After spending three weeks volunteering on a farm, I decided to head back to Santiago in time for their Independence Day festivities. September 18th is the National Independence day but the celebrations can last over a week including a grand parade on September 19th. Chileans have big bbqs with friends and families and you can see kids wearing their traditional cowboy costumes.The parks in the city host big celebrations, locally referred as fondas. These include delicious foods, games, dancing (cueca – the national dance which interprets the mating rituals of rooster and hen) and drinks. Terremotos(Earthquake in Spanish), a delicious but deadly drink consisting of wine, grenadine and pineapple ice-cream, is consumed heavily around this time.
I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people at the Hostel, and we ended up hanging out the whole weekend. One of the days we went to a Spanish music festival called Fonda Permanente. Even though we didn’t understand any of the lyrics, it was a fun night with good music, food and terremotos. The following day we went to a Fonda at Parque Inés De Suárez where we pigged out on bbqs..
I also did a day trip to Valparaiso - the closest port to Santiago and a city with an interesting history. A UNESCO heritage, it is a city consisting of hills with steep streets, alleys and stairs. The houses are colorfully painted with graffiti everywhere. Despite having a map, it is pretty easy to get lost with all the uphill streets – but in that case you will come across arts and buildings that you weren’t hoping to see. If I had more time, I would have loved to spend couple more days and explore the stunning street graffiti all over the city.
Throughout my trip, I have always wished if I knew Spanish and hence I decided to goto Argentina after Santiago to take some Spanish classes. After some research, I agreed upon Cordoba as the place to spend two weeks because of its fun and young population along with cheaper classes compared to other cities in Argentina.
Buses are often the most convenient and affordable option to get around South America. I decided to split my trip to Cordoba (18 hours in total) by making a stop in Mendoza - the wine capital of Argentina. I was recommended by the hostel staff in Santiago to take the day time bus from Santiago to Mendoza to enjoy the scenic view of the Andes, followed by an overnight bus to Cordoba. I caught a 7:45 AM bus from Santiago and needless to say, that was a great decision – the trip provided some spectacular views of the Andes. There have been stories of people having to wait for hours at border control – but we got lucky and were done in half an hour.
I stayed at Lagares hostel. For the price, it was clean and had super friendly staff and amazing breakfast - if you ever end up in Mendoza consider staying there. Mendoza is actually located in the midst of a desert. However, a complex system of irrigation channels that run besides every main road to bring water from the Mendoza river makes the region green and fertile. Combine that with weather suited for vineyards, more than 1000 wineries are located around this region ranging from family owned boutique vineyards to massive ones. I booked a bike wine tour with the hostel with a pickup time for next morning. We got our bikes and rode to three different vineyards for tour and tasting. Started with an organic vineyard – Familia cecchin followed by Vistandes and Domicano. While the guided tour was fun, if you aren't traveling solo, I recommend just going to Mr Hugo’s rental shop, rent a bike and do it yourself with a wine map that the rental shop provides.
Santiago and Mendoza treated me well and after that I was off to Cordoba through an overnight bus.
View of Santiago from San Cristobal Peak
One of the Wineries and the view from the bus (Santiago to Mendoza)