Argentina: Crossing the Andes

We left Santiago on Monday, April 13th and headed east to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. Over the past three months we’ve been on many bus trips, and we’ve had a variety of experiences to say the least, but this one definitely comes out on top because of the amazing views we had along the way. The journey took six hours even though we were only going 200 miles because we had to cross the Andes in addition to going through immigration in both Chile and Argentina.

Reaching more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the road cut through long tunnels and zigzagged through mountain terrain. On our ascent we went up an impressive series of switchbacks, each turn steeper and scarier than the last. The bus company was called “El Rapido”, and had we been thinking when we bought the tickets we might have used a different company. Guess who’s driver thought he was on a race track?


We were traveling on a beautiful, clear day with 360 degree views all around us. Fortunately we were able to get a glimpse of the snow capped Mt Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at nearly 23,000 feet.

IMG_6905For hours we stared out the bus windows in awe. There were two couples sitting in front of us from Quebec, and they were just as excited as we were to have such spectacular views. It was fun having others appreciate the scenery as much as we did.


Guess who’s excited to be back in Argentina?


Chile: Valparaiso *Street Art*

Valparaiso is located two hours to the west of Santiago on the Pacific Ocean. The city is wedged into the hillside along the coast. We had a fantastic time walking up and down the myriad of staircases and windy alleyways to explore different neighborhoods.

Valpo used to be a booming seaport, but things changed drastically for the worse when the Panama Canal opened in 1914. Since ships no longer needed to cross the Straights of Magellan when sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Valparaiso took a huge financial hit.

Efforts have been made over the past 15 years to bring Valparaiso back to life. Home to many artists and universities, the city feels very bohemian with all the colorful artwork, murals and brightly painted houses. There were surprises around every corner!


Chile: Santiago

The bus ride from Pucon to Santiago was 11 hours north. We opted to make the trip during the day instead of overnight and I’m pleased to say that we survived without any drama. We’ve actually become rather efficient bus travelers at this point.┬áThe most noteworthy thing that happened was that I stayed awake about half the time, crazy I know. Harry actually had someone to talk to!

Santiago, the Capitol of Chile

Santiago is a huge metropolitan region surrounded by the Andes. Our taxi driver said that the Andes are actually IN the city, and after spending 12 days here we know what he meant. There are several large hills in the city that offer fantastic views that were much appreciated after the effort it took to walk to the top. However, Santiago, which is essentially in a bowl surrounded by the mountains, has a serious issue with smog. Every day we remarked how amazing the views would be without as much pollution.


Rested, Relaxed + Recharged

We stayed in a great little airbnb apartment while we were here. It was so nice to unpack and settle in. Going grocery shopping and cooking meals was a luxury we haven’t had since Buenos Aires. Spending so much time here allowed us to explore different parts of the city at a slower pace. We were also able to do lots of research and planning.

City Life

We became quite adept at using the Metro and zipped around to all corners of the city in addition to exploring by foot. With seven million people living here, Santiago is crowded, loud and full of energy. We visited museums, walked through parks and explored different neighborhoods. We were lucky to experience the impressive “changing of the guard” ceremony at the presidential palace. We were blown away by the scale of the city’s cemetery, which sits on over 210 acres of land and is home to ornate mausoleums and statues. We also took a few day trips outside the city, including Pomaire, which is the Chile’s ceramic’s capital, and the port city of Valparaiso.

There were fruit stands all over the city and we quickly got into the habit of buying fruit cups and fresh juice. We loved the fact that Chileans put avocados on everything! We ate more than our fill of perfectly ripe, inexpensive avocados.


Market Madness

Santiago is known for its massive, bustling markets where you can buy anything from meat, fruit and vegetable to socks, batteries and nose hair trimmers. We went there on two different days because there was so much to take in. Streets and alleyways seemingly went on for miles. Vendors were selling wholesale to restaurants as well as retail to all walks of life. If the aisles weren’t packed enough with people crammed side-by-side, many folks were also pulling a wheeled-cart behind them to carry their goods. The stray dogs and little kids running underfoot just added to the frenzy of it all. As crazy as the scene felt to us the first day we were there, by our second visit we understood the energy a little bit more and could tap our feet to the rhythm of the jumbled market dance.

Have you ever wondered how a side of beef gets from the truck into the market stall? Well, now you know. I’m sure they don’t pay that guy nearly enough!


The Missing Chilean Flag

You might have noticed that in blogging about Argentina I included a lot of pictures of the Argentinean flag. I couldn’t help but notice that the Chilean flag is rarely seen around the city. We found out the reason is because during Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) so many protests included the flag that it became more a symbol of rebellion than of national pride. Therefore, Pinochet banned citizens from displaying the flag except on three holidays a year when it’s mandatory to display it. He also made it difficult to change laws, which is why this one is still in effect today.


Speaking of Argentina, we’re crossing the Andes and heading back there tomorrow (April 13). First stop is Mendoza… we heard there might be some Malbec there. Adios, Chile!