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2012 Travel Review

I know it’s a bit late for a 2012 review post, but we spent the last couple of days in a wonderfully isolated place on the Chilean coast without an Internet connection. Anyway, I thought better late than never, so here are some thoughts on the first 3 month of our trip.

Favorite places visited

This is tough, because we visited a lot of very nice places. If I had to choose 3 though, I’d pick Buenos Aires for being an amazing and amazingly chaotic city, the coast around Pichilemu in Chile for being a magical nature paradise (besides one of the world’s best surf spots) and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. Sure, the last one is rather touristy, but it deals with it really well and in the evenings you can have the place almost to yourself. The honorable mention goes to the Iguazu Falls, which are absolutely amazing, but somehow don’t conjure up as fond memories as the other places.

Favorite places stayed in

The “Hostal de la Viuda” in Punta del Diablo (Uruguay) was a great place to stay. It’s a bit outside town, run by a lovely couple and incredibly hard to leave, because of the nice garden, great common area and the three cute dogs. We also quite enjoyed the “Mate Hostel” in Cordoba, because it’s a place run by travelers (from Argentina, Colombia and Germany) for travelers. I shared lots of mate and good conversations with the staff, and it’s a very social place where it’s easy to meet other backpackers. Another amazing place was the “Surfarm”, which is located about 15 minutes by car from Pichilemu (Chile). It’s basically a couple of huts right next to the beach in a pretty isolated area. It’s the sort of place where time just has no significance and you fall asleep to the sound of the Pacific after looking at the beautiful night sky. The honorable mention goes to the “Casa Pueblo” in Mendoza (Argentina), which is also slightly out of town (there might be a pattern here) and is owned by a very nice young Russian-Argentinian couple who made our Christmas very enjoyable. There’s also a special mention in this category, the “Casa Amarilla” in Aregua (Paraguay), which is basically an old colonial house which was turned into an art space/hostel by the two brothers who run it. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed staying there because of the David Lynch atmosphere, but it’s fun to wander around the premises and look at the random art pieces that can be found all over the place.

Favorite foods

Paraguay had quite a few nice vegetarian dishes, although they were mostly bread-based, so a bit heavy on the carbs. Nonetheless, chipa definitely was a great food discovery. While Uruguay is a bit bland on the food side, there’s a very old pizza place in Montevideo called “Subte”, which serves delicious pizza and faina. Argentina on the other hand mostly stayed in my mind for its sweets: there’s some of the best ice cream outside of Italy, and alfajores as well as chocotorta were rather dangerous for my blood sugar levels. My favorite country for food so far definitely was Chile though, since there’s more variety than in the other places and it’s full of awesome fresh avocados, which are probably my favorite fruit in the world.

Biggest positive surprise

Definitely Chile, because before we came we hadn’t heard too many good things about the place. People mostly complained about how expensive it is and that the locals are not the most friendly people on the planet. However, we found none of that to be true, Chileans have been incredibly friendly and hospitable so far, and we actually find it easier to stay within our budget here than in Argentina. It’s also an easier place to travel as a vegetarian because of the abundance of great fresh fruits and vegetables, which is a definite plus for me.

Biggest disappointment

Probably Curacao. While I have quite a few good memories related to our two weeks there, it wasn’t the mindless beach holiday we were after, but actually a rather exhausting backpacking experience. I don’t regret that we went, it was very interesting, but it didn’t really live up to our expectations.

Best decision made

Doing a Spanish course early on was definitely the best decision we made on this trip so far! The two weeks at “El Pasaje” in Buenos Aires were great, since we had a very small group (us and a girl from the U.S.) we could progress at a really fast pace, especially since we didn’t start from zero. In only 10 days we managed to cover a lot of grammar and, more importantly, had lots of conversations where we actually could use it. I even started reading a book in Spanish now, and while I’m a bit slow and still miss some vocabulary, I actually manage better than I would have expected. Anyway, being able to have proper conversations in Spanish makes this trip a lot more enjoyable, since we interacted a lot with hostel staff, artesanias, local travelers or random people in the streets.

That’s it for now, maybe I’ll do a similar post in another three month or so.