Saturday night, I left Buenos Aires after saying goodbye to the majority of my fellow IFSA students, whether it be during the last day of classes or Saturday at and after dinner. I proceeded to leave with a group of ten to travel to Mendoza for an amazing trip, which was partially recounted in the last entry. From there, I had to say goodbye once again early Wednesday morning as my friends hopped into taxis and I proceeded to pack up to leave for my first real travel trip alone, first to San Juan and La Rioja and then to Salta and Jujuy.
You could say that I am traveling alone to Argentina, but in reality the IFSA program takes care of its students so incredibly well that I never really felt alone. I was always with my host family, friends from the program, or directors of the program. You could also say that I was alone studying in America, but this again is studying in an official college where things are always so well organized and where I speak my first language. And the list goes on. I’ve been to many countries, but always with a group and well-organized plan. Never have I traveled alone simply to do touristy things. But after my experiences during the last few days, I must say that I seriously advise you to do it. Go, and go alone. So I’ve had such drastic experiences in this week or so of traveling that I must try to recount to you everything, the good and the bad.
First of all, you already know that I had a wonderful time in Mendoza not only with my IFSA friends, who are of course, divine, but also with random people who I had the pleasure of meeting. Now, with the great experience behind me, I set off on the bus ride (extremely exhausted, especially after a day of horseback riding during which I fell off my horse – a story that should soon be told) to San Juan. After the more or less three hour bus ride during the entirety of which I slept, I woke up excited to see San Juan and La Rioja. I had wanted to visit the province, not for the city, but if for nothing more than La Valle de La Luna, or the Valley of the Moon. With portions in San Juan and also in La Rioja, my host mom told me it was like a “mini Grand Canyon” and that it was absolutely divine. I arrived at my hostel in which I had an amazingly big room in a sunny terrace with a queen sized bed and private bathroom to myself – a huge difference from the shared 12 person room without a key, bunked twin sized beds, and a shared bathroom. I was extremely happy. I called my best friend to tell her about my excitement and keep her updated. I proceeded to the hostel front desk to start my day and pan out my schedule.
From this point on, I was to be met with a complete unexpected turn of events, una hira, as they would say here in Argentina. It was Wednesday morning, and the front desk told me that there were no excursions to Valle de la Luna until Friday. I had already had plans to be leaving for Salta for the continuation of my travels by Thursday night. Frustrated, I asked about other excursions or activities that were being offered. Again, the only options were Friday. Despite the wonderful start, there simply were not enough people staying in San Juan, a smaller city compared to Mendoza and Salta, for excursions to be happening. I asked about any private excursion, but this would have costed me the entirety of the the rest of the trip as well as a few more weeks in Buenos Aires. I could not afford to have a private excursion to this place, despite its beautiful name and my imagination. So I wandered around the city of San Juan, extremely chiquitita (the cutest way I know of saying small) for the day. Grabbed a big and wonderful lunch, some chocolate in a kiosk while walking back to the hostel, and passed out on my wonderful bed. Of course this bed would turn out to be perhaps my worst enemy.
The room in the terrace also lacked heating. I proceeded to sleep from about five in the afternoon until the next morning without being able to wiggle a single eyelash. I just passed out. When I woke up, my body felt of ice. There simply was no heating in the room. Despite the three layers of blankets I had unconsciously wrapped myself in during the middle of the night, my body was extremely cold. I was shivering. I must have been extremely tired just from the non-stop excursions and going out lifestyle pattern from the few days in Mendoza and the few days before in Buenos Aires while trying to make the most of time with IFSA friends. I had also been slightly stressed about saying goodbye, and it had finally happened without any big bash boom or fireworks. So I accept that I slept about 15 hours and woke up shivering from the cold. Of course, I would catch a cold.
Though the previous day, I had called about ten travel agencies in and about San Juan to ask about any excursions happening, there had been only false promises to call me back. I had nothing to do for an entire day. I took my time catching up on social life on my laptop (though I must say it was incredibly refreshing not to have internet service so often), chatting up the hostel staff, trying to figure out property insurance policies for my stolen/lost camera, and Skyping family back in Korea. I then proceeded to go to Dique Ullum, or the reservoir Ullum. I thought that I may as well make the most of what I have got. I was not going to ditch my plans in Salta in order to make the excursions work in San Juan, though I had thought about it. After a very pleasant conversation online with a IfSA friend about positive attitudes, I proceeded to make myself leave the hostel and be a tourist.
I was so pleasantly surprised at the Dique Ullum. After the thirty minute colectivo, bus, ride to what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, I got off and was met with dusty wind blowing into my face. When I could open my eyes, I saw a beautiful and big pool of water surrounded by mountains. Starving, I knocked on the closed door of the only kiosk around. A girl came out and told me that it was open. I ordered the only food I could and a big bottle of water. Eating tosatadas alone with a wonderful view, freezing in the wind, with a bunch of stray dogs surrounding me was quite an odd experience. After gulfing down the food, I walked down to the reservoir and took a bunch of pictures. With so much fear (this newfound fear of heights which annoys me, amplified from the fall from the horse) I basically crawled onto the edge of the reservoir. There, I proceeded to meditate for as long as my out-of-balance mind would let me. I crawled back onto steady land and hiked over the mountains overseeing the reservoir and the freeway in my slim converse (which are basically the only shoes I wear here). By the time I got back to the kiosk, it was time for the bus to come and right on time I took the bus to go back to the hostel. Freezing cold, the view was nothing compared to the amazing mountains I would see in Salta and Jujuy and probably nothing compared to Valle de la Luna. But it was amazing nonetheless. It was an absolutely divine experience. The experience of course includes me buying pastries for dinner on the way back to the hostel.
Now, I am in Salta, going on excursions to Salta and Jujuy and meeting so many different people. I am met with such a different experience once again. I will update you promptly on the wonderful experience I am having here. But I have really realized that even the experiences that seem horrible (San Juan, for me), end of being really great. You have to drop all expectations, and make the most of what you can. Resting a day, catching up on sleep, catching up on virtual social life, and getting a view of a great reservoir, was perhaps not the best use of my time and money in San Juan. At the same time, it was completely necessary for my mental and bodily health. I cannot wait to tell you about all the exciting and wonderful experiences that never cease on this trip in Argentina.
(Photos are from a borrowed host mom’s camera)