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Just Back: South America Part Dos – Chile and Argentina

I started writing this post by confidently declaring that I had officially recovered from my recent travels; but then, halfway through, I spent several minutes completely befuddled by what day of the week it was. So perhaps I’m not as recovered as I thought. (I blame all the cholesterol from my Argentinian steaks still coursing through my veins.) In any event, I’m going to do my best to share a bit about my second South American sojourn, and get the blog posted on the correct day of the week to boot.

Since this isn’t a traditional travel blog and I’m not one to write up detailed day-by-day accounts of my travels (even I would get bored with that), I thought I would share just a few highlights from the trip – with pictures, of course (scroll through the slideshow above).

The tour started in Santiago, Chile. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the city is surrounded by craggy, snow-capped mountains (though perhaps my surprise does not reflect well on my knowledge of geography). Santiago is a lovely city, the people there are incredibly friendly, and the food (oh so much food) is delicious. We spent many pleasant hours in the boho-chic Bellavista neighborhood, where colorful wall art redefines “graffiti.”

Next we headed south to Puerto Varas, Chile, in the northern-most part of Patagonia. On nearby Chiloe Island, we were promised a “navigation” to see penguins in a colony along the Pacific. I was picturing some sort of sedate pontoon boat ride; my expectations weren’t high. But then our bus veered off the road onto a beach, and the only boat in sight was a large motorboat tethered about 10 feet offshore. We climbed into a contraption that looked like the basket of a cherry picker on wheels and were pulled out into the choppy waves so we could climb into the boat (clever). Then we zoomed out into the bay to get up close and personal with the adorable penguins and other birds nesting on the rocks. For a “navigation,” it was actually really cool.

From Puerto Varas, we spent an entire day crossing the Andes to Bariloche, Argentina. The 12-hour trip involved, in this order: bus, ferry, bus, ferry, bus, ferry, bus. This was literally what you would call the “scenic route.” One of the lake crossings was apparently featured in The Motorcycle Diaries; I wasn’t there to start any revolutions, but it still felt quite epic.

The tour concluded in Buenos Aires. This is a city of striking contrasts – beautiful architecture covered in graffiti, gritty streets lined with flowering trees, wealth and poverty living side by side. I would need more than the two and a half days I had there to get a true feel for the place; it’s a city that will require further exploration. But even with my limited time there, I can definitively state that both the tango and the steak were outstanding.

Aside from all the amazing experiences I had and the beautiful places I explored, this tour was also a great reminder of how nice it is to travel with a group. (On the down side, I now find it odd to go out to eat with fewer than 16 people.) You’ll be hearing more from me in the coming months about the benefits of group travel, along with tips for making the most of group trips.

So now that I’ve concluded my tours of South America, what exotic destination am I heading to next? The wilds of… Dahlonega, GA! (Hey, last year a wild turkey literally knocked on the front door on Thanksgiving Day; who knows what excitement this year could bring.) But after that…? Stay tuned.

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