Forgive the lack of pictures. Forgive the spelling mistakes (as in the second word of the title). Forgive the improper punctuation. Forgive the random words that don’t belong, be them Spanish or English. This post is not going to be proofread, and very little thought went into its organization; basically it’s word vomit. As well, I’m typing this entirely on my phone with my two thumbs… PIA… It’s been a long time since I posted and I probably won’t have time to post again until I get back to the States. So…
My classes ended a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean my abroad “experience” is over. And before I go any further, I did pass all my classes. To be honest, I don’t know the grade I got or if there even was a grade, but they all said I passed so that’s all I needed to hear! They never had grades throughout the semester so I assumed they would tell me if I was doing poorly, or I’d be able to tell if I wasn’t understanding things, but I was.
I’m still wandering about the world at the moment and still learning lots. If anyone knows me a little they know I love to hike and explore the wilderness. If you don’t know that then let the fact that the “suitcase” I packed when I first flew here was my 70L hiking backpack prove my point. Also, I can’t remember what I wrote for why I chose Argentina in the first place, but Patagonia was a large factor in the decision for me. Now I do kind of remember, because I also made the distinction between Patagonia the clothing brand that people from the States love (I specify because it ironically isn’t sold much down here) and Patagonia the southern region of Argentina and Chile. Yes, one is named after the other. And, as I’m typing these words, I’m sitting directly underneath the mountain(s) that make up the silhouette logo of the Patagonia clothing brand.
Anyways, my whole point is that I’m hiking right now. I spent 10 days in a town called San Carlos de Bariloche, except nobody besides the local government calls it by its whole name, everyone just refers to it simply as Bariloche. And it totally reminds me of a Colorado ski town with its size and architecture. We did a lot of day hiking but were restricted on our overnight hiking abilities because a lot of the trails were still closed from the winter snow. We did find one place to camp overnight; it was cold. The sleeping bags we rented weren’t the highest of quality or warmth and we also didn’t expect the place to be covered in snow. The last kilometer (yeah I finally got used to the metric system) had a nice layer of snow to walk over/trudge through. A few times I post-holed (hiker lingo for when you step on the snow and fall through) and my entire leg went through, so it was at least a leg deep (not a metric measurement). Luckily my hiking buddy was in good spirits and we were able to fight the lack of warmth with an abundance of laughter.
It’s situated in a place known as the Lake District, and for good reason. Imagine a series of mountain and valleys, now take a few buckets of water and full all the valleys to make a bunch of lakes. That’s the landscape, and it’s incredibly gorgeous. Being at the top of a mountain, looking out over all the lakes and seeing just how many there are and how far they reach is equally as impressive as being at the water’s edge, looking at the rocks on the bottom through perfectly crystal clear water. There’s a highway among these lakes which is known as the Route of the Seven Lakes. We drove a car along this route to a small town called San Martín de los Andes. This was an almost surreal place. Visually it didn’t strike me as anything spectacular compared to what we had seen before, but the sounds were amazing. Rather, the lack of sound. There had to have been some kind of noise ordinance in the city because there wasn’t a sound to be heard besides the wind, water of the lake, birds chirping, and humans talking. The only time I’ve experienced this is hiking miles (excuse me, kilometers) into the wilderness. It was so peaceful and tranquil that I was almost concerned something was wrong. But, no, everything was perfectly right.
Bariloche and the Lake District was one of the most beautiful places I think I’ve ever visited. The Colorado mountains covered in snow are gorgeous, the nothingness of Nebraska is strangely beautiful (especially with a low sun), and now massive lakes filling the Andean mountain valleys have cemented a place in my heart. This country is super far from home and expensive to get to, but I’ve already promised myself (and others) that I will return. It’s a huge landscape with so many places to visit. We spent 10 days in the Bariloche areas but I feel that I could have doubled that and still needed more time.
Unfortunately I had to split ways with my hiking friend. She was going back north to Mendoza and I had more I wanted to see farther south. I say unfortunately because that left me 100% solo. I’ve never traveled solo before. I’ve always loved sharing experiences with people. Whether it’s teaching someone something, learning from someone, or simply doing something alongside someone else, I love sharing experiences. So I really have no desire to travel solo and would prefer having someone along with me. Despite this, I was going south alone because the offer of more Patagonian hiking couldn’t be passed up.
So I’m doing it solo. And now that I’ve experienced it, I’m still not sold. I’m always willing to try new things and push my comfort zones so I’m glad I’m doing this to myself, but like I said, I now know for sure that I not a fan. Part of it could just be due to exhaustion. I have more or less lived life one day at a time for almost 5 straight months now. Day after day of planning and hoping things go right and figuring out how to change if they don’t takes a toll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still having a great time and am loving this country. I love traveling and seeing all these new places and meeting all the new people. But, instead of waking up at six in the morning I’m getting up closer to nine. Instead of figuring out exactly what I’m going to do each day I’m in a new place I’m now just waking up and deciding that morning based on what my current options are. I also don’t mind the 40 hour bus ride in my near future that will eventually take me back to Mendoza where my flight back to the States is from. So maybe all this bummer attitude from exhaustion is tainting my solo travel experience.
I spent a few days in a town called El Calafate. It’s basically a tourist town that only exists because of a big glacier nearby called Perito Moreno. That big glacier became my playground for an hour as I got the opportunity (more accurately: paid for the opportunity) to walk on it. We drank the melting water that ran in tiny streams over itself. I saw the deepest of deep blue colors in the ice there. The colors changed from white to almost black over a range of blue spectrums! And at the end we were given a glass of whiskey where chunks of the glacier were used as ice. Despite how bad the liquor tasted it will probably be one of the most memorable drinks I have.
There wasn’t as much outdoor exploration in Calafate as I thought, so I took a quick 2.5hr bus ride to a town called El Chaltén (my standard for bus travel drastically changed after the 26hrs it took to get from Bariloche to Calafate). El Chaltén is where this post started; home to Monte Fitz Roy, one of the most recognizable mountains in Patagonia as well as the inspiration for the logo of the clothing brand. Without legit climbing gear you have an extremely thin chance of getting to the top, but it is possible to camp directly below it. Which I did, as well as waking up early to watch the sunrise over the valley and on the face of the peaks. Apparently luck was on my side because the first 3 days I was here were the best they’ve had all season, and will wait weeks for a single day without high winds, rain, cold, or clouds. Today, those four are back, plus snow (something I should probably get used to before going back to the great tundra of Omaha). It did rain and blow wind a bit on my hike, so much so that instead of fall down, the rain was blowing sideways…😒
I think I can say I’ve properly joined the hostel life as well. For the last two weeks I’ve been calling random hostels home and have been living like a cheap nomad. Sharing a bedroom with five strangers is more fun than it sounds. It’s super easy to meet people and share stories. I’ve met many people from the U.S. as well as other countries all over the world. I’m learning that English truly is the universal language. I’ve heard it more living in hostels the past few weeks than I did my whole time in Mendoza; more than Spanish here as well.
Like I said, sharing a room with five others isn’t an issue at all, but sharing a bathroom with 10+ is a bit annoying. And sharing a kitchen with 30+ is no better. My daily routine is shaped around when the shower and kitchen is available. I’ve also lowered my standards for the definition of a clean frying pan… I suppose a minute over an open flame should sanitize anything deadly. My diet now consists mostly of rice with random vegetables thrown in, eggs and tuna for protein. If I were doing this for longer than 20 days I would probably spice it up a little more, but for such a short amount of time it’s easier to not use my brain and just cook simple. Something I probably shouldn’t advertise to the world is how I wash my clothes: a bathroom sink… with hand soap… Yeahhhhhhhh. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and it works very well, it just takes some time. The only tricky part is drying the clothes. Not every hostel has a clothes line so my bunk typically gets lined with damp clothes as if they were a curtain. Most of my clothes are made of synthetic materials so they dry within a day, even inside, but there has been a few times where I used my body heat to dry my clothes (aka I wear them and just let them dry throughout the day). I didn’t expect the traveler life to be luxurious one bit, so I’m enjoying all of this.
Another perk to hostels is meeting people! Among many from the states, I met a couple from Kansas and Wyoming who have been traveling the world for 3 months; one even lived in Lincoln for a small time. I made friends with people from England, Portugal, Spain, Germany, and Sweden. A few days the weather had been terrible to the point where nobody wanted to go outside. It sounds boring to be trapped in a hostel all day but those days have been some of the most fun. I learned a new card game after playing it for the better part of 12 hrs. Despite lacking many ingredients, some Germans did their best at making a typical wine based concoction they drink at Christmas time. I’ve more or less become an Argentine representative when it comes to the foods and drinks that people see and question. I also didn’t realize how often people struggle to open a bottle of wine, so I’ve also become that guy.
My time is quickly coming to an end here as I only have nine days till I once and for all (for a while) leave this breathtaking country. NINE DAYS!! I still remember the days leading up to my first flight here like it was just a few days ago. I’ve already forgotten about some of the things I’ve done down here and need to look at pictures to remember. Nine days is a proper vacation for most people, but after living in a foreign country for almost five months, these last nine days feel like so little and will go by faster than ever.
I’ve already started making my preparations to be a responsible productive human once again by contacting my employers and telling them I’ll be back soon to work. As well as where I’ll be living. It feels weird being responsible to others besides myself once again. Though I said I am tired of planning my life every day, there is an amount of freedom I have here that I don’t back in Omaha living a “normal” or “real” life. Here I am responsible for myself and to only myself. Nobody relies on me and I rely on nobody.
There is so much more to do here and meeting all these other travelers has made my “list of places to visit before I die” that much longer.Regardless, I am ready to come back. Today (December 15th), kind of marks my first day of traveling back to the States. My flight home is on Wednesday, but I take a bus tonight back to Mendoza which won’t make it there until Monday. Then I only have 2 days till I continue north, wayyyyyyy north; all the back to Omaha!
If there is one common thing that I keep coming across when meeting travelers from all over it is that I am usually the youngest. Most people I have been meeting are in their late 20s or older. Many have saved money and are traveling the world, others just sold everything and are traveling until their money runs out. I have yet to meet another active student. It makes me feel grateful for the opportunity I have and had here in Argentina. It’s amazing to see and learn all I have, not just factual things that I learned in my classes or about the complicated economy here, but also about cultural differences and just seeing the different ways people live their normal lives.
I’ll write more about this with my rapidly approaching 40+hr bus ride. Also, hopefully I will be able to make a more proper post and add pictures of this breathtaking country when I get back to Mendoza. If not, I’ll be back to the States and officially on my Christmas break (🤣) with little to do.
Muchos besos y’all! 😘