After 1 and a half crazy months in the city of Santiago, it was time to move on, so I got the map out and started to contemplate my next destination.
Santiago was truly magical, the idyllic setting of the capital, nestled in-between the snow-capped Andes made everyday, and especially every evening a feast for the eyes. I made a habit of watching the sunset from wherever I was, might it be at the terrace of a local bar, a friends balcony, or on top of San-Cristobal hill alongside the humungous Virgin Mary , casting her gaze over the south-american metropolis.
Everyday was a new day, a new adventure, and routine was a concept that didn’t make sense anymore. Everything from 5-hour hikes leading us to breathtaking summits, the ecstatic Creamfields music festival, to lazy afternoons in the park making small talk with the chilean locals, made my stay so special.
So what was the next destination? I chose Uruguay, an often wrongly over-looked country by travellers alike. A secret gem sat in-between Argentina and Brazil, that you only need to look at once to be blinded by it’s shine. I started in Montevideo, the country’s capital city, it was slightly uneventful but it definitely had it’s charm, and I would say that the people’s positivity and friendliness definitely perfected the mix. Montevideo carries just over half of the Uruguayan population of 3 million, so kilometres of untouched natural beauty, is what you get upon leaving the city. I got into ultra-tourist mode for a picture on the Montevideo sign.
After a few hostel conversations about the must-see opportunities in Uruguay, I went for Punta del Este, a coastal ghost town in the winter, that flourishes into a bustling seaside resort in the summer. This is where the Argentinian jet-set comes to relax and party under the Uruguayan sun.
I was blessed to meet some of the coolest Uruguayans, who taught me the Uruguayan way of life. Surfing, drinking Maté and lounging on the beach where all activities on full rotation for the 4 days I stayed in Punta del Este.
The next stop was Colonia del Sacramento, a small colonial town fought over by the Portuguese and Spanish centuries ago, before becoming independent.
Mossy cobble stoned streets, lined with terra-cotta colonial style Spanish casas with bunches of vivid flowers growing out from the facades, lead to quiet serene parks that gather enamoured couples, kissing on benches, perched like love birds.
Dusty 50s cars can be found in the streets, rusted and corroded by time, failing to move on unlike the many nations Colonia del Sacramento fell under.
After dawn, yellow-tinted street lights generate a soft glow, slowly rocking the coastal town into a 19th century lullaby, as they wrap their rays around you.
The next move was Buenos Aires, I was told it was going to teleport me straight back to Europe, as the influence was so strong. If this is partly true, on the other hand the city has an electrifying latin twist to it. Buenos Aires is a south american power house, buzzing 24/7 and is truly overwhelming. I tried out my first two Couchsurfing experiences here, one was in the neighbourhood of Loma Hermosa, a very working-class area, about one hour out from the micro-centre, and the other was in the hip Recoleta neighbourhood, bang in the middle of BA, so I really got the best of both worlds.
I was actually couch surfing at the same time as an Italian guy called Alessandro, we unfortunately got on the wrong bus on one night on our way back from the centre. That lead us to a villa (vi-sha as they pronounce it), which isn’t the flamboyant 5 bedroom palace that you could imagine. These are actually the Argentinian version of favelas. We kept our calm while navigating through one of the roughest neighbourhoods in BA, yes, cars were on fire, and motorbikes were one-wheeling around the bus. Thankfully the driver took us back to where we should have been. We definitely laughed a lot about it, but it’s all in our memories, because, as you could imagine I didn’t really feel comfortable pulling my camera out!
The second Couchsurf offered a more cosmopolitan experience, we went food & beer tasting in a festival, and even had liquid nitrogen frozen ice-cream. We also had a champagne fuelled night out in a swanky Buenos Aires nightclub… Oops.
In any case, I’ll definitely be Couchsurfing again.
To get back from Buenos Aires, to Santiago, I took a 14 hour bus and stopped for 2 days in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. All I did there was lounge by the pool, go on wine tours, and eat grilled asados in the evening, I’m not complaining though.
At the time of writing I am waiting for a flight to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, to do a 4-day trek with a french friend I met in Santiago, this is definitely going to be a highlight!
It’ll also be a 4-day internet cure, I daren’t imagine how hard this is going to be ;).