My Second Month in South America

When we last spoke, I was on the ferry from Uruguay back to Argentina, so let’s pick up there.

After a brief two day stopover in Buenos Aires (did laundry, got drunk on fire-drinks), I headed to Iguazu Falls with my Belgian pal, Mandy. Although I was dreading the 18 hour bus journey, it was actually pretty pleasant and we arrived at Puerto Iguazu feeling surprisingly good.

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Incredible Iguazu Falls

For the first time since I arrived in South America, it was proper hot and sunny! The next two days were spent exploring the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of the incredible waterfalls (they straddle the border) in the glorious sunshine. Predictably, after complaining for a month about being cold, I grumbled a lot about how much I was sweating in the heat; but I’m English, what else am I going to talk about other than the weather? A definite highlight was the boat ride under the actual waterfalls, although doing it in denim and not bringing a change of clothes turned out to be a pretty dumb move: I reached a new level of chafing that day and I still shudder at the memory.

After a night on the Argentinian side of the border we crossed to Brazil to stay at Tetris hostel. The place looked amazing on Hostelworld and it had a pool, so Mandy and I had planned for our last day travelling together to be spent sunbathing and drinking caipirinhas in our bikinis. Instead, there was a massive thunderstorm and we spent a lot of that day in our room complaining loudly about the weather (you’d think she was English, too).

The next day I was solo once again, and I hopped on a bus to Paraguay: my fourth country of the trip so far. I talk about my bus journey in further detail in my post about Paraguay, so all I’ll say here is that my attempt to explain my atheism in broken Spanish (we’ve not covered this in my Spanish classes yet) to an elderly Catholic woman went unheard, and before I knew it I was helping her clean her bible. Welcome to Paraguay, people!

When I finally arrived at my beautiful Airbnb, my kindly host Flo poured me a much needed Fernet (strong liquor with a medicinal flavour – I hate it but it does the job) and we sat down for a chat. “Why don’t people come to Asunción”, I asked Flo as we drank together on the terrace. “Because it’s a shit hole”, she replied. That’s not exactly the response I was hoping for on my first night in Paraguay’s capital, but I decided I was going to do my best to prove her wrong. And I did! But, more about that in my Paraguay blog.

Once I’d finished gallivanting around Paraguay, I got ready to head back to Argentina to check out Córdoba: the country’s second city where a huge percentage of the population are students. On my first day in the city I went on a walking tour and met George, a 23 year old professional poker player from England. He really got me thinking about all the ways in which it’s possible to work and travel at the same time, so I’m sure there’ll be an article from me on that topic at some point in the near future. I met several other awesome new pals in the city and we had three great days of sightseeing, eating asado (South American BBQ) and drinking red wine. Everyone I met was heading to Mendoza next, so I decided to be a total creep and follow them there. I’m so glad I did, because enjoying Mendoza with fun and interesting folk was an absolute dream.

mendoza_mates
Mendoza Mates

The little city in the shadows of the Andes is renowned for its wine, but it has so much more to offer on top of that. On our first day in the city, Steph, Richard and I (a.k.a Mendoza Mates) went to an incredible hot springs in the mountains, and spent the day lounging in the warm water enjoying insanely good views. My tattoos and GoPro were apparently fascinating to the locals at the springs, and before I knew it I had a crowd of excitable teenagers following me around to get a better look at both. Fun.

The second day was spent on bicycles touring some of Mendoza’s many vineyards. Us Mendoza Mates tried around ten wines and there were definitely some hairy moments on the bikes post-tasting, but we survived and made it back to the bike rental place in one piece. The rental shop offers all-you-can-drink wine until they close at 7pm and we arrived back at around 4pm, so you can imagine how boozy we got.

The next morning was a hungover blur in the hostel, but in the afternoon I sucked it up and went horse riding with some super-awesome British girls I met in Córdoba. When I arrived at the ranch I was having a look around and noticed a blond dude out in the fields digging holes. On closer inspection I realised it was a friend I’d made in Uruguay, who happened to be volunteering there; South America is such a small place in some ways! Horse riding was brilliant and the asado and wine afterwards were the icing on the cake of a perfect afternoon enjoying Mendoza’s mountain landscape.

The day after, I headed off to Santiago on the bus, a ball of excitement at the thought of crossing through the Andes. The views were insane (I took the main image of this article during the bus ride) and I spent the entire eight hour journey glued to the window taking in the gorgeous snowy landscapes.

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Rainy Santiago Selfie

Santiago didn’t get off to the best start, and I won’t bore you with the details but the first 24 hours included having a fairly scary experience at the hands of a taxi driver, an Australian dude getting drunk and naked in my dorm room, and lots and lots of rain. But, you have crappy times when you’re travelling, and tomorrow’s a new day so you’ve just got to let it go.

In the spirit of fairness I decided to give Santiago a second chance, and I’m so glad I did. I moved from my crazy hostel to a gorgeous Airbnb in a cool neighbourhood, which is where I am now. I’m writing this on the balcony of my bedroom which looks onto the Andes, and I’m feeling very lucky that this is how my day is being spent. It might not be the most exciting moment of my trip, but it’s the quieter days like this that give me the chance to reflect on how incredibly glad I am that I decided to shake my life up and come travelling.

I’m still blown away by how easily wonderful people come into your life when you’re solo on the road. I haven’t once felt lonely during this past month, and it seems like everywhere I go and everything I do invites new pals into my life. I’m also constantly surprised at how easy and natural it feels to be alone in a continent that isn’t yours. I rarely feel scared, uncomfortable, or lost in any sense of the word, and ahead of this trip I assumed that those emotions would at least make occasional appearances. It turns out though, that with the right mind-set, anywhere in the world can feel like home.

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