Recent Posts

Santiago and Mendoza

After spending three weeks volunteering on a farm, I decided to head back to Santiago in time for their Independence Day festivities. September 18th is the National Independence day but the celebrations can last over a week including a grand parade on September 19th. Chileans have big bbqs with friends and families and you can see kids wearing their traditional cowboy costumes.The parks in the city host big celebrations, locally referred as fondas. These include delicious foods, games, dancing (cueca – the national dance which interprets the mating rituals of rooster and hen) and drinks. Terremotos(Earthquake in Spanish), a delicious but deadly drink consisting of wine, grenadine and pineapple ice-cream, is consumed heavily around this time. 

I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people at the Hostel, and we ended up hanging out the whole weekend. One of the days we went to a Spanish music festival called Fonda Permanente. Even though we didn’t understand any of the lyrics, it was a fun night with good music, food and terremotosThe following day we went to Fonda at Parque Inés De Suárez where we pigged out on bbqs.

I also did a day trip to Valparaiso - the closest port to Santiago and a city with an interesting history. A UNESCO heritage, it is a city consisting of hills with steep streets, alleys and stairs. The houses are colorfully painted with graffiti everywhere. Despite having a map, it is pretty easy to get lost with all the uphill streets – but in that case you will come across arts and buildings that you weren’t hoping to see. If I had more time, I would have loved to spend couple more days and explore the stunning street graffiti all over the city. 


Throughout my trip, I have always wished if I knew Spanish and hence I decided to goto Argentina after Santiago to take some Spanish classes. After some research, I agreed upon Cordoba as the place to spend two weeks because of its fun and young population along with cheaper classes compared to other cities in Argentina. 


Buses are often the most convenient and affordable option to get around South America. I decided to split my trip to Cordoba (18 hours in total) by making a stop in Mendoza - the wine capital of Argentina. I was recommended by the hostel staff in Santiago to take the day time bus from Santiago to Mendoza to enjoy the scenic view of the Andes, followed by an overnight bus to Cordoba. I caught a 7:45 AM bus from Santiago and needless to say, that was a great decision – the trip provided some spectacular views of the Andes. There have been stories of people having to wait for hours at border control – but we got lucky and were done in half an hour.


I stayed at Lagares hostel. For the price, it was clean and had super friendly staff and amazing breakfast - if you ever end up in Mendoza consider staying there. Mendoza is actually located in the midst of a desert. However, a complex system of irrigation channels that run besides every main road to bring water from the Mendoza river makes the region green and fertile. Combine that with weather suited for vineyards, more than 1000 wineries are located around this region ranging from family owned boutique vineyards to massive ones. I booked a bike wine tour with the hostel with a pickup time for next morning. We got our bikes and rode to three different vineyards for tour and tasting. Started with an organic vineyard – Familia cecchin followed by Vistandes and Domicano. While the guided tour was fun, if you aren't travelling solo, I recommend just going to Mr Hugo’s rental shop, rent a bike and do it yourself with a wine map that the rental shop provides. 


Santiago and Mendoza treated me well and after that I was off to Cordoba through an overnight bus.

View of Santiago from San Cristobal Peak

One of the Wineries and the view from the bus (Santiago to Mendoza)


Earlier last month, I was talking to one of my good friends who had recently been on a trip to South America. He loved his experience volunteering on a farm in Chile through WWOOF (Worldwide opportunities on Organic farm), and highly recommended it to me. WWOOF is a network that matches volunteers with organic farms around the world. The host farm provides food, accommodation (usually with the farmer’s family), and learning opportunities, in return for assistance with farm related activities (varies depending on the farm) for the duration of the stay (ranging from couple weeks to months). 

Having never been to Chile before, WWOOFing seemed like a great way to learn about its people, culture, and organic farming (as well as pick up some Spanish). With work being flexible on my return date, I decided to extend my trip until mid-November with the first stop being the farm in central Chile, followed by a few other South American countries. Two of my friends decided to join me on the farm as well.

After some terrible luck with flights (one cancellation, one delayed and lost baggage), I arrived in Santiago, Chile a couple weeks ago. Not being close to a big city, the journey to get to the farm was long. After leaving Santiago at 10 in the morning, and riding three buses, we arrived at the farm in the evening at 6 to be greeted by the farmer and their family with some tea and homemade bread.  getting a quick tour of the farm, we were shown their communal lodge. Since this farm receives a lot of WWOOFers during summer, they built a communal lodge with a kitchen, common area, a computer and few beds. Temperatures often drop below 40 degrees Farenheit; with no heating at the lodge, we have to use sleeping bags to stay warm. 

Our daily routine starts with breakfast – coffee, oatmeal, and bread – with the farmer’s family around 8:30, followed by work on the farm. We’ve had various kinds of work – trellising the blackberry vines, cutting out thorny weeds and creating soil beds to grow vegetables. When my friend visited the farm over summer, his work consisted solely of harvesting blackberries; hence, the work varies depending on the time of the year. We work until lunch time, after which we have time to enjoy the scenery and tranquility of the area. I have been spending my time reading, learning Spanish, watching TV, exploring nearby farms or just laying down on the hammock. The only bus that goes to the nearest city leaves at 7 in the morning during weekdays, so I haven’t had the chance to leave the farm except on Sundays. One of the Sundays, the farmer’s friend took us hiking in the Reserva Nacional Radal Siete Tazas, consisting of some stunning views and gorgeous waterfalls.

The food here has surprised me. All our meals, delicious and filling, are cooked with vegetables grown in the farm, and meat is only served for a few meals each week. I am in love with the bread that the farmer bakes – will be getting the recipe before I leave. Over the past two weeks, I have also learned to cook a few Chilean dishes!

Dinner conversations have included exchanging stories and learning about culture, politics, family and farming. After dinner, we usually watch TV together. We were surprised how popular Minecraft song parody videos were among the kids here, they would sometimes play it on repeat! Coming across public Wifi in one of the rural towns and streaming Netflix at the farm both caught my attention. Later, I found that Chile is actually the first Latin American country to be considered a developed country joining the OECD in 2010. One can definitely sense the American influence on Chilean culture, a result of the influence the United States has had on Chilean politics and economy.

It has been phenomenal seeing how self-sustainable the farmer’s family is and the simplicity with which they live their daily lives. The highlight of my time here has been a birthday party for a family member of the farmer. We all had a blast with their friends over, and had a delicious BBQ feast complete with cake, wine, and an Indian side dish that one of my friends cooked. I have also been making an effort to talk to the family members to learn Spanish. Google translate has been a savior in these situations. Duolingo has been helpful in learning basic words, but with phone service being spotty, I haven’t been able to use it much on my phone (aka Duolingo needs an offline feature).

I have loved travelling internationally for a variety of reasons – adventure, culture, food, people, language, landmarks. However, beyond those aspects of travel, I have recently been realizing that sometimes the experiences I have had through the places I have been represents a story of sorts; this only makes travelling more entertaining.     

What’s next:

Both my friends left today, and I am planning on staying at the farm for a week or two. After that, I am thinking of going to Argentina for a couple weeks and take some Spanish classes followed by Peru in early October.