OK. So I have a lot to catch everyone up on! As I mentioned in my last post, I spent my Spring Break traveling across the entire continent of South America. From the beautiful wine country to Mendoza to the coasts of Chile and the hilltop city of Valparaiso.
We went off on our adventure last Friday night and took a 16 hour bus ride to Mendoza. Luckily the bus was at night so we were able to sleep most of the way. Tajel and I were at a different hostel than the rest of our group, Taylor, Jen, and Sam, so we went our separate ways to get settled in. The hostel wasnt too bad. We were in a room with 4 other people, on bunk beds. The only thing gross were the bathrooms….so we didn’t shower too much. But the place felt safe and the desk people were nice enough. That day, we just walked the city and explored the streets.
But on the second and third day we took an hour bus ride to wine country and rented bikes and just biked down this one Long road that had wineries all along it. It was Beautiful! We went to 2 wineries the first day and about 4 the second. It was HOT, and we biked probably 10 miles in total, but it was definitely worth it! The tastings were Cheap! (Around $5 per winery for usually one BIG glass or three smaller tastings).
We drank A Lot of wine and biked all day. It was Really fun! My favorite was the Sav Blanc from Trapiche. But their most famous was the Malbec of course. I believe they export to the U.S. So anyone interested should look it up!
On Wednesday morning we got back on a bus to Vina del Mar in CHILE! Going over the Andes was beautiful and very Very slow. Customs was a hassle, but the ride was nice and fun to look out and see the mountains of rock go by.
When we arrived in Vina del Mar we settled into our hostel, which we were all together in, and which was really nice! Not many people were there because the hostel was brand new. We were also only 3 or 4 blocks from the ocean! So we quickly settled in then went out and walked to the beach which was SO beautiful. Vina del Mar reminds me A LOT of San Diego and La Jolla. Its a very fancy, big city on the ocean.
We stopped at a cafe to eat and then went out later to a Karoke bar, which was SO fun and ridiculous. Our group sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” and everyone Loved it. Haha. American and British music is Very common down here actually. The next day, we lazily got up and then made our way to the lovely city of Valparaiso which was only a 15 minute train ride away. As soon as we arrived, we walked into this big plaza by the pier and docking area.
All of a sudden, in the plaza came a big group of young students holding a sign that said something about their University. They were playing music and yelling too. So, we thought this was a parade or festival and we went over to check it out. Then people started Really yelling and whistling at something coming down the street. When we rounded the corner to see what they were yelling at we saw about 20 men in full army gear walking in front of a tank!! It scared the living daylights out of me. They were carrying clear barrier shields and were wearing helmets and everything. The men came into the plaza and started blocking off the streets. Our group got a little frightened and started backing away. The students just kept yelling at the army guys…who were now growing in number all around us. THEN, the tank pulled into the plaza and started using a Huge water gun on the top to shoot at the crowd. It was Really crazy and people started running down streets with the army guys chasing after. At this point, the 5 of us were sitting on the steps of a building in the plaza and just watching. We watched the students run down the streets and then the soldiers started throwing tear gas at the students! It was Awful! We were downwind too so we got it all in our faces which stung our eyes and made us sneeze a lot. It was just a general pain across the face…I can’t imagine what it was like to be closer!
Luckily it started to calm down and the people dispersed and the army went away. We learned later that the education system in Valparaiso is awful and unfair. There is also a huge distrust and anger towards to the police…so protests usually end in violence. It was a shocking sight to see though. We left after to get lunch before our tour started at 3pm. We then took a guided tour from a guy who went to UCBerkeley actually! He is part of a program that does tours for tips and just takes anyone who wants to go and shows them some of the best sights of Valparaiso! It was one of the BEST tours I’ve done. They payed for our little bus rides and elevator ride which is a system the city has because its so hilly. So they have air elevators that lift people from the lower parts to the higher parts.
It was really cool! Valparaiso is SO unique and amazing. It’s the graffiti capital of the world actually. It was very colorful with old buildings and houses built from the port to up in the hills. It looked like a small town in Italy. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. I want to go back SO badly. Especially since we only had 2 days there. So put that on a place to visit!! Chile was beautiful and cleaner and nicer than Argentina too. And the people we met in the streets and talked to were also A Lot nicer. Except for our first hour there, I fell in Love with Chile.
It was a Great vacation spot…but I am still glad I chose Buenos Aires to study for 5 months in. There’s a lot more to do in the city. But I fell in love with Valparaiso for sure. Actually, on Friday we went up to Pablo Neruda’s house. Throughout his life he mostly lived in this house where he wrote his poetry. The views from his house were Amazing! We took the little tour and learned a lot about him and his love for Valparaiso.
Our last weekend was mostly bus rides. Friday night we bussed back to Mendoza, which took WAY longer and customs was a mess. People were being rude and wanted paperwork we were never told to have. It was awful….but we got through finally. But the usual 6 hour trip took 10 hours! Then the 5 of us literally sat in a park, and ate in Mendoza and that was it. We were so tired. Then that evening we got on another bus and took the 16 hour bus ride home. We hadn’t had a home or place to shower for 3 days in a row…so it felt Really nice to be back home in BA. But what an amazing trip! This was such a unique and special trip that I will remember forEVER. I spent an amazing week with a GREAT group of people in beautiful parts of the world. Thanks for letting me share my travels! Up NEXT: First week of school!