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Published: August 31st 2009
Sorry it´s been a while since our last blog - since New Zealand we have travelled a fair few miles!
We flew from New Zealand after what was an amazing experience touring one of the most amazing and beautiful countries ever!
After a long eleven hour flight, we landed in Santiago, Chile confusingly about four hours before we left New Zealand! We were both a little worried about arriving in South America as to whether we would be bombarded by taxi touts and agents trying to sell us things, but we were pleasantly surprised. Very relaxed and friendly people greeted us and directed us to the bus.
We spent a couple of nights in Santiago trying to get used to the time difference and stay awake. We had a wander around the town and found it quite a pleasent city to stay in for a few days.
On 13th August we jumped on the bus to Valparaiso, our first bus South American bus experience. We were suitably impressed! It appears that Argentina know how to do buses. The original plan was for us to head to Mendoza in Argentina for a week of Spanish lessons. After a
few days in Valparaiso, however, when we turned up at the bus station at stupid o'clock in the morning we were told (in Spanish) words to the effect of "there is no bus to Mendoza". After a lot of conversation between us and the bus company lady, with neither party really knowing what the other was saying, we eventually managed to establish that the border was closed due to the snow. By this time it was about 8am on a Sunday morning and the only place open in the whole city was the bus station. We bought some breakfast and roamed the streets (fortunately a nice sunny morning) looking for an internet cafe so we could go about finding some accomodation. Eventually we managed to find a internet cafe and subsequently some accomodation, which turned out to be the nicest place we have stayed in the whole trip! The hostel is run by the nicest chap in Chile.
Whilst in Valpariaso we chilled out for a bit, had a couple days at the beach in a little town called Viña del Mar (where the rich Chilean folk go to play) - warm but not quite warm enough for a
dip in the sea! We explored the old town for a day and practiced our (very bad) Spanish with the locals in the fruit and veg market. Each day we turned up at the CATA Internacional bus office with the phrase 'la frontera es abierto?' - Is the border open?. All we wanted was a simple 'Si' or 'No' but what we got was a barrarge of Spanish which we really didn't understand. After almost a week the border was opened and we hopped on a bus for an 11 hour ride up and over the Andes to Argentina. Once we got towards the border it became quite clear as to why the border was closed for so long!
The hostel (Casa Pueblo) was pretty much ours for most of the week which was quite nice, the owners were around lots and happy to guide us with our Spanish and tell us where we should and shouldn't go. The week was mainly spent getting up early for our Spanish lessons - for the first time since we had jobs we had to set the alarm and be up, fed, watered and on the road by 8am! Our Spanish lessons
were intensive to say the least with four hours a morning from Monday to Friday. The school (Intercultural) was really nice, relaxed and friendly. We started the week the two of us with another couple learning Spanish, and by then end of the week it was just the two of us - would like to think that we were going too fast for them, but far from it! On our last day of Spanish we had Asado (an all you can eat BBQ) with red wine and all the trimmings. The meat was probably the nicest we have ever had - the Argentinians really do know how to do beef!
Over the weekend after we finished Spanish we went to Parque General San Martin with the intention of walking to a viewing area up a big hill to see the city and surrounding mountains. However, we got lost so abandoned the trip and went for a beer! On Sunday we visited a little town called Chacras De Coria for lunch and a wander with a girl we met at the hostel, it was a beautiful day and a lovely town.
It´s now Monday and we are heading off
to Cordoba on the night bus (1st Class of course!) tonight.
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