The Last Hurrah
What better way to bring my time abroad to an end than by squeezing in as many adventures as possible? With exactly two weeks left in Argentina, I set out for the desert landscapes of northwest Argentina on a quick and painless 24-hour bus ride. No, but actually, it was pretty painless. I went with a group of about 30 other international students, which means that everything was already planned for us and we just needed to show up. When I imagined going with a group of other international students, I imagined that most of them would be from the U.S., and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about that. I have been trying to fully immerse myself and keep practicing my Spanish, so I’ve limited my time with other people from the states. But, to my pleasant surprise, my assumption had been completely wrong. There were only two other girls from the U.S. and the rest of the students were from Mexico (the majority), Columbia, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the list goes on…which means not only did I get to meet a bunch of amazing people from all over the world, but I also got to practice my Spanish quite a bit. And luckily, 24-hour bus rides are quite conducive to language practice. One of my favorite bus games we played involved translating Taylor Swift songs to Spanish on the spot. Shake it off, or “Sacudelo” had my stomach throbbing from laughing so hard. The bus ride was also extremely pleasant since you’re constantly surrounded by changing landscapes of brilliantly colored mountains and valleys. The pictures really speak for themselves.
Once we finally arrived in Jujuy, we got to visit several spots like Tres Cruces, a breathtaking lookout, La Garganta del Diablo, or “devil’s throat” which at first confused me because La Garganta del Diablo is the name of that gigantic section of the waterfalls in Iguazu. As it turns out, the devil has two throats. We joked that the one in Iguazu is when he’s had a lot to drink, and the one in Jujuy is when he’s parched, since it’s the desert. We were able to climb up through a rocky path of La Garganta del Diablo until we reached a lookout with a stunning view. I was kicking myself because I hadn’t charged my iphone and couldn’t take any pictures. Our next stop was an impressive natural stone amphitheater where we stopped to relax and enjoy some music; people were singing, playing the guitar, playing the pan flute…it was a moment of serenity.
Next, we headed to our hostel in the city of Salta where we enjoyed an asado complete with empanadas, large hunks of juicy steak, chorizo, salad, bread, everything you crave after a hard day’s work of sightseeing. The next day we got up at the crack of dawn and headed back on our beloved bus to check out the Cerro de los 7 Colores, the most vibrant mountain you’ll ever come across. Also we got to meet a llama, which was the icing on the cake.
After that it was back on the bus through the winding landscapes, our bus climbing up to incredible altitudes as we headed for our next destination. Our bus broke down and we were trapped on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, hot from the desert heat, and fighting off altitude sickness. But we made the best of the situation by taking some group photos with a scenic background, and in no time we were back on track. We made it to the salt flats, a vast expansion of land with long and narrow slices cut into the ground with crystal blue water and salt so thick that it looks like snow. It felt like we were in an alternate universe. Afterwards, we visited a fair in a local pueblo and all of us bought soft, beautiful alpaca sweaters to keep us warm for the long journey home.
I had one day in Buenos Aires before setting out for the next and final adventure: Patagonia. Not only would I be going in the completely opposite direction (south), but I also would be traveling not with a group, but with just one friend, Leila, and thankfully taking an airplane instead of a bus. Traveling just the two of us meant that we had the ultimate freedom to change our plans whenever we wanted, which was convenient because we really didn’t have any plans. We met a ton of interesting people in the hostels we stayed at and basically just took their suggestions for what we should do each day. In Bariloche, we woke up to the most unreal view of mountains and crystal blue lake water. We caught buses to climb up mountains, picnicked on top of several, went to local breweries, tasted the best trout I’ve ever had, and cooked and shared meals with our new hostel friends. On Thanksgiving night, a few guys from the states prepared a beautiful traditional (sort of; they substituted beef for turkey since we were in Argentina after all) meal complete with mashed potatoes, asparagus, cornbread, and of course, wine.
We made our way up to San Martin de Los Andes, a quaint city about four hours north by bus. The first day, we took a trip to check out a volcano and some of the most turquoise water I’ve ever seen in my life. We even sunbathed on a beach whose sand was made up of volcanic rock and enjoyed a lunch prepared by some of the local indigenous Mapuche people. The next day, we traveled from San Martin de los Andes to Villa la Angostura via la Ruta de los Siete Lagos, the Seven Lakes Road. We stopped at each of the lakes, each of them more beautiful than the last, and took the opportunity to sunbathe in paradise. We decided to go back to Bariloche because we loved it so much, and spent an extra day there climbing mountains and—you guessed it—sunbathing some more. We were able to catch the most incredible sunset from our hostel before heading to the airport to go back to Buenos Aires.
My last few days were a whirlwind. It’s impossible to wrap your head around leaving a place that once was so strange, so frustrating, so chaotic, but somewhere along the way became home. I’ll go into more of that philosophic jargon once I write my last blog post after being back home in the states for a while, but what I will say now is this: I’m so pleased with the way I mapped out my time abroad. I spend the first few months exclusively in Buenos Aires, and really got to know the city, the culture, and all of its quirks. In the remaining time, I got to spend time in Iguazu, Mendoza, Salta, Jujuy, Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes, and Villa la Angostura. Of course there are still so many places in Argentina and specifically Patagonia that I would love to have visited, but I’ll be back, I’m sure of that. Until then, a new chapter starts.
Un beso grande,