Buenos Aires is a city of constant motion. It’s a meeting point where Argentinians young and old come to live, study, work, and (most importantly) play. It’s the destination where millions of eager tourists each year begin and end journeys through South America. It’s unequivocally the most important city in Argentina, the heartbeat of the country. Unlike the United States, where different cities dominate their respective portions of the economic and social lexicon, Buenos Aires is the hub of everything. This is a city that’s alive: it has a feeling of serendipity, wonder, and awe.
From our overcrowded campsite it was just 15 minutes until the Atlantic Ocean began unfolding before our eyes. A 60km long sandy beachfront lay just beyond the center of town, the view blighted by high rise apartment buildings yet the ocean omnipresent. The beachfront atmosphere has turned the crowd into a curious collection of long-term residents and vacationing families. Having arrived during a holiday weekend smack dab in the middle of summer, the town’s population ballooned from 8,000 to over 80,000.
On the way back towards the port we passed through some of Valparaiso’s many hills, which were awarded UNESCO world heritage status because every time you turn a corner, it’s time to take the camera out for another shot. Without a doubt, Valpo is South America’s premier street art city. Every staircase, wall, and door in the city center is home to another piece of art, the majority of which are downright stunning in their complexity, vivid colors, and attention to detail.
The first stop of the day was at La Añorada, a picturesque winery on the outskirts of town. Our affable tour guide was named German, and he fired off joke after joke while getting us acquainted with the winery’s production cycle. One of the coolest parts of the tour was how German led us through the various stages of making Malbec, the blend which Maipu is most famous for. He poured us tasting from monstrous twenty foot high vats at two different points in the fermentation process, then led us down into the cellar and siphoned a more mature oak blend straight out of the barrel before finally pouring a version of the finished product from the bottle.
Maybe we’ve just been extremely lucky so far, but hitchhiking in Argentina has been infinitely more rewarding than riding expensive tourist busses. Each driver has been more than willing to share his hospitality, stories, and knowledge of the country while meanwhile being equally eager to learn about us. In short, they want to ensure that our experience traveling across Argentina is one to remember. So far, they've certainly succeeded.
Just a few kilometers into the journey we came upon the Quebrada de Las Conchas, a valley world-renowned for its spectacular views. Over eons and eons, a gushing monstrosity of a river and this area’s forceful wind have eroded a wide canyon and carved away at its sandstone rock. What remains is a weird and wondrous landscape of magical rocky landscape. For the next two hours I stared slack-jawed at the glory of some of mother nature’s greatest artwork, muttering “wow” under my breath every time we rounded another corner.
Seeing as it was only 10AM I should have been surprised my friends were ready to start drinking, but then I noticed they were still wearing the same clothes from yesterday and clearly hadn’t been home. I happily forked over the pesos (less than 25 cents), which kicked off an authentic example of Chilean hospitality. For the next six hours we walked around almost every street the tiny pueblo has to offer, as I was treated to the cheapest and most insightful local walking tour San Pedro has to offer. They showed me where to buy the cheapest food, the most delicious empanadas, and some of their favorite spots to just hang out and take in astounding views of the ring of Volcanoes around the desert.