Luxembourg, Argentina, Chile · 49 Days · 23 Moments · September 2018

Valentina conquering South America

5 days ago

Final thoughts on Chile: Despite all the negative comments that Argentineans say on this country and its people, I only have positive things to say about Chile. It's incredible to me that such a narrow country can display this a variety of nature, landscapes, cities and culture. People here are respectful of Pachamama (mother nature) and very attached to their roots and history. They're a proud country and not sorry for it.They had to deal with earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions since forever, but that's what makes them though and humble at the same time. They know that humans last as long as a breathe on this earth, that existed before us and will continue to exist after we're long gone. Chile is also the hippiest place I've been so far, with a mix of artists,performers, Rastafarian and weird people from all over the world. They speak funny and everything is expensive. I leave with a cultural baggage I can't be indifferent to and a lot of knowledge about the past of humanity.

6 days ago

When I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, I thought I was on a western movie set. With its dusty roads and clay houses, San Pedro is right in the middle of the desert and features some of the most intriguing and unique landscapes in South America. I started my tour visiting the Lagunas Altiplanica, which will literally take your breathe away with its 4.500m of altitude, I watched flamingos dance and I floated in the salty Laguna del Cejar. I then spent a full day in the Moon valley, called like this because of its resemblance with our satellite, and it really felt like being on another planet. I finally ended my stay by visiting the Tatio geysers, the highest geothermal area in South America. As if this wasn't enough beauty, San Pedro offers one of the cleanest skies in the world and when the 1st night I looked up, I gasped! I took an astronomical tour where I learnt how to recognize constellations, I was mesmerized the whole time. South America strikes again with nature at its finest

9 days ago

I fell in love with Valparaiso! This unexpectedly beautiful city cured my post-Easter Island blues with its colorful crazy streets, music and artists. Known as "the jewel of the Pacific", Valparaiso is protected by UNESCO in order to preserve its unique identity and design. To me, it looks as if a drunk architect met with a baby full of crayons and they built a nonsense city together. Graffiti cover the entire city, the avenues are bursting with life and street art performers can be found in every corner. It's gritty and authentic, with a history shared between docks, earthquakes and dreamers, such as Pablo Neruda, who even wrote a poem about it. I keep bumping into my Swedish friend Jakob who I met back in Buenos Aires and who's following my same itinerary. Together we met the loveliest Chilean people who showed us around, invited us to enjoy the beach in Viña del Mar and a bbq on their balcony! If you love history, street art and bohemian life, Valparaiso is a must. I'll be back!

2 November 2018

At 31 I achieved my lifelong dream of visiting Easter Island, and I still can't believe it! Located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, Rapa Nui was called by the early settlers "the navel of the world". It's the most secluded island in the world, famous for its enigmatic giant stone statues (Moai), built centuries ago, which reflect the dramatic rise and fall of the most isolated Polynesian culture. Walking through the island you will notice that tattoos are a must, t-shirts are optional and Jack Johnson is always playing in the background. Horses and cows are virtually everywhere, and if seeing horses roaming free fills me with joy, I can't say the same about cows, who are mean and attack you when you try to walk past them. I much prefer them in my burger. There are no words to explain all the things this mystical island has to offer, so you have to come and see it for yourself! And to remember both the magic of this place and what I'm capable of, I did a little something :)

29 October 2018

Santiago, capital of Chile: I had heard contrasting opinions about this city, so I had to judge for myself. I started by roaming the streets with a walking tour at first, then on my own. I browsed the artisans market, visited the wonderful museum of precolombian artifacts and paid homage to Pablo Neruda by eating his favorite dish - the eel chow, and visiting the house he built for his lover, la Chascona. I climbed two of the many cerros (hills) the city is dotted with and admired the panorama from the top, while Spanish prayers on speaker incessantly filled the air around me. My stay wouldn't be complete without visiting one of the many vineyards located in the Maipo valley, and I chose the most famous: Concha y Toro, known worldwide for its production of Sauvignon. It took me a while to readjust to being in a huge metropolis, but all in all I liked Santiago. Despite being polluted and a bit rough around the edges,it has a lot to offer and I could have easily stayed few more days.

26 October 2018

Pucon was my first long stop in Chile after the quick appetizer of Torres del Paine. I came here mainly to climb the volcano, but I liked the vibe of the place so much that I ended up staying longer than I had planned. Pucon is the paradise of daredevils around the world, as it offers any kind of adrenaline-filled activity: kayaking, rafting, climbing, zip-lining, etc. Despite that, this place it's also strangely relaxing and people have a hippie vibe that makes you instantly feel at home. Once again I came across a very cool Australian girl who left everything back home to open a hostel here and she's living her dream. The guide who took us to the volcano was staying in the same hostel and we spent our evenings all together chatting about mountains, energies and dreams. After the deadly volcano climb I couldn't even move so I went to relax at the Termas Geometricas: expensive and famous thermal baths with more than 20 natural pools with different temperatures. Now we're talking!!

25 October 2018

(continues from bottom) The guides split us in 2 groups according to our pace (I was in the slower one of course); but when we were at almost 90% of the climb, things took a turn for the worse: the weather changed suddenly, the gasses from the crater were blowing our way and the visibility dropped to zero. Our guide thought it was too risky to continue and told us to turn back. I was so overwhelmed, exhausted and sad that I couldn't see the crater,that I actually let go of a tear or two. But safety first, I get it. What came after, though, was absolutely exhilarating: the way down is...sliding on your butt! You put a round piece of plastic in between your legs, sit on it, and start speeding down the side of the mountain trying to brake with an ice axe without impaling yourself with it. With a total of 9h climb, this was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I've ever done in my life. Another lesson of strength and humility learnt. Another experience I will never forget.
So today I climbed an active volcano. The Villarrica is one of Chile's most active volcanoes - it erupted last in 2015 - and 1 of only 5 volcanoes in the world who has a lava lake inside its crater. I was back and forth for weeks on whether I was going to attempt the climb or not, but in the end I came across an agency that made me feel safe and motivated, so I signed up for it! We met at 6am to put all the gear on, then we started the drive to the volcano. While we were approaching, it was puffing away and I already knew this bitch was going to kick my ass. We started the ascent. Usually there's a ski lift that saves you 1/3 of the climb, but because this is low season, the skilift wasn't working and we had to climb ALL THE WAY from the base. Of course. And because it's low season, there were still 6m of snow turning every step into a torture. For 1/2 of the climb I kept up with the pace quite well,but when we reached the last part, I started to struggle. A lot. (Continues up)

23 October 2018

22 October 2018

A final note on Patagonia: if you like pristine waters, stunning landscapes, dusty deserts, massive glaciers, raging winds, oceans, lagunas, lakes, volcanoes... In this place you can find it all. It's no mystery why this incredible region inspired so many writers and poets; the scenery is breathtaking, the silence fills your head and your thoughts and the wilderness lifts up your spirit and make you humble at the same time. Thank you Patagonia for allowing me to explore your secrets. I apologize for all the times I cursed at you, you have to understand I'm just a naive city girl that's not used to deal with nature and the wild, but you put me back to my place and rewarded my efforts with experiences I will never forget. Here I continue my journey, with a lifetime worth of adventures already behind me...

21 October 2018

My last Patagonian stop is Bariloche, a city situated in the foothills of the Andes along the shoreline of lake Nahuel Huapi. Bariloche has a Swiss-like architecture, an alpine atmosphere and it's famous for producing the best chocolate of Argentina. Being tired of the European feeling, I headed straight for the main attraction of this place: the lake district. I used the skilift to reach the summit of Cerro Campanario where,according to National Geographic, you can enjoy one of the best views in the world! And were they right! I spent 2 hours contemplating the beauty of my surroundings and building up the courage for what came next: biking the 27km circuit I was looking at. And if you think that's not a lot, it's because you didn't see how steep the roads were! Challenge accepted: I rented a mountain bike and off I went, puffing and panting and almost giving up, but I pushed through and I did it! I went through woods and beaches and hills. I felt so happy for doing this,and on my own!

17 October 2018

The last 4 days were spent in El Chalten, a small village that can be considered a quintessentially Patagonian town. With fresh crisp air, awe-inspiring landscapes, mountain peaks and the call of the wild, it doesn't get any better that this. Maybe helped by the lack of Wi-Fi, the vibe in the hostel was great and pretty soon I bonded with my dorm companions, who helped me get through treacherous climbs, sudden snowstorms and cramping legs. They were the highlight of my stay in El Chalten and without their energy I wouldn't have been able to fight the pain in my ankle and complete a 25km trek in adverse weather conditions (and I thought ushuaia was though!). We really had the feeling of being a bunch of friends on vacation together, and one day with too much snow (ahem, hangover), we stayed inside drinking Mate and I cooked pasta for everyone! It was sad to say goodbye but it's part of the adventure and I'm happy to have new friends that I will hopefully meet again one day...

13 October 2018

"Nature is full of genius, full of divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hands" These words from philosopher Henry Thoreau best describe today's bucket list experience: the Perito Moreno glacier. I had a ton of expections and let me tell you: they were minuscule compared to the stunning reality I came upon! After a 2h bus ride,the driver announced to keep our eyes open as we were approaching the Perito Moreno, and when it appeared in front of me in all its imposing presence, my heart skipped a beat! With an area of 250km2 (as big as the city of Buenos Aires) and a thickness of 170m, it's impossible not to feel insignificant in front of this beautiful giant. I spent the whole day mesmerized by its peaks and its cracking and roaring sounds when ice calves from the snout and plunge into the water. It was a magic and emotional day! Shame that the day ended with my body covered in bed bugs bites from the hostel, but I guess this is part of the backpacker experience..

11 October 2018

My last day in Puerto Natales I visited an estancia called Pingo Selvaje, owned by some Chilean millionaires. And you could see where all the money went: the estancia is 7k hectares big, spanning from hills to lakes to rivers, there's even a cave with remainings of saber tooth tigers and views of the Andean cordillera (man,these views!). The 4h ride was magnificent: I was the only tourist, my horse was great and we gallopped in the fields overlooking the mountains. My butt hurts a lot now, but the feeling of freedom was unbeatable! Luckily I'm not a good rider, otherwise I could totally see myself moving here and work in an estancia. Here time seems to stop, making you realize what are the most important things in life. In the afternoon I explored the town and I came across a gin distillery owned by an Australian couple who came here on vacation and decided to stay. I thought their story was so cool and I did what everyone else would have done: got drunk and spoke with them all night!

10 October 2018

After 16 hours on a bus (16-let that sink in) I arrived in Puerto natales, a small village that will be my base to discover Torres del Paine: a national park in Chile and one of the main symbols of Patagonia. This time I decided to book a tour because the area is huge and the only other way to do it is a 4-days trek camping inside the park, and: a) The temperature is around -4 with winds up to 120km /h b) The park is full of pumas c) Ain't nobody got time (and ankles) for that The tour was the right choice, we visited the main spots, we hiked for a couple of hours and we met lots of guanacos (relatives of alpacas). During lunch I separated from the rest of the group and ate my sandwich in front of Glacier Gray, with icebergs floating on the lake. How's that for lunch with a view? Before heading back we visited a prehistoric cave were explorers found the rest of Mylodons, giant sloths who lived in the area before going extinct. Another wonderful day in Patagonia with views for days!

8 October 2018

A visit to Ushuaia can't be complete without a hike in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Tierra del Fuego was given its name because of the many bonfires Ferdinand Magellan witnessed on the shores of the region, lit by the local Ona Indians. I decided to explore the park without a tour and on my own, as I wanted to focus on hiking and enjoying the nature without distractions. It was the 1st time since I left that I was completely alone for a full day (so much for being a solo traveler!) and it was quite refreshing. Until now I had the feeling I was just on another vacation, but it was when I was sitting on the shore of a lake, looking at the mountains and in complete solitude that it dawned on me: I'm actually exploring South America on my own! I felt happy, proud and a lot of different emotions, but all positive ones. I hiked for 8h straight, I saw lagoons, mountains, fjords, beavers and the characteristic trees bended by the strong Patagonian winds. I was exhausted but so happy!

7 October 2018

After a very scary landing I arrived in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego and gateway to Antarctica. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in South America and for this is known as "fin del mundo", end of the world. Before heading to the national park, I explored this cute city nestled between mountains and ocean, it felt like a place in between Iceland and Swiss, definitely a change of scenario from Iguazu. I learnt about the history of the native populations, killed in a genocide led by the English colonizers, and how the city was initially a place where all naughty Argentineans were sent to prison during the war. I then went on a boat tour on the Beagle channel, where I could enjoy some nice views of the city, cormorans and sea lions. A side note on traveling alone: the most amazing things are happening to me! People are so drawn by the fact that I'm a solo female traveler that I end up living crazy experiences such as having a free dinner in a museum, steering a boat and much more!

5 October 2018

The next stop was Iguazu falls, in a natural park shared by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. My initial plan was to fly in the morning, go to the Brazilian side in the afternoon, then spend the next day visiting the Argentinean side. However, my flight had a 3h delay that made me lose the chance to visit the Brasil side. Anyone in their right state of mind would have given up and just did the Argentina park, but not me! I negotiated with a taxi driver to take me through border control in and out of Argentina and Brazil and I managed to do both sides in 1 day! I walked for 20km no-stop, but it was totally worth it and my craziness rewarded with majestic views! Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover in a canoe. In a rage,the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. How's that for dramatic?But very appropriate,as the falls are even more dramatic and no pic can do them any justice

4 October 2018

And so I got to my last day in Buenos Aires. I have to say, the 1st impression of the city wasn't the best,but it grew on me and I'm so happy I stayed for longer than I had planned,because I eventually loved this place! BA is extremely European,with buildings imported 100% from France and people of 80% Italian descents,which speak the most Italian Spanish I've ever heard! With almost 3M of people,it's easy to feel overwhelmed in BA,but if you have the time to get accustomed to its hectic rhythm and understand that sleeping is for the weak,you'll be totally conquered by its vibe,people,passion and culture. The food didn't disappoint,meat and wine were the best I've ever had,but I'm also not a fan of some of the staples such as chimichurri,coffee,alfajores and pizza (please,no!). In brief: Do I think it's the most beautiful city I've seen: no I don't Did I have fun: boy, if I did! Things I liked the most: meat, tango, men Things I liked the least: being constantly alert for pickpocketers

2 October 2018

As the last thing to do in Buenos Aires, I wanted to visit a typical Estancia Argentina. An estancia is a ranch, typically situated in large rural areas known as pampas and where you can find gauchos: horsemen working in the estancia. Once arrived, we were welcomed with empanadas and delicious wine. Then we visited the estancia, first by foot,then riding a horse and finally on a horse carriage. The property was huge and peaceful, and there were any kind of animals you can imagine! Before lunch, our personal gaucho Pablo explained how to prepare the (in)famous mate, then we all had a sip pretending it didn't taste horribly. I'm sorry Argentina, stop trying to make Mate happen, it's not going to happen. Off we went for lunch with delicious Asado and folkloric shows, the singer had prepared a song for each country of the visitors and sung "o sole mio" for me :) After lunch the gauchos competed in some challenges to show off their riding skills and I loved every minute of it! Videos on fb

1 October 2018

The weekend was spent between antique markets, gaucho fairs, tango shows and drinking Mate in peñas, typical places with folkloric music and dances. I'm surprised by how much I like tango: its songs, dance, music..Everything about it it's fascinating. Of course I'm a sucker for local traditions and culture, so the gaucho world is right up my alley, and I even tried to dance with some of the mini-gaucho you see in the pics :) I finally tried the Mate, a sort of herbal tea that famiies and friends share drinking from the same straw. I didn't like it at all but of course I don't dare saying that to local people, as Mate is one of the strongest traditions and an important convivial moment for Argentineans. When I'm not making a fool of myself trying to dance like a hippo, I keep meeting cool people, and yesterday we went to watch a live show of African drummers...We needed a lot of alcohol to survive 3 hours of drums! Apparently journi doesn't support videos, so I'll upload them on fb.

28 September 2018

My first day in Buenos Aires couldn't be better! As soon as I landed I took a Uber and in the hour it took to get to my hostel,I bonded with my taxi driver:Sergio. He offered to take me for a city tour and for lunch, I said yes! We ate so much: I tried empanadas, parrilla de bife and alfajores. After we went for a walk: the center didn't exactly "wow" me from an architectural point of view as it's very European (they call it the Paris of South America), the style of the buildings is art nouveau and you can see the French influence, so it was nothing I don't already see everyday. My favorite district was La Boca, a colorful district with tango shows in the streets, art exhibits and cafes. I thought this area looked typical and it reminded me of Cuba, but it was actually built by Italian immigrants from Genoa. Despite being touristy, is also one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of BA,so I was happy I had my personal bodyguard :) I was so tired I fell asleep at 8pm,skipping dinner!

24 September 2018

I seriously have the best friends one could possibly desire! In the last few days I've received so many thoughtful gifts and precious moments with all of them, they make me feel so lucky! Thank you all ❤️

23 September 2018

People keep asking me if I'm not scared of traveling for 3 months on my own... The scariest thing for me is going through packing...i am NOT good at this!