When studying abroad, you never know when your first chance to do something may be your last. An example of this would be when I was able to visit this gorgeous Volcano, called Poas, with some friends. Just a few weeks later it was shut down to the public as it had become active, as many volcanoes are in Costa Rica. It is still inaccessible to the public and which makes me all the more grateful to have had the opportunity to visit it while I could. So my advice to anyone studying abroad is that if you’re up for something, do it and if you’re on the fence about it, do it anyway.
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The southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula is known as “Mal Pais,” which literally means “Bad Country.”
It’s anything but bad.
First, a wonderful ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya.
After two bumpy bus rides, we made it to Mal País, and, more importantly, the beautiful Playa Carmen.
The next day we took a horseback ride around the surrounding jungles and beaches.
We capped off the weekend with a trip to the famous waterfalls of Montezuma, where we jumped and swam to our hearts’ desires.
A beautiful view of the incredible Blue Mountains.
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This past weekend was a holiday weekend, so I trekked down to Bariloche, at the tip of Patagonia. As the town was originally settled by the Swiss, Bariloche is known for its (delicious) chocolate, lakes, and skiing. Needless to say I was pretty pumped. When my friend I got to the terminal, we had two problems because we were clearly travel noobs: a) we couldn’t tell which platform our bus was supposed to arrive, and b) we ended up missing our bus. I was more enraged at this than our friend and demanded an explanation from the travel agent. Frustrating thing: turns out that our bus was actually in front of us the entire time, but just had the final destination listed because it was making several other stops (such as Bariloche). We felt stupid and annoyed, but luckily, we were able to purchase tickets for that night for half price. *sigh*
The bus ride itself was horrendous. I’m not sure how I survived. Since we bought last minute tickets, we were on the bus (and lower level) that stopped literally every ten minutes. GAAAAAH. Which meant that each time I somehow got my seat to recline comfortably, one of the bus drivers would open the door and yell something, thereby interrupting my sleep and letting the cold in. Dios. On the way up it was slightly better: we were on the full cama (fully reclining seat) at the upper level, and those two things actually make a huge difference! The only few times I woke up were because we were being served food (dinner with wine and a movie, classy), and the bus only made two stops, which was obviously more bearable.
We were extremely relieved to finally arrive in Bariloche. The hostel we stayed at was really homey and the owners made us feel like we were included in a big happy family. (sidenote: the JAM is to die for during breakfast) The first night, we had an asado where we met other lodgers and went out to explore the nightlife. One word for that night: TEENAGERS. So many of them! Apparently Bariloche is the place to go after graduation/during breaks in high school, so while we were at bars and boliches, we felt OLD. -____-
The next day, we went kayaking in the lake by Cerro Ventana. The view was absolutely breathtaking and while I was rowing, it was really difficult not to be distracted by the scenery. We rowed for two hours and while I felt bad that I was holding up my friend and the guide (it was my first time!), I was too cold and in too much pain to try any harder, haha.
My arms were in pain when we hiked up Cerro Companario the day after (I have no upper body strength!). It was the steepest 30 minute hike I ever walked but the view from up top was breath taking and unbelievable. From the top of Cerro Companario, you can see all 7 lakes! Each lake glistened pale shades of blue and turquoise, changing under the sunlight. It was truly nature at its finest.
Since the famous Llao Llao Hotel Resort was around the corner, we had to stop by, of course. This clip is of the lake near the hotel.
And for dinner, we had to pick up some chocolates. You’re only in Bariloche once, right? 😀
As much as I loved meeting new people, spending time playing Bananagrams and passing around fernet with other lodgers (we met other IFSA-ers from Buenos Aires!), my complaint for Bariloche is that it’s very commercialized and caters toward tourists. There were times when I felt that there was nothing to do but buy and eat chocolate. And one of the differences between Mendoza and Bariloche is that everything there is much more expensive. Plus, it’s so easy to continuously buy chocolate! 😀 Apart from the prices, tourism, and the loooong bus ride, I’m really happy I got to explore the lakes district. I can’t capture or explain the view in words. You’ll have to go there for yourself!
If I have more time, I think I’ll head down to El Calafate to see glaciers. Or maybe see Tronador in Bariloche, as it’s snowcapped all year round, and has both glaciers and volcanoes! Enjoy this quick clip of the lakes!
For anyone who speaks Spanish, Mendoza is the place to be (sorry Buenos Aires). It is beautiful here. The mountains are like a picture postcard. It´s been cold lately. They say below zero, but in Fahrenheit its only about 30 degrees. However, it was snowing yesterday and is supposed to snow again today. I never thought I´d see snow in August, but there it was. There is a lot more snow in the mountains than down here in the city where it hasn´t yet stuck to the ground.
I finally figured out how to upload photos here, so here are some photos of my first weekend here with my host family. We went on a little family trip to the mountains; my host mom, sister, older sister that doesn´t live with us, her husband and their daughter, who´s three.
This is my two host sisters and my cuñado.
My host sister Vicky and me in the nieve!
The view of the mountains as we drove through.
As we drove home, the moon was rising just as the sun was setting with bodegas, and fruit trees all around us.
It has been an excellent first two weeks in Argentina.