Discover America Radio
January 1, 2011

Why I Chose the Southeast

In 2010, my first destination on a trip around South America was Asunción, Paraguay. I was off the plane for two hours when my Couchsurfing host insisted that her other guest—Danielle, who was from the U.S. and also travelling alone—and I buy bus tickets to Argentina that very night. Danielle and I travelled together until she had to stay in Buenos Aires to study Spanish. When Chile experienced a devastating earthquake, I tried to go home, but the flights were all cancelled, so I flew to Buenos Aires to surprise the girl who had turned into my right-hand travel companion. As you might guess, I had already started planning my next trip—to visit Danielle in the United States. She was a student at James Madison University at the time, so we organised a cultural-historical road trip of the Southeast.

January 2, 2011

The Blue Ridge Mountains

Gustavo Latorre photo of Blue Ridge Mountains

I was excited about the Blue Ridge Mountains for two reasons: Danielle said the name was due to the colour, and because I live next to the Andes—I could compare them and ‘feel at home’. We spent a day hiking and driving through the park. It was interesting to see that even though the rivers and waterfalls were frozen, the mountains weren’t covered by snow. Towards sunset, I could tell why the mountains were named the Blue Ridge.

January 3, 2011

Climbing the Natural Chimneys

Gustavo Latorre photo of Chimneys in the Shenandoah Valley

Even the drive to the Natural Chimneys in Virginia was interesting, since I was able to see the Mennonite culture in the little towns and markets we passed along the way. My years of rock climbing and hiking naturally made me want to climb to the top of the rock chimneys. The base of the top is only about five square feet—I felt really peaceful and introspective up there (and, most of all, I hoped I didn’t start to fall before Danielle snapped the picture).

January 4, 2011

Exploring Washington DC

Gustavo Latorre photo of the White House

We got a different perspective of Washington D.C., with its monumental buildings covered with snow. Danielle planned to give me a private tour of the huge National History Museum, but it turned out I was better at finding where we had to go next.

When you go

Favourite souvenir:

Raspberry jam from the farmers’ market in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Travel tip:

Stop in every little town or place that gets your attention. And buy disposable cameras.

Best meal:

Fried pickles, tater tots and cheap cheese pizza. (A $5 (£3) pizza is unheard of in Chile.)

Where I’d like to go next:

Louisiana and New York for the culture, and then the Pacific Northwest for the nature.

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