Monday, March 31, 2008

Pucon and finally Bariloche!!!!

After Valpo we headed south in Chile to the town of Pucon. It had been recommended by others and seemed like a good stop over before Bariloche. We decided to clime one of the nearby volcanos (there are many many people who do it each year, not overly dangerous trust me). The weather was not great for the first two mornings so we couldn´t go.
On our second day we had a picnic with some of the others from our hostel when the weather cleared. We had a few univited guests but it made for a much more interesting lunch.
A view of the Villarica volcano that we climbed from town. (sorry about the power lines!)
On our third day we were able to make the climb/hike/trek to the top! The first hour and a half was rocky and quite unstable, we then put on cramptons and hiked up a glacier for another 2 hours and finally climbed an hour on volcanic rock. The climb was probably the hardest hike I have done before. The view and the ride down made it completely worth it, I say that now a week later. On our way down, we put these pads on our butts and slide down the glacier on what seemed like a bobsled track it was soo cool, definitely the best sledding I have ever done.
View from the top, looking into Argentina. The volcano in the distance marks the border between Argentina and Chile.
Pablo our guide at the top.
View from my room in Bariloche. The town is situated on Lago Nahuel Huapi....a really huge lake. It is absolutely breathtaking with the Andes mountains as the backdrop.

The town of Pucon from one of the hills behind town with our new friends.
Cool street art in Bariloche that Mara matched.
Great sign we saw in Bariloche.
Our last picture together on our trip. Bye-bye prima, we had a great run together!

The second part of my journey is now starting. Mara is leaving tonight out of Buenos Aires back to Philly and I am staying on in Bariloche. I am half way through my first week of Spanish classes and have another week to go.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


We spent Easter weekend in Valparaiso, Chile. It is one of the larger cities in Chile many of the residents are young univeristy students making it a great town. Well we sure had fun!

The Easter Bunny found us all the way in South America! Street art in Valpo, the otwn has a strong bohemian feel. Lots of art, street art, puppets and other creative expressions.

Valpo is a port city built on enormously steep hills. The architecture has accordingly been customized to the natural landscape making it quite unique.

Friday, March 21, 2008


The journey from Puente del Inca to Santiago was full of switchbacks and incredible views. At some points I felt that the scenery could have been taken and put straight onto a bottle of wine. We drove through what seemed to be an aboslutely massive wine reigon on the west side of the Andes mountains and then magically Santiago appeared. We arrived late into the city and headed striaght to our hostel.

The next day we spent exploring the city. Andy and I found a massive fish market and had ourselves some lunch, it was dish delish. We also found out about a soocer/football match as well. Santiago reminds me a lot of Los Angeles a sprawling city surrounded by mountains causing a bit of a smog situation. We were able to go up to the top of one of the hills in town and get a pretty good view of everything.

The next day we got up early and bought our tickets to the football match, Cola Cola vs. Boca Juniors. Cola Cola is the Santiago team and the Boca Juniors are the best team in Argentina based in Buenos Aires. We had wanted to go to a match while we were in Buenos Aires but it just didn't happen so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Later on in the day I met up with an American man named Marc who now lives in Chile. His main gig is fly fishing and skiing but he also has a shop in which he sells Outback. Dad had casually mentioned Marc and the timing worked out great. Marc spent the day showing me around his part of the city. It was such a treat! I had my favorite sushi for lunch....I was beyond excited to say the least. I was also able to spend a bit of time at his shop and check things out. If anyone is looking to do some fly fishing or skiing down here Marc is your man.

Afterwards I met up with a group of people who were all headed to the game. We took a subway out and arrived just as the game was starting. Ihad never been to such an intense sporting event in my entire life it was great! People were cheering literally the entire time and singing songs of Cola Cola. I totally felt bad fro the Boca Junior fans especially since they lost. After the game we took a cab back to our hostel and headed to a bar Mara had wanted to go to. We drank Pisco Sours [the drink of Santiago] and then back to our hostel.

Today we are headed to the coast to spend our Easter weekend in Valpo or Valipariso.

Hope everyone has a great Easter weekend!!! Love Pia

Mendoza and Puente del Inca

After Salta Mara and I headed south to Mendoza. The main industry in Mendoza is wine and tourism so it was a bit different from Salta that was not so heavily reliant on tourism. 20 hour bus ride and multiple horrible hollywood flops dubbed over in spanish later I was in Mendoza. Mendoza is a decent sized city with wide streets and many public open spaces. There was an earthquake about 20 years ago that destroyed much of the city so a lot of the architecture is new. Even so on the first day I went to thermal springs about an hour outside of Mendoza. The scene was quite breath taking because the springs were built on the side of a mountain that was part of the Andes. The water and thermal springs were not quite as amazing but still the view made the massive trip out there worth it.

On the second night we switched hostels to one closer to town, it was great. We immediately found a great group of people and knew almost everyone there. A few people from our hostel in Salta were also staying at our place in Mendoza which was fun.

On the third day we decided to do some wine tasting...when in rome right? We took a bus out to the wine reigon beautifully named Maipu {pronounced my poo}, rented some bikes, grabbed a map and we were on our way. The gig is that you ride your bikes to whichever winery tickles your fancy. Mara and I made it to two bodegas, an olive oil factory and also a chocolate liquor place. We both decided that Vistandes would be the locationof our destination weddings check it out! At any rate we had a great day biking around and taking it all in nice sunny day, beautiful wine country with the Andes as the back drop and of course the bodegas. That evening we went out with a few people from our hostel to the main bar area in town as well as to a reggae bar with some great live music.

We spent the next day exploring the towns squares and markets. Another beautiful day hanging out in Mendoza. I am not sure I would rush back but it was pretty cool all the same.

Early on Sunday morning Mara, myself and our new friend Andy headed up into the Andes into a small town called Puente del Inca. The town itself was literally ten buildings in a valley between the massive Andes mountain range. I am pretty sure the town exists for two reasons: there is an ancient land bridge that the Inca's used to go to thermal springs and it is about 4 kilometers from the hike out point of the world's tallest mountain outside the Himalayas. The town was great though one small general store,a hostel, a hotel and some toursity stores. We walked around on our first evening there and found the bus from "Into the Wild" as well as saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

The next day we had decided to try and stay at the basecamp but that ended up not working otu after a lot of effort and time. We ended up doing the lame loop at the bottom near the ranger station [woot to us hiking!!!!] and then heading back to the hostel. We were bummed that we couldn't stay at base camp but when we heard winds would hit 100 mph we quickly changed our minds. We spent the night instead back at our hostel with new friends, some wine and pasta. It was a great night totally enjoyed by all. We also were able to go to some of the thermal springs on the other side of the Inca bridge which were so lovely. We sat watching the clouds roll into our valley slowly covering up the bright stars that we had been admiring and headed to bed.

Here is a link about Aconagua....


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mendoza and Puente del Inca Photos

Mara and I at the base of Aconagua.

Beautiful Sunset in Puente del Inca

Our climbing adventures.

Puente del Inca, the main style of architecture: tin.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Northwest Argentina (Resistencia, Salta, Cafayate and Cachi)

We finally left the beautiful Iguazu Falls and headed to Resistencia which we knew little about but it seemed to be a good stopping point for a few days and seemed to be a bit off the normal track for backpackers.

We took an overnight bus and arrived in Resistencia at about 6 a.m. we had planned to check into a hostel and relax after a rough night on the bus. We met up with two english backpackers who had arrived on our same bus and headed into town. The first hostel we checked out now was abandoned and now seemed to be currently poccupied with someone sleeping on the front stoop. Next on our list also turned out to be without any luck, they were booked for the night or as they say in spanish "no hay nadia". Our few days in Resistencia quickly turned into one with and it seemed that it would be spent with our new english friends Alistar and Kat. Resistencia has become famous for the many scultpures through out town. In a town with about 250,00 in habitants there are almost 500 sculptures. Most are made by Argetines local to the North. It was great to see not only the scultures but also a town that was frequented little by other backpackers (especially after Iguazu had been such a tourist destination). I very much enjoyed the town, it was great people watching as well as a nice look into rural Argentine life. That night we left on another overnight bus to Salta (which is in the northwest of Argentina).

We arrived in Salta ready to spend a few days exploring and staying in one place. We were able to meet up with our friend Fran whom we had met in Uruguay. It was good to see him as well as a new part of Argentina. Salta is absolutely lovely, it is completely surrounded by mountains. We were able to walk up one of the hills/mountains giving us great views of the city. We became a bit lazy and took the gondola down though, hey we made it up right?
View of Salta from the top of the mountain.

We spent a few more days exploring the city. Mara and I made our way to a mountain on the other side of the city hoping to be able to have a repeast performance of the view above but with no luck. The village of San Lorenzo was literally 5 shops nestled into the side of one of the mountains above. It was only 14 kilometers outside the city but worlds apart.

Once again we used couch surfing to hook up with a local and we had a great time. Daniela is a 23 year old student originally from Salta who had been living in Bolivia for the past 6 years. We all made dinner together one night and then went out to a bar named Barney after the character on the Simpsons. Another night she took us out to the bar district in Salta which is surprisingly lively for a town of about 500,000.

After a few days in Salta we decided that it was time to explore some of the nearby towns. Mara, Fran and I along with two others from our hostel rented a Fiat the size of downstairs bathroom on Linden Street (a bit of an exageration I know but it felt that small at times). On our first day with the car we drove south with the destination of Cafayate in mind. Along the way we decided to stop and check out a few things.

Mara and Leor jumping off a bridge, we think it was about 20 meters to the water. Don´t worry safety first, Mara and I jumped only after we saw Fran and Leor do it.

The ride to Cafayate was beyond amazing. This is called "Garganta del Diablo" or Devil´s Throat. The true immensity is absolutely impossible to capture via my camera. When Fran and Leor walked to the higest point possible they looked completely insignificant to the strucutre. In the U.S. there would literally be thousands of people visiting it each day, here this natural structure was only marked by paint on a rock 50 meters before the parking lot.

Our beautiful Fiat, why would anyone ever rent 5 kids a white car??

Another section of the ride to Cafayate. Cafayate is one of Argentina´s most famous wine making regions. It is also home to the world´s highest alititude winery at just under 4500 feet.

The next day on our way to Cachi. Some describe this section of terrain as looking like the moon, I am not sure if I agree but still amazing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Iguazu Falls

The next few days we spent in Buenos Aires doing many of the things we had not done previously. I went to the San Telmo section of the city and walked on cobble stone streets through the antiques district. I was also able to see a home that was only 3 meters wide but 50 meters long. The story told is the land was given to a group of freed slaves by their previous owner and they worked with what they had to build therir home on their land!

I next headed over to the Recoleta Cemetary which is the burial site of famous Argentine Evita Peron as well as many others famous and elite alike. It sounds somewhat odd but the cemetary represents one of the most famous tourist attractions in Buenos Aires as well as source of pride for the portenas, rightfully so. It was absolutely beautiful, I literally walked around with awe at the amazing graves that families had made for themselves. Some of them were so ornate made of marble and intricate details such as paintings and wrought iron designs. I could have spent an entire day there and still not be able to see all the graves. It certainly was not like any cemetary have been to before..

We were able to hang out with Florencia (our couch surfing friend) and Beth (one of our new friends from Diablo) on our last night in the city. It was great to just hang out on the roof of the hostel and have some good laughes with our new friends. I have very much enjoyed my time in Buenos Aires and it´s position as my home away from home in South America.

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu after and long yet luxorious bus ride. We were given hot meals, served drinks and given blankets and pillows to sleep with. It was a much better experience than our flight down on American I can tell you that!

Our first day was spent settling in doing nothing particularly exciting. But on our second day we went to falls!!!! I do not know how to explain the falls through my blog because they were simply amazing! No seriously I still cannot get over how powerful and breathtaking they were. The falls for those who do not know creates part of the border between Brasil and Argentina.Therefore Brasil claims part of the falls as thier own and Argentina does the same. From the Argetine side you are able to see everything so it did not really matter. On our first day at the falls Mara and I walked the lower loop looking at the falls from the bottom. We took a ferry boat across the river to Isla San Miguel to get other views. We were able to get in a lovely swim on the island as well which was greatly needed with the temperature near 90. With each new place we stood we were able to see different views and waterfalls. The thing with the falls is that there are many different sets of waterfalls that you really cannot see everything at all at once. The falls are literally that massive that in order to see everything you have two loops, a train ride and a trip out to the island.

On the second day at the falls Mara and I went to Garganta del Diablo which is another section of the falls, it is about 1.5 kilometers away from the rest of the falls. The amount of water passing through the U shaped area was absolutely one of the memorable things I have ever seen in my life thus far I could literally have sat there for hours just watching water fall so fluidly over the edge and crash hundreds of feet below spraying up with a cool mist. I wish I could take everyone reading this to the falls so you could actually experience the almost rush like sensation that you feel when you see them. After the Garganta del Diablo, Mara and I walked the loop on the top of the falls we had seen the day before. We then took a nature walk to our very own waterfall where we could swim. I am so glad that I was able to see the falls and marvel in them. I will put up pictures and atempt at video but I don´t think they do the falls justice. You all will just have to visit!!!

Here is a link to Wikipedia about Iguazu (sorry I know wikipedia is lame!)

We have spend today hanging out and soaking up the sun. Tonight we are boarding a bus for Resistencia. We do not know much about it but I am sure we will learn soon enough. Pictures to follow so long as the internet cooperates.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


See-Saw when was the last time you plaed on one?
The area where we saw the Argetine drumming band. They were great! Here is a link to their website, about halfway down there is a youtube video of them We made friends
A catholic church in Buenos Aires.
Iguazu Falls!!!!!!!!
The land on the left is San Miguel Island, you can stand on the outermost point of the island and be sprayed by the massive waterfall near the island.
There were rainbows everywhere, it was was like out of a storybook.
View from the upper ring, there is another level of falls that I could not get in the shot.
This is the Garganta del Diablo or the devils throat.
Story I found online about the falls- The Guarani legend of the waterfalls tells the story of an angry god who in some stories takes the shape of a snake. The local people had to sacrifice a virgin each year to please the god so that the river would continue to flow. In other versions this specific virgin was set aside to become the wife of the god. She already had a mortal lover and the young warrior decided he would not give his love away to the vengeful god. The two mortals fled. The god displeased with her escape in a canoe split the river so that the couple would fall to their deaths. She was turned into a rock from the fall and he became an overhanging tree, separated but within sight of his lover. The name of the waterfalls means "great water" in the Guarani language. The Spanish explorers renamed it the Santa Maria cascades in the 16th century, but they couldn't get the name to stick.