Good Wine and Great Tango
23.06.2012 - 17.07.2012 9 °C
A few weeks have past and we have visited a couple countries since our last blog post, so I think this entry is well past due. After seeing Machu Picchu and spending over a month in Peru, we were ready to see a new place and also settle down for a while. We have been travelling pretty much every 2-3 days now for the last 5 months, and although it is great and I wouldn't trade it for anything, both Anastasia and I are pretty worn out. When we were originally planning this adventure we thought we would visit Bolivia after Peru, and although we heard many great things about the country and the people there; we decided we would rather head to Chile directly, where it is a little more developed and there are a few more comforts than we would likely find in Bolivia (and definitely didn´t have in Peru)
Our final stop in the Americas was to be in Buenos Aires, where we really planned to rest for awhile and unpack our bags before heading out again, but Chile is a country I have always really felt drawn too and wanted to visit, so I refused to skip it, even if it meant we would only be able to stay for a few days in Santiago. So with that decision made, we left Cusco on an overnight bus to Tacna Peru and then took a short 90 minute collectivo ride across the Chilean border to the town of Arica. It shouldn't be so surprising but I am amazed at how much can change when you cross a border, it is really just an arbitrary line drawn on the map by a couple countries, but the difference between Peru and Chile was apparent immediately. The people look different, everything is cleaner, and overall life just feels better. We got across the border without any major issues, except for having our luggage searched presumably because we were the only white people on the bus, and then we soon arrived in the town of Arica. We decided to stay in Arica for a night before taking yet another long bus ride to the capital, and we had a hotel already picked out and were able to check in right away. Did I mention the prices are also drastically different here, (read higher) to go along with the different people and culture. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were glad to be back on the ocean, so we spent most of the day wandering around the city and the coast. We had some good food, and got to take advantage of the kitchen our hotel offered for use, which was never an option in Peru. (Meaning Anastasia got to take advantage of the kitchen, and I was told just to stay out of the way)
Anyway, the next day we set off again to head further south to Santiago. I was not looking forward to this bus ride as it lasts 28 hours, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable trip. The seats were very comfortable, a lot of the travel was during the day (so we got to see the countryside and desert), they played movies constantly with nice headphones for everybody, and they fed us 4 times. So we arrived in Santiago actually pretty rested and ready to see the city. We checked into Don Santiago Hostel because it got great reviews online, and after staying there I can definitely see why. This is one of the nicest and most comfortable hostels I have ever stayed at, and I would never go anywhere else in Santiago. Anyway, we planned to spend a couple nights in Santiago exploring the city before moving on to Argentina with the intention of getting an apartment in Buenos Aires for at least a month. As it turned out, we got to spend more time than planned in Santiago, which was really a blessing as we got to meet a lot of other great travelers and see some amazing sights and museums in the city. Plus we made it to our first winery tour of the trip (way past due) at Concha y Toro. We didn´t leave Chile when planned because the land border crossing between Santiago and Mendoza (Los-Libertadores) was closed due to the weather conditions. This is not something we had even considered, although I will admit we don´t really do much research before we set out to a lot of our destinations. Apparently, the road which crosses over the Andes can become impossible to traverse if there is a storm. (Which happens frequently in the winter.) Anyway, the morning we were planning to leave the people at the hostel told us the busses wouldn't be running, but we figured there had to be a way to cross, so we headed to the bus terminal anyway and wasted our time going between all the different bus companies trying to buy tickets just to be told there were no busses running. And the best part is that no one knows when the pass will be opened again, so all you can do is wait and keep asking. So we returned to the hostel and checked in again, a bit defeated but glad to have a nice place to stay. The next day we just called the terminal instead of driving down there again, and were told there were no busses. Same thing happened the next day, and the next. So at this point, although we really liked Santiago, we didn´t know how long we might have to wait to get to Mendoza and we decided our only other option was to buy plane tickets directly to Buenos Aires. We purchased tickets for two days later, and I am glad we did because the pass didn't open before we left and I have no idea how many more days we would have been stuck there.
We purchased tickets with Pluna Airlines because they were the cheapest at $320 one way for both of us. Most people will probably never even have the option because the airline only flies a few routes through Uruguay, but do not ever fly on Pluna Airlines. Let me repeat that, do not fly on Pluna Airlines! It was not an enjoyable experience in anyway and it definitely reminded me why we had been trying to avoid flying for most of this trip. To sum it up quickly, our first flight was delayed by 3 hours, then the next flight was also delayed, then we arrived in Argentina to be told my bag wouldn't make it. Apparently it was left in Uruguay, but they had found it and would send it to Buenos Aires the next morning, so it wasn't too bad. However, the flight the next morning was cancelled and subsequently my bag didn't arrive until another 12 hours had passed, and when it did arrive I discovered that someone had gone through all of my stuff and stolen some of the more valuable items. (Fortunately the camera and more important things we kept with us in our carry-on luggage.) So anyway, enough of my ranting, but please do not take Pluna if you can at all avoid it. Plus, to further irritate us upon our arrival in Buenos Aires, the taxi driver tried to rip us off too. Fortunately we were smarter than him, and after a few minutes of arguing he took off without any ¨extra¨ money. (Apparently there are a lot of problems with taxis in Buenos Aires, including counterfeit bills, robberies, scams, etc. so be extra cautious if you are travelling there.)
After our first tough couple days in Buenos Aires we are now enjoying ourselves much more. We spent the first 2 days in a hostel looking for a short term apartment rental. It was actually fairly easy to do and after checking at a couple local agent offices we found a very helpful woman and were signing a contract for a one month lease on a loft in Recoleta. Since moving in and unpacking our belongings, we have quickly adapted to life here in the city. People here don´t sleep much at night and it is common to eat dinner after 10:00 pm and then go out for a show or drinks until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. I don´t know how people get up and go to work the next day, but that´s the way it works here. We have been doing a lot of the typical tourist activities also, and have seen a lot of the museums, parks, tango shows, and of course enjoying all the Argentinean Beef. Plus, just by coincidence we happened to run into Sandra (who we travelled with for a few days in Peru) and spent a couple days with her and her boyfriend Patric catching up on everywhere we have been over the last month.
So, we have continued to stay busy over the last few weeks and there are a lot of things I am sure I am forgetting to add to the blog, but that´s what the pictures in the gallery are for. We are very glad we decided to stay here in Buenos Aires for a few weeks, but we are already talking about where we want to head next, or maybe taking a short trip to somewhere else in Argentina. So we will see what happens.