So here I am in month 12 of Remote Year and all I can do I wonder how the hell we got here so quickly. On my last post I wrote about my feelings of air travel back at the beginning of April. As you can imagine, I’ve done and seen loads of cool stuff since then. I’ve also had a lot of uneventful days and nights but even still, the cliché holds true. Time really does fly. Realistically I don’t see myself writing a separate post for each of the past months so I’ll consolidate everything here into one.
While in Santiago I visited the seaside town of Valparaíso, a city with some of the best and the largest concentration of street art in Latin America. I rented a car and drove just a smidgen of the Pan-American Highway towards the Lake District in the southern part of the country. There are lots of national parks and great opportunities for hiking and adventure sports around Pucón. There are also lots of natural hot springs around here, which are just what you want after an invigorating hike. The drive here took a full day (8 hours plus stops) from Santiago. While it sounds like a long distance, if you mark the two points on map you’ll see that it only covers a fraction of the elongated country.
After my solo month in Chile, I rejoined my Ikigai family in Medellín, Colombia – the city of eternal spring. There’s something in the air in the city – a clean, fresh, invigorating energy that makes it feel really good to be there. The way the month played out I didn’t stray very far from the very gentrified neighborhood of Poblado. I did manage to visit a coffee plantation and take a day trip to el Peñón de Guatapé, a really curious rock that you can climb up by way of over 700 stairs. I also went paragliding for the first time, which was surprisingly calming and very cool! We visited what was once considered to be the most dangerous neighborhood in Latin America thanks to Pablo Escobar and his cronies. With the help of thoughtful city planning and the support of its residents, this neighborhood had turned itself around and has become an amazing success story.
From Medellín we went to Lima, Peru. I’m not really one for having a bucket list but there’s one place in South America that has always intrigued me. It’s also one of 2 things on the South American portion of our itinerary I was looking most forward to – Machu Picchu. There are a few different ways to make it to this sacred site any my group of 8 decided on a bit of a hybrid solution. Rather than take the train all the way to Aguas Calientes, and instead of doing a 4-day hike on the Inca Trail, we took the train until almost Aquas Calientes. Here we met our guide and climbed up to where the last camp on the Inca Trail is for those doing the 4-day hike. By the time we got to the campsite it was late-morning and the last night’s campers had long since left. We followed the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate and descended down to Machu Picchu. With our afternoon arrival the sacred site was almost deserted. Most people wake up before sunrise to try to be among the first ones to the site. We did that the next day, as well as make the tough and very steep but very rewarding climb up Huyana Picchu.
Back in Lima it was nice to be on the coast. Random fact – Lima is the only Latin American capital that’s coastal. The city has a reputation of being one of the best food/restaurant cities in Latin America and I splurged on the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten. The weather in the city is really strange, and while mild this time of year, about half of the time we were there the sky was a constant shade of grey. It wasn’t rainy, nor cold, just grey. A couple of months before we arrived to Lima there were terrible rain storms that did widespread damage, in Lima and well beyond. Tens of thousands of people were affected and hundreds of people lost their homes. Our group got together, pooled the money to buy a pre-fab house and spent a weekend constructing and painting it. The family who would be receiving the home was there to help us put the finishing touches on it. Lima is one of the noisiest cities I’ve ever been in, and towards the end of the month I was getting really agitated by the noise of the traffic and all the honking.
After Lima we travelled to Córdoba, Argentina. Córdoba is a city that no one has ever heard of before, despite being the second largest city in the country. It’s a university city (there are 8) and it has very little of touristic value. It’s also surrounded by barren landscape containing a great deal of nothing. The restaurants in the city are mediocre at best, with empanadas and pizzas dominating most menus. I’ve never had so much bad pizza before – something I used think wasn’t possible. I also had one of the worst brunches I ever had. Despite this, I had a great month. 11 months into this journey, it was a relief to show up in a city and have no expectations. There was never the feeling that you had to go out and do something – take a tour, visit a monument, go to a museum, try a certain restaurant, plan a side trip, etc. It was a very comfortable city to settle into a routine in. My apartment was a 5-minute walk to our workspace, and on the way was one of the best coffee shops I’ve been to on this trip. The craft beer scene in this city is solid, and in fact there were 3 craft beer bars on our block. We quickly found a favorite and became regulars. There was also a craft beer bar a block away from the workspace that had daily 2 for 1 happy hour. Needless to say I drank more draft beer this month than I have the entire 10 months prior combined. I also had more late nights than in any other city. I even managed to work out an average of 4 days a week before starting work in the morning. I don’t think I worked out 4 times total in the previous 3 months. While Córdoba was quite different from other months, it ended up being a very welcome and refreshing addition to our itinerary.
And that leads me to now – Month 12. Buenos Aires. The second of 2 places on the South American portion of our itinerary I was looking most forward to. We’re just 1 week in and I’ve already achieved pizza and brunch redemption – I’ve had the best pizza I’ve had all year, and quite possibly the best brunch I’ve ever had. The craft beer scene here is insanely good, but I’ve also had a couple of good wine experiences so far. The progressive house music scene is on point, and I’ve heard some of the best music I’ve heard out at a club in the past year (so far Medellín holds this title). The National Fine Arts Museum is one of the best museums in Latin America and houses an impressive collection of 16th to 20th century European Art, along with a very interesting collection of 20th century modern Argentine art. The city has good metro network, and an impressive number of bike lines lining the streets. And while it’s not entirely commonplace, you don’t have to look to hard to find a bar or resto that can make a Bloody Mary. Buenos Aires, it’s so very nice to meet you.