Three weeks of photos from Argentina & Chile

As promised (finally!), here are the photographic highlights from my last 3 weeks on the road in Argentina and Chile.

They start with a few photos from SaltaCordoba, and Mendoza, before I jumped down to Bariloche in Argentina’s Patagonia. From there, I crossed the border to spend a rainy week in Puerto Varas and Valdivia (because of the crummy weather, there are very few photos), then made a long haul up to Vina del Mar to spend my last days of vacation on the beach soaking up some final South American sunshine.


Video proof I jumped out of an airplane!

Slowly but surely I’m sorting through all of my pictures from the last month of my travels so I can get them posted on here, but in the mean time, I was finally able to rewatch and upload my skydiving video!

Embedded from YouTube for your viewing pleasure — proof that I really was crazy enough to jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet!

Bariloche, Patagonia: Biking 27 km and driving 370!

Well, I didn’t exactly bike the entire 27 km because, as a pathetically, out of shape weakling, I walked my bike up the steeper hills. But for all intents and purposes, I biked the 27 km Circuito Chico this afternoon and I feel two things: accomplished, and absolutely exhausted. 

Map of the Circuito Chico, which I biked today!

The circuit itself is a gorgeous, paved road that circles the eastern area of Bariloche, along the lakes and rivers of the area. The road slopes uphill, then downhill, then uphill again, revealing tree-lined views of the lakes and snow-capped peaks. I opted to do the bike journey solo, and took my sweet time stopping whenever I wanted to take photos, needed a breather or opted to walk my bike up the steeper, hillier sections. Luckily it only rained for a half hour or so in the beginning of my journey, and when the rain got so heavy I could barely see, I stopped under a clump of trees to wait it out, and was able to hop back on my bike (granted with a very wet butt and an awkward wet stripe down my back) a few minutes later as the rain lightened, then stopped for good.


Stella, very clearly in ducky heaven (probably because she didn´t have to pedal the bike!)


Bariloche is a polar opposite change from the 95 degree, sweat-inducing, desert heat of Mendoza and northern Argentina. I´ve traded my light cotton dress for a hood instead of sunglasses, leggings underneath my jeans, four layers beneath my windbreaker, plus my alpaca-knit gloves. Regardless of the frigid, and very indecisive weather (it´s sort of like being in Boston where you can wait 5 minutes and the weather will change) this lake region, at the very northern tip of Patagonia, is stunning.

View of one of the lake´s many beaches from right near my hostel

Yesterday I had a lazy, mostly indoors day, since it was colder, windier, and rainier outside than I wanted to brave, but during a break in the rain I took the ski lift up to Cerro Campanario and enjoyed an absolutely incredible 360 degree view of the lakes, rivers and mountains surrounding Bariloche. Worth every penny of the 60 pesos I paid to let the ski lift haul my lazy self up and down the mountain!


Nothing better than hot chocolate and raspberry tart to keep me company at the top of the ski lift, waiting for the rain to pass.

View from the ski lift!

And on my first full day in town, I met three boys in my hostel, and the four of us rented a car to drive 370 kilometers up north and around the seven lakes to San Martin. Michiel and Frank, Dutch brothers, Mario, a German guy, and I had some serious bonding time during our 13 hours in our Volkswagon Gol together, but we had an absolute blast. The weather didn´t exactly cooperate, and we had on and off rain and some serious cloud coverage for many hours, but we also got to see a gorgeous rainbow over one of the lakes, and a tiny bit of sunshine here and there.


Map of the northern roads we drove along


Boys being, well… boys, and climbing a giant rock that jutted out over the road

I also had my first attempt at driving stick shift — on an empty, and wide, dirt road in the middle of our journey. The photo of my skid marks from the first time I attempted to release the clutch and press the gas simultaneously is absolutely priceless, but Michiel was very patient and, eventually, I was able to drive for more than a minute or two without stalling out the car. Luckily for the boys, I only drove on that tiny stretch of road.


Poor, terrified Michiel



Tomorrow morning, I´m leaving Argentina and headed to Puerto Varas in Chile, my fifth and final country for my last 8 days of vacation. Fingers crossed the weather improves and I can snag some awesome views of the volcanos!

I would love nothing more than to post all of my millions of photos from the last 3 days, but my computer is truly dead, and aside from the photos I took on my cell phone and posted to Instagram, I have no way of uploading my DSLR´s photos to this shared computer, so these ones will have to do. I promise when I get back to the States and face funemployment once again, I´ll upload the pictures I wasn´t able to post!

That time I jumped out of an airplane

Once you´ve flown,

you know why

the birds are always singing.

I´ve been biting my tounge (holding back my fingers?) trying to keep this secret — partially because I didn´t want to jinx it (which I almost did!) and partially because I knew certain people (mainly my incredibly loving, but risk-take-hating parents) would have a heart attack if I told them I was planning to pay good money to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. In fact, when I get home in two weeks (yikes!) I´m more than sure I´ll never hear the end of it.

As soon as I met Vincent back in Potosi and we started talking about the 50+ skydiving jumps he´d been on back in France, I was insanely jealous. I dídn´t come to South America expecting to, or even thinking about, going skydiving, but it´s something I´ve always wanted to do, and going with someone who knows the ropes sounded like the perfect chance.

Two weeks ago, at the end of our Salar trip, Vincent and I had read in my guidebook that Cordoba is one of the better known places in Argentina to go skydiving. So we made a plan to meet there in December, after he´d been to Buenos Aires and Iguazu (where I´ve already been) and I had explored Salta with Sergio. Two weeks later, we were hugging hello again on Cordoba´s Alevar street.

On our first day back together, we ventured out to Alta Gracia, a suburb 30 kilometers south of Cordoba where an aerodome is located. We found someone working at the office we´d researched, but they told us because of the weather, jumping that day was impossible. But they would gladly have us back tomorrow instead.

vincentwaitingThe company picked us up at our hostel at 9:45 AM the next morning and drove us back out to Alta Gracia, where we sat in the hanger and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

In fact, we waited all day, until 6 PM, to be given our final no, you cannot jump today. We´d been told throughout the day that the wind was too strong, and it was unsafe to jump, but they kept saying it might die down, or the conditions might change. I was relieved to know the company wouldn´t put us in danger just to take our cash, but mostly just bummed that we sat in an airport hanger all day for absolutely nothing.

Fed up of waiting and less than impressed with Cordoba, we decided to just head to Mendoza, where there were other companies that offered skydiving and where we could at least drown our sorrows in a good Malbec if we couldn´t actually jump out of an airplane.

After an exhausting overnight bus, we got to Mendoza and called the three Mendoza skydiving companies we could find. Two said we couldn´t jump with them until Tuesday, and the other said he´d pick us up the next morning at 9 AM. We were stoaked, but hesitant to get too excited.

On Monday morning, our guide arrived even earlier than anticipated, and after an hour of waiting and another hour of running around the city trying to get a cash advance on my credit card (the joys of what happens when you leave your debit card in the ATM and it gets stolen before you realize what happened) then eventually being able to pay by credit card, we were finally on our way.

Two hours later we arrived in the nothern city of San Juan. We were out of the jeeping and suiting up, Vincent and our guide chatting away about canopy sizes and equipment, before it began to hit me that I was actually getting ready to jump out of an airplane, not just sit around talking about it.

Up until a few moments before my feet dangled over the edge of the airplane floor I barely felt any nerves. Just a bit of anxiousness, since I´d been planning and talking about and anticipating this moment for nearly two weeks. The four of us (Vincent, myself, our guide who was my tandem partner, and another gentleman who is a student of our guide) were all sitting backwards, crammed into the seatless back section of our very tiny airplane, chatting about nothing in particular as we circled the air, slowly climbing to 10,000 feet. Those easily felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life, but not because of nerves, just from the simple anticipation. The moment I saw Vincent´s body plunge toward the earth as he exited the plane, I felt my stomach drop. But I still didn´t quite know what to expect, I was just as excited as I was nervous, and there was no way I was backing out then.

Attached by all our harnesses and gear, I sat on my guide´s lap and we pulled our feet out of the cabin and dangled them out into the windy sky.

“You ready?” he asked me? I don´t think I said yes, I think I just squealed.

One, two, three, jump!

And just like that, we were falling. Gracelessly, effortlessly, and so quickly that I didn´t even feel a pit form in my stomach. I expected that rollercoaster nerves feeling, but it never came. Just amazement, as we tumbled toward earth. At some point I physically I lost my breath, reminding myself to pull my head up and back so I could take in oxygen through my nose. After 30 seconds of face-flapping, mind-blowing free fall, my guide pulled out the chute, and we were suddenly vertical again, still floating easily and effortlessly through the sky, but this time guiding our own way.

It´s hard to describe the high, but Vincent taught me my opening quote about skydiving, and why he´s so addicted, and it made complete sense once I´d landed from our jump. There´s something exhilarating, freeing, and even relaxing about falling 10,000 feet. About trusting your body to guide you down, and trusting your mind to allow your body to do such an incredibly crazy thing. And in my case, trusting your tandem partner and your chute to function properly.

Luckily, my guide had just come back from competing in the world championships of skydiving in Dubai, and was on his 981st jump, so I didn´t have to worry that he didn´t know what he was doing. He spoke great English, explained everything to me calmly and logically, and I felt so safe knowing he was in total control.

I would jump again in a heartbeat, and despite its high price tag, I completely understand why skydiving can become an addiction. I loved every moment of my jump, and I´m so glad I had the guts, and opportunity, to try something so crazy, but so incredible.

I have a wonderful DVD of my jump, but I can´t rip it from the DVD without tech support and/or a working laptop, but I promise to post it when I get home!


rplane1This morning I´m also getting in an airplane, but this time, it´s a comercial Aerolinas Argentina flight down to Argentine Patagonia´s Bariloche. I´m trading the vineyards and 95 degree heat for hiking amongst mountain lakes and glaciers, but I´ve heard nothing but fantastic things about Bariloche, so I think it will be worth the trade!

Bienvenidos a Argentina!

I’ve only been in Argentina for three days — four if you count our 14 hour travel day on Saturday — but I can feel the difference from Bolivia immediately.  Granted Tupiza is a tiny town with no license for wifi and no more than 3 stoplights, so the difference between town and city is apparent as well, but the cultural and physical differences are more than obvious the second  you cross the border.

  • I’m back in the proximity of the first world. Signs are informative, posted hours are accurate, credit cards are widely accepted, and common courtesy exchanges are expected everywhere. Salta is very clearly a South American city, but it seems more similar to an American city than a Bolivian one.
  • With that proximity comes shockingly high prices. In Tupiza, it was 80 cents for two of the best mangos I’ve ever eaten, but yesterday I paid $3 for an average Dole-stickered mango and two unripe kiwis. The teleferico (cable car ride) we took cost $7 a person, whereas I paid 50 cents each way in Cochabamba. A 1.5 liter bottle of water is 11 pesos here, more than $2, and more than twice what I paid for a 2 liter bottle in La Paz. I nearly let my jaw drop at the bus station when the man told me tickets to Cordoba are 450 pesos — $90 for a 12 hour bus ride, which would have cost me $35 in Peru. Hostels and taxis seem exorbitant, even though the prices are normal, or even cheap, compared to the US. I definitely need to adjust my budget!
  • The sidewalks are horrible. I remember this one from Buenos Aires, but I didn’t realize it would be a problem in other cities as well. My foot is 90% better, but I’ve almost reinjured it a dozen times because of ridiculous holes, cracks, and up-rooted tiles in the sidewalks.
  • Italiano Espanol. Sentences here are sing-songy and higher pitched. Worse, the vocabulary is different, and my brain is struggling to process familiar words.
  • Small change is non-existant. In Peru and Bolivia, people hated breaking big bills, but in Argentina, whether you’re at a street cart or a museum store with a cash register, everyone refuses to give you one peso. When I bought water today, the old lady in front of me had to buy two candies for 50 cents because her coca cola was $3.50 and the shop owner refused to give her a 50 cent piece.
  • The conditioner comes out of my hair all on it’s own. Hot water? Normal water pressure? Wait, the bathroom has a shower curtain?! I’m in heaven!
  • No more hoarding toilet paper. No more squished rolls of TP and antibacterial lotion in my purse everywhere I go. Much fewer one-star, hold-your-nose-and-close-your-eyes bathrooms, and, believe it or not, some establishments even have paper towels.
  • Quilmes tastes worse than Bud Light. Another fact I’d remembered to forget from my time in Buenos Aires several months ago, but the national beer is, actually, terrible. Thankfully, I can stick to delicious local Malbecs instead.
  • The whole world doesn’t shut down for almuerzo. Walk outside in Bolivia between the hours of 12 and 2 and you’d easily be convinced nobody lives in the city. In Salts, the streets bustle at all times of the day, and though businesses close and kids go home for lunch, the city is far from a ghost town.
  • I blend in incredibly well. Argentines look Caucasian. They don’t think I look strange nor do they automatically attempt to speak to me in English. The European immigration is obvious simply in the color of people’s skin.
  • But I get cat-called every five seconds. Sergio left for Chile early this morning, so today was the first day I walked around Salta on my own. In six hours of wandering, I got stared at, whistled at, called out to, honked at, and even begged to stop walking by at least 3 dozen men. Considering I was wearing a high neck t-shirt and knee-length leggings, I certainly don’t think I was asking for it. By hour six, I was ready to pull out some of the nasty Spanish words I’ve learned on the road. Smartly, I refrained and retreated back to my hostel for a siesta instead.