One Year in Latin America (Part Two) Posted by sasha on Feb 21, 2018 in Travel, Uncategorized
Después de vivir en México y Colombia, viajamos a otros tres países. Esta es nuestra experiencia viajando por Ecuador, Peru y Chile. (After living in Mexico and Colombia, we traveled to three more countries. This is our experience traveling in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.) Go back and read Part One if you missed it. Let’s see what we got up to in Part Two of our one year in Latin America.
From Medellín, we cashed in some airline miles and flew to Quito. We started off with a week in the capital, working in the mornings and exploring the city in the afternoon. Staying in a local guesthouse gave me a good chance to practice my Spanish with the super friendly family who runs the place. We weren’t sure what to expect from Quito, but we really liked it and would definitely return.
Baños es la capital de aventuras de Ecuador.
Baños is the adventure capital of Ecuador.
From there, we visited Cotopaxi National Park and the Quilotoa crater lake en route to Ecuador’s adventure capital of Baños. This town is famous for its natural hot springs and exciting activities such as mountain biking, hiking, rafting, and more. We stayed for four nights in a shared apartment with some awesome guys, one from Ecuador and one from Cuba. The host is a Spanish teacher, so I got some tips from him and got to practice whenever we were both around. You can book a room and Spanish classes with him if you want to add some studies to your adventure. Find them at Flat Share Baños.
Next was a week in Cuenca, where we really had to catch up on work. It’s a beautiful, peaceful city and we can see why so many expats like retiring there. When we were able to take a break from work, we enjoyed walking along the river to Parque El Paraíso. We also managed to squeeze in visits to Cajas National Park and a day at the spa in the other Baños. That’s right – there’s a small town near Cuenca with the same exact name as the other one. Relaxing in the hot springs was just what we needed after a busy week of work.
Finally in Ecuador, we headed out on a major bucket-list trip as we visited the Galápagos Islands. There was no work or studying here – just enjoying this incredible place and all the wildlife that inhabits it. We spent three nights each on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands and had an amazing time. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune to visit the Galápagos Islands.
¡Las Islas Galápagos son un lugar increíble!
The Galapagos Islands are an incredible place!
With just a month to spend in Ecuador, I wasn’t able to sign up for any Spanish lessons while we were there. If you’d like to study Spanish in Ecuador, though, you’ve got plenty of options. There are plenty of Spanish schools in Quito and Cuenca and there’s even one or two in Baños. Overall I found it pretty easy to understand Ecuadorian Spanish. The people were quite friendly and usually happy to chat, even in my poor, broken Spanish.
From Ecuador, we flew to Lima where we got an apartment for a month in the Miraflores area of the city. After taking a full week and a half off in Ecuador, we had to make up for lost time and work a bunch. I also signed up for Spanish lessons at the El Tulipán center, which was conveniently located just a block from our place. The group classes met three times a week, but thanks to the holidays in December there were quite a few days off. It was still nice to have 2-hour classes a handful of times to brush up on my Spanish. I’m the kind of person that needs the structure of something like a class to really work on a language. If I’m left to study on my own, I don’t make much progress. I’ve tried using Duolingo but usually give up after a few days and forget about it for weeks at a time. Having a class and homework always helps motivate me to learn a language.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any of Peru outside of the capital in our time there. It was fine, as we needed to slow down a bit and catch up on work. We did manage to take a few walking tours of the historical center and of the Barranco neighborhoods. Other than that, we mostly just ate ceviche and drank Pisco Sours, which just might be the best combination in the world. Lima is a great city and it’s high on our list of places we would live, except the constant cloudy weather is a bit of a bummer. Now I know how British people feel! Thankfully, we’re headed back to Peru in a few weeks so we can visit Cusco, do Machu Picchu, and hit a few more places.
Me gusta mucho la comida peruana. ¡Es tan delicioso!
I really like Peruvian food. It’s so delicious!
As far as Peruvian Spanish goes, I felt like it wasn’t too hard to get by there. One thing that tripped me up is that words for food change when you go from Colombia/Ecuador to Peru. For example, I had no idea what palta was when looking at a menu. When Google Translate told me it was avocado, I thought “Isn’t that aguacate?” It is – in some countries. This is one of the tricky things about traveling around to different Spanish-speaking countries – they don’t all speak the same Spanish!
From Lima, we caught a flight to Santiago. Spending a month in the Chilean capital wasn’t in our plans originally, but when my amiga I met in Bali told us she’d have a room available for us in January it was a no-brainer. Staying with friends always beats renting your own Airbnb, which can be quite lonely at times. We had a great month staying with her and her roommate in the Providencia area of the city. Santiago is a beautiful, modern city with a lot to offer. It’s definitely pricier than any of the other cities we’ve spent time in, though, so keep that in mind if you want to visit.
Santiago es una ciudad hermosa.
Santiago is a beautiful city.
Thankfully we got to get out of the big city a few times in our month in Chile. First up was New Year’s Eve in Valparaíso, which is a massive party complete with an epic fireworks display. We also got to check off another bucket-list item as we did a 3-day, 2-night camping trip in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful place we’ve ever been and we’re hoping to go back to do the full W or O trek one day.
Since we had a busy month planned with two trips, I wasn’t able to enroll in Spanish courses in Santiago. There are several schools there if you’d like to study Spanish in Chile. Living with two Chilean girls and visiting my friend’s family gave me plenty of chances to practice, though. One thing I will mention is that I found Chilean Spanish to be the most difficult to understand. They use a ton of slang and just have different words in general for a lot of things compared with the other countries we traveled in. One of the most common Chilean expressions you’ll hear is “¿Cachai?” It comes from the verb cachar (to catch), and basically means “Do you get it?” ¿Cachai?
My biggest Spanish-related success in Santiago came when I got a haircut and managed to hold a conversation with the nice old man who ran the shop. I enjoy these situations where I’m forced to listen and speak Spanish for an extended amount of time. When you’re in the chair and halfway through a haircut, there’s no way to bail! I also had some nice chats with Uber drivers in Santiago, who were all very excited to give me tips on visiting their city.
That about wraps it up for my one year in Latin America. In case you were wondering, it’s already turned into a second year. I’m taking a little vacation from Spanish and struggling my way through Brazil without any Portuguese this month, but am then headed back to Chile. Then it’s onto Bolivia and Peru for an epic adventure. In April, we’re moving back to Puerto Vallarta for six months and hope to do some traveling in Central America in that time. I love this part of the world and have had an incredible time so far. Let’s just hope my Spanish improves even more in year two!