Mendoza, Argentina + Elqui Valley, Chile
Part 1 – Mendoza, Argentina
Let’s start where we ended… flying out of Bariloche. By chance I got a window seat and observed the patagonia lake region from the sky. I would have paid the $150 just for the takeoff..
Travelling from A to B is the journey. Enjoy it.
Once I landed in Mendoza, I made my way to my Airbnb with a superhost. Turns out she was a Spanish tutor and local tour guide… so bascially for $20/night I had a private hostel.
While I was in the city, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my father and brother over the phone. Simply put, it’s always a grounding being able to chat with loved ones while being 1000s of miles away. In a moment the vast distances of the world vanish and it becomes apparent how small our world is.
Small enough to taste Argentinian Malbec wine in nearly any major western city in the world, it might just cost a pretty penny. So being so close to the source and I took the opportunity to endulge.
Day one – Mendoza: I visited the 2 major winery attractions; one large active wine processing plant. one large inactive wine processing plant (that use to be the largest producer of wine in the world, Giol!)
Day two – Mendoza: I grabbed a bike and toured the local vineyards. Here I had the opportunity to see a permaculture farm/winery that used fruit trees and herbs as natural deterants from the insects. The fruit trees bloomed early in the season to distract the insects from the vines and the herbs (like mint) acted as a natural barrier from the ground. I also learnt (or relearnt) that aromas are just information about smells that are stored in our brains. Chocolate, smoked cheese, strawberries or any other aromas are stored in the same organic chemical structure… SO when tasting and smelling wine our mind is trying to associate the taste to information in our minds that already exsists!
Next Stop – Santiago!
The drive through the mountain pass from Mendoza to Santiago was insane…. I counted 39 consecutive switchbacks! The views were stunning, and again it reminded me that getting from A to B is the journey.
The most noteable things from Santiago were:
- The street art and small local galleries that were packed amongst residential buildings in the Barrio near San Cristobal Hill.
- The discomforting experience of walking up the hill and experiencing a Catholic space where signs clearly stated “Silencio” – yet modern pop gospel music crackled out of shady speakers and families gathered to chat rambunctiously…. meanwhile I was quietly observing the space.
That experience wrapped up my time in Santiago, and I began to head north to the Elqui Valley.
Part 2: ELQUI VALLEY – Vicuna
On my journey to the Elqui Valley, I made a quick stop in La Senera. An industrial beach town, with no tourism. I spend a few days working and walking the streets. The days were slow, but this allowed me to see how similar the day to day culture of these towns were compared to home and other places I’ve been.
As I headed to the Elqui Valley, the contrast was NIGHT AND DAY… quite literally.
Elqui Valley is amongst the world’s best stargazing destinations.
I spent my first night in Vicuna, getting an official stargazing tour from a local astrologist. We travelled an hour on 4×4 roads outside the tiny town over the mountain range to a private observatory.
Here is where the magic began.. that night I saw:
- 4 Galaxies with my bare eyes… the Milky Way was only one.
- 15 million stars in 1 telescope view.
- A nebula where no stars were formed yet
- A nebula where stars were formed
- The Pleiades Constilation (aka the Subaru logo)
NO PHOTOS DO THE EXPERIENCE JUSTICE. IT WAS OBSURD.
The next day, I ventured off into the desert valley on a bike ride… took a wrong turn and ended up cycling 40km on dirt road amongst vineyards and high desert mountains.
Then I headed further into the valley, to Pisco.
Part 3: ELQUI VALLEY – Pisco
Pisco was the final destination on my journey through South America.
The aurora of this town is mystical. Blessed by the stars and the fertile valley.
I spent a week in this town. Working, meditating, reflecting and letting the valley’s presence shape me.
Everynight I’d walk up the hillside from 11pm – 2am, lay down and observe the stars.
I didn’t know or care what constellation I was looking at, I just opened my eyes and let the blissful experience happen. In complete sobriety, I laid there awestruck as I looked into the past.
The vastness of the universe overwhelmed my soul. (I don’t know how else to put this.)
One day, I decided to hike the local ridge after a local man from Santiago told me about this ladder to no where… and I figured it was calling.
So off I went. 1800m of elevation gain, 2 fences to jump, and a river to cross.
It all started at 5:30am and right from the start the ‘trail’ was GNARLY. For many parts I was on my hands and knees climbing the desert slope.
I made it to the ridgeline before the sun hit the west slope. From the there the views were majestic.
Finally I arrived at the ladder… see the live video below for more context.
I started to climb the ladder. After about 8 rungs I stopped. The ladder swayed in the wind as I peered into the distance.
I did not get to the top.
If I fell and hurt myself – no one would have been there to save me. AND the desert would have killed me. So I started the decent which was more challenging to navigate than the ascent.
Afterwards I rested my body by the river. As I sat there, a horse joined me as rested my feet in the water. The horse sat right beside me.
I sat there in the presence of this white horse for about 20 minutes; contemplating the happenings, observing my thoughts, and reflecting on the journey…
The end was near, and my heart grew heavy knowing I’d have to leave this valley, remove myself from this mystical place and return home to a familiar space with new learnings.
- Getting from A to B is the journey. Don’t forget about the journey while you strive towards a destination.
- Phone calls to friends and family are possible anywhere in the world. Connection is critical.
- Experience life as if every day is Day One.