intimidated I felt, as this was the first time I had been in a country that I couldn't communicate well. But the excitement and love I felt towards the culture and city was immediate. Buenos Aires was such a special place and I knew that I wanted to spend some time there.
On the evening of New Years eve we had a fantastic intimate dinner party with friends. A couple I had never met before brought me a birthday cake. I was shocked and thrilled at their gesture. As my friends and I sat on the balcony of a beautifully decorated modern apartment in the middle of Plaza Serrano in Palermo Viejo. The streets bustling with people, dancing and singing. The energy level high and heat sweltering. We drank mate and watched the Brasilian dancers below. I love this, I thought in my head. This truly is one of those moments I will remember for the rest of my life and well I did. I could write a book on the experiences I had in Buenos Aires. I could talk about it for days but since I am keeping this entry only on my first trip down and the experiences I had I will make it brief. I spent 7 months living in Buenos Aires making small trips around Argentina and Chile. I returned to Buenos Aires two more times and spent a total of a year there.
Cataratas del Iguazú, Argentina
I made the trip to the Iguasu Waterfalls with my good friend from Germany and her bother who was visiting. We both had attended a quick Spanish course together and spent our lunches eating salads in sun and sitting under a large statue in downtown. Its interesting having friends from different countries who speak multiple languages. They are much better at picking up the language then I was. In Argentina it can be expensive to fly and buses are actually not a bad way to go. They are fairly luxurious double decker buses that serve wine and food. The bus ride from BsAs to the waterfalls was an overnight trip and a long one.
The waterfalls are located on the Argentine and Brazilian border. In the Provence of Misiones in Argentina. We stayed at a small hostel and spent a day exploring the falls. A truly incredible experience. You can visit the falls on the Brazilian side as well, but we didnt want to pay the $100 dollar visa to get in. In English they are called Iguazu Falls, in Spanish Cataratas de Iguazú and in Portuguese Foz do Iguaçu. On the Brazilian side you can bungee jump into the falls. The energy of the falls is astonishing and the wildlife in full force. We took a boat ride right up to one of the biggest falls and got completely soaked. You really get a sense of just how small we are and the power of mother nature. Highly recommend it if you are ever on that side of the world.
I went to Mendoza with an old friend from the Virgin Islands. We shared the same love for food and wine. He planned so many winery visits all with private tours and wine tastings. Everyday while we were there we visited a handful of wineries and ate tons of Asado (grilled meat, I wasn't vegetarian at that time). We stayed at a nice hostel with a pool. We were there during the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia which is their celebration of harvest. There was wild parades and all the fountains in the city were filled with water colored red. I was so stoked to actually see the wine making process. Its not often you visit a winery and you actually see the process from start to finish. We had a car so we were able to get around freely. We went up to the reservoir and to these hot springs. Really great, thinking about it I want to go back! We then moved on to Chile.
Valparaíso y Concón, Chile
Next stop was Chile, and to get there we had to drive through some of the most treacherous mountains in the world. In a small bus of about 15 people we wove our way through small cut roads zig zagging down the side of Andes mountain range. In the winter there is a ski resort and I cant even imagine trying to drive on those roads in the snow. Every time we made a turn we came so close to the edge. My fingernails digging into the sides of my seat. There are no guard rails and the bus drivers seem to have no fear. People have died here, its not uncommon for a bus to cut it too close and to fall to their death hundreds of feet down. Yikes. Glad we made it safely and it was a truly scenic route.
We drove to Valparaíso from Santiago. Not a far trip and stopped at a few more wineries along the way. Valparaíso is a huge contributor to the fish markets in Chile. It's city built up steep hillsides. Colorful, odd shaped buildings built on an angle. The streets are steep similar to those found in San Francisco. I found parts of Chile's coast very similar to those of California. I mean they do share the same Pacific ocean so its to be expected. We only stayed a short while and then continued driving to the smaller town of Concón. A really cute beach town with lovely beaches and even sand dunes. I must admit while in Chile I didn't feel quite as safe as I did in Argentina. While my travels in Chile were great I couldn't wait to go back home to my apartment in Buenos Aires.
We spent a few days in Santiago and then back to Mendoza and home to Buenos Aires. It was a great summer trip and I tasted some fantastic wines. Malbec and Torrontes still remain some of my favorite wines.
Mar del Plata, Argentina
To be honest my experience in Mardel (as the locals call it) was an interesting one. I went in hopes of a relaxing time away from the city heat. Mardel is a nice city located about 5 hours away from Buenos Aires. It's a very popular place to go in the summer when the city's heat is unbearable. I went with a friend and we decided what a better time then to try to do a fast. I was 3 days in and started to loose my mind, I needed food. I think I went a little crazy and I went for a hamburgesa completa (an insanely large hamburger with ham and egg). Not a wise choice, I got an extremely bad case food poisoning. The beach hut that sold to me had very poor refrigeration and who knows how long things had been sitting there roasting in the sun. I was violently ill for days in a not so comfortable space. Not my idea of a good time, in fact it gave me serious anxiety about traveling and getting sick. That being said I wish I was feeling better and that I had explored the city properly.