Fours years and counting. Celebrating a NYE summer night. Celebrating in a different country. This year, it was back to South America. But not just South America, but south-south. Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
First stop: Chile. Its never been a country that appealed to me. Eating the local cuisine is usually the reason I'll travel somewhere. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Chilean cuisine stands out, especially compared to its neighboring countries. In fact, I came to learn that Chilean Seabass isn’t even a sea bass. It was all a marketing plow to sell more Patagonian Toothfish. Fooled me all these years. So, why did we stop here? Well, because it’s close to Argentina and it was a nice pit stop before exploring the outdoors. I'm glad we did. Not for the food. Not for Santiago (the capital). But for Valparaiso.
We landed in Santiago and immediately drove 1.5 hours north to the small colonial town. Valparaiso is a fishing town made popular by graffiti, street art, colorful hillside houses and staircases. It was hilly, which reminded me of home. Which I loved. Per usual, I woke up early one morning to explore, walk around and take pictures. I got lost, managed to find an amazing empanada and panaderia (bakery) spot, then walked to the park and sat there while watching the morning hussle. It was the best.
And then there was the worlds biggest pool. A thirty minute drive (approx. $60USD roundtrip) from Valparaiso in a town called Algarrobo. I’m not going to pretend like I was super excited for it. I definitely preferred for more time exploring Valparaiso but the group really wanted to check it out (for the gram, of course). The worlds biggest pool is part of a resort and only guests can access it. So, in order to access the pool, we booked the cheapest room for a night (we didn't actually stay there). We got there and I was actually, pleasantly surprised. I mean, the pool was huge. Four football fields long. That’s 365 meters! The actual swimming space was restricted to certain areas. Rather than swimming, we opted to paddle board.
Second stop: Argentina. A few days in the outdoors and a few days in the city.
Let me tell you. Patagonia was unreal. There were so many moments that took my breadth away. Literally and figuratively. The 14-hour uphill climb to Lago de los Tres was tough. Very tough. The combination of cold temperatures and jet lag definitely didn't help. We even missed our group tour due to a misunderstanding of our pick up location and time so we ended up hiking the trail on our own. Hiking at a faster pace, we eventually caught up to other hiking groups. The hardest leg of the hike was the last 1.5 km. A zig-zag straight up the mountain side. Definitely one of the hardest and longest hikes I've experienced. All that to see the Patagonia clothing brand logo up-close-and-personal.
The highlight of visiting Patagonia though, was hands-down, hiking Perito Moreno. Perito Moreno makes up the third largest glacier known to man only behind Antartica and Greenland. It was cold and a bit windy. You know that combination of cold wind that feels like it cuts your skin with gush of air. That cold. Despite all of that, I'll never forget seeing and hearing the breaking sound of the glacier walls collapsing into the water. I'll never forget the sound of crampons digging into the solid ice with each step. One of the most unique and amazing experiences in my life to date. And to think, we only got a small taste for what Patagonia has to offer. There's the Chile side of Patagonia to explore as well!
And then there was Buenos Aires. The city with copious amounts of steak, wine, and everything you need to live the comfortable life we're so accustomed to in the states. Hipster coffee shops. Check. Delicious food and cute shops. Check. Architecture. Check. Speakeasy's. Check. Yup, speakeasy's. Two of my favorite speakeasy's in the world are in Chicago and Mexico City. The one's we visited in Buenos Aires ranks up there with them. The only downfall was that a bunch of local shops and some restaurants were closed for New Years. Even more of a reason to go back, right? I really, really, really liked Buenos Aires. There so much of the city to still explore but I could see myself living down there-- if it wasn't so far from everything else in the world.
One place that is close to Buenos Aires is Punta del Este. A beach town tagged as the "Hamptons of South America." Think big, mid-century beach homes. Exclusive parties. Beautiful people from all over. It's fancy. And I loved it. I would go back to PDE in a heartbeat. In fact...NYE 2019 anyone?