Thanks to those of you who have written asking if we're okay. Yes, we're fine. Just busy and what gets pushed to the back burner? Our travel blog. Work, family and setting up our lives in a new place has taken priority. Yes, we're in a new place, but before I tell you where, I'm going to back up to September 2010:
We made it to Bariloche and had a fantastic time there from the end of September through the end of February. 5 months of glorious views, nature hikes and our self-imposed retreat to figure out what our future may hold. We visited the tops of mountains, tiny charming Salones de Té, ate more smoked foods than I ever care to admit and left there with an extra 10 lbs each, despite all the hiking :)
The house we stayed at for those 5 months was perfect for us and in a great location right off the bus line. We managed without a car, even though we were staying 23 km outside of the city of Bariloche (just a few km from Hotel Llao Llao). Geneva attended a small Waldorf preschool called Mandala, about 12 km from our house. Nestled among the pine trees, Mandala was a fantastic nurturing environment with a mixed-age class.
Fast forward a bit... we were planning our departure from Bariloche and had Córdoba, Argentina on our radar. Córdoba is in the middle of the country and is the second largest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires. Reviews of Córdoba were mixed. Some seemed to love it, others thought it left a lot to be desired. We wanted to check it out for ourselves because we thought it may just have the big-city feel that we were looking for without the immensity of Buenos Aires.
The question was, how to get there? We had a few options and picked an unlikely combination. They were:
- Bus from Bariloche to Córdoba: Cheap, but 23 hrs +/- with a 3-year-old
- Rent a car and drive directly: Insanely expensive for a one-way-rental in AR
- Fly: Through Buenos Aires to Córdoba. Not too expensive, but we had a lot of baggage, and it's not very adventurous at all.
Our choice? Drive north through Chile instead, then fly from Santiago to Córdoba (via Montevideo)! We shipped most of our things to arrive in Córdoba ahead of us on Via Bariloche bus service. Incredibly cheap and worked out perfectly, but I digress...
It took us 11 days for the entire journey, but we had a lot of fun doing it. We had a friend in Bariloche drive us in his SUV through the Andes to Puerto Montt, Chile. We stayed there for a few days, explored the surrounding areas of Choloé and Puerto Varas (even seeing penguins along the way). And were completely wowed by the Mount-Fuji-esque Osorno volcano. We rented a car in Puerto Montt to head north. One way rentals are much less expensive in Chile than they are in Argentina. Think about it, with the geography of Chile, it is almost impossible not to drive north-south, or in our case, the opposite.
After Puerto Montt, we drove north to Pucón and stayed there for 3 days. I loved the bohemian, backpacker vibe but felt a little unsettled looking up at a smoking volcano all day. We're midwesterners and total wimps about earthquakes and volcanoes!
Then, a marathon drive from Púcon to Santiago all in one day. About 700 miles of some incredibly gorgeous countryside. Chile had incredible infrastructure and Ruta 5 (aka extension of the Pan-American Highway), which we were traveling is perfectly maintained with some beautiful bridges, tunnels and of course, numerous toll booths along the spectacular landscape. All totaled for the journey in Chile, we spent 27,100 Chilean pesos (about $58.00 USD) on 14 toll booths. That is not counting any between Bariloche and Puerto Montt.
One night in Santiago and we were off to Valparaiso where we spent two nights. After a stressful entry to Valparaiso where Google was telling us our hotel was in one area where it was really about a km away (those narrow, steep, winding roads are not good for a mid-size rental car and people who are not used to said hilly streets) we eventually found where we needed to be.
Impression of Valparaiso: Meh. I was really disappointed because I thought it would be great. If we had to do it again, we'd stay in Viña del Mar and spend a day in nearby Valparaiso. We loved the beaches, energy and playgrounds of Viña (with a 3-year-old, playgrounds are a big deal).
After contemplating if we wanted to extend our time to stay in Vína, we pressed back to Santiago airport to turn in our rental car and catch a very roundabout flight to Córdoba.
After a glorious 24 hours layover in Montevideo with friends, we hopped our final flight to Córdoba and arrived late into our hotel room.
All this time (and for several additional weeks) our dogs were enjoying the paradise of Bariloche. We decided that this travel schedule would be impossible with 2 dogs in tow, so we left them with a wonderful family that watches small dogs. We knew that the dogs would be happy in a home setting, a family with three young girls and a great property to roam freely- and we wouldn't have to worry.
Within the first three days in a hotel in Córdoba, we knew this is a place we want to stay for a while. Centro (downtown) is busy, with great shopping, Jesuit churches and historic sites, a tree-lined cannal winding through the city and a huge amount of pedestrian areas.
We found a month-long temporary rental in Nuevo Centro, a small furnished apartment that was in a great spot.
While we liked the apartment and the neighborhood, it was loud with traffic and parties on the weekends (it's near the universities, so many young people). We knew this all going into this rental, but thought for a month, it's not bad. We had the option to renew there indefinitely but the building did not accept dogs and ideally, we wanted more space and a more residential neighborhood.
Next chapter to come about our housing search, schools, health insurance and cost of living in Córdoba......