Well we escaped our Arequipa slump, vacation, rest and decided to keep heading south. We had planned to visit Bolivia but got discouraged by that $160 reciprocity fee (After, we learned this has been reduced to $50 O.o). Onward to Chile.
We took an overnight bus from Arequipa to Tacna. From Tacna, you have to take a collectivo, go through customs, and arrive in Arica on the Chilean side.
We’ve really been playing things by ear, but we decided we would take an overnight bus wherever we headed.
Well, might as well enjoy the Pacific while it’s there. We spent the day walking along the beautiful beach. We met a few people who were quite friendly… a welcome change from Peru. We went to a restaurant with big portions, good food, and good service. The roads were nice. There was public exercise equipment lining the shore. An hour away from Peru and we were in a whole new world.
We made up our minds and booked an overnight bus to San Pedro de Atacama with a stop over in Calama. At 5 am we stopped at Calama and had to kill a couple hours until our next bus to San Pedro. We had a little scare when one of our bags was nearly stolen. Apparently, Calama is notorious for theft. Close one.
By 10 am we had made it to San Pedro, an oasis in the heart of the Atacama desert. We spent the day resting and decided the next day to explore around a bit.
We decided to visit Laguna Cejar the next day, about 20 km by bike. Onward we road into the desert admiring the strikingly different landscape.
At the Laguna, we changed into swimsuits and floated in the salt saturated waters.
20 km and sore asses later, we were back in San Pedro and enjoyed clear skies for star gazing.
San Pedro is nice, but definitely on the costly side and full of tourists. So, the next day, we took a bus to Valparaiso. A 24 hour bus. Woof.
We were happy to arrive in such a lovely city. We quickly found Mitico Hostel and continued walking around the city. The art here is just overwhelming.
Our first day, we went to a restaurant and met some really lovely locals. The rest of the evening was spent with them and cervezas.
We spent 2 more days in Valparaiso enjoying the art, food, beach, and sea lions. They were better to watch than tv.
Onward towards Santiago to catch a plane to Buenos Aires! The flight, with a beautiful view over the Andes, took two hours and we landed in Argentina!
Thankfully, we had already paid the $160 reciprocity fee ahead of time so customs was a breeze. We snagged a cab from the airport to Urbano Ranchero hostel and checked in.
Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner, folks. Urbano Ranchero won the award for worst hostel. Small rooms, dingy area, and visible bed bugs. We were quickly searching for a new spot.
While on the hunt, we looked for a place to exchange our American currency for Argentinean pesos. Thankfully, we had thought ahead and brought USD. The official exchange rate is 7.5 pesos to 1 USD. The black market rate (at that time) was 13 pesos to 1 USD. Pack some extra dollars when visiting Argentina! Note: Avenida Florida is the most popular place to change currency. Just find one of the many people shouting “cambio.” As always, know the current rate and look for the best deal.
We got our cash changed, hilariously, at a cash for gold office and continued on our way. We researched a hostel online and took the metro across the city to find it. We booked at Che Lagarto hostel and hoped for the best. In the morning, we made the switch.
We ended up staying a week in total at Che Lagarto. Ahh, Buenos Aires, what a beautiful city. With fantastic food. We binged on empanadas, milanesa (read: huge breaded tenderloins), and lots of steak. One place so tender they cut it with a spoon.
We enjoyed walking down the popular Avenida Florida several times and enjoyed catching some tango street performance. Beautiful. We also saw plenty of art, crafts, and handmade jewelry.
The last day of our stay we went across the city to explore two art museums. When we returned, our friends at the hostel threw us an “asado” where we ate copious amounts of steaks and sausages with a bottle of Argentinean wine and plenty of beer.
Buenos Aires, you win for my favorite city. Nice, beautiful people, que rica comida, lovely architecture, good transit. Can’t wait to come back.
We left Thursday morning to the airport to catch our plane back to Santiago. When we arrived there were people and camera crews everywhere, long messes of lines, and overall confusion. Our questions were soon answered and apparently there had been a strike which cancelled all planes before 10 am. Our flight was at 10:40 am. Sweet! Always schedule extra time for struggling.
After a short delay, we were back in Santiago. With only 5 days left before our final flight to The States, we decided to head back to Valparaiso. Another of my favorite cities we visited. As pictured above, the quality and quantity of art is just astounding.
Upon returning, we went back to Mitico Hostel which we really enjoyed. We decided to reconnect with a local friend, Luis, who kindly took out of for dinner. This time a small lit grill arrived at the table covered with a mountain of chicken, steak, pork, and sausage. And plenty of Heineken.
The next day, Luis guided us around Viña del Mar nearby. We had delicious, fresh ceviche and other seafood at the market. We also spent time shopping for a few last treasures to bring home.
That night, we met a new friend from Wisconsin, Reese, and spent our last weekend enjoying salsa clubs and good food accompanied by Luis, and Rene, another local friend we encountered on our first visit.
It’s crazy to say it, but our last day had finally come. We did a little bit more shopping and had a final beer with Luis. We took a bus to Santiago and then a last ride to the airport.
Our flight was slightly delayed, but soon we were off. On one of the biggest planes I’ve ever been on. LAN airlines blew me away. Every seat had a personal touch screen movie player on the seat in front of them full of movie and tv choices. Dinner was quite tasty and included free wine. With refills. There was also after dinner whiskey available and beer. Turn down for what?
Well, at about 5 am we arrived in Miami, passed through a relaxed customs, and checked in to our final flights in different directions. Big hugs. Big thanks, C!
After a year of planning, 5 months of traveling, countless hours in buses, boats, planes, hiking, snorkeling, sailing, climbing, touring, struggling, and 13 countries, I am back home. Happy, ready to see what’s next.
I’m really stunned at how fast it flew and loved watching the journey create it’s own shape. I’ll have a couple more posts including my sappy review and, also, a financial summary for all you future travellers out there.
Thanks for following Loki’s Travels. I think it’s just the first chapter in a very adventurous book…
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