Page 5 of Bellini Travel Blog Posts

South America » Chile » O Higgins » Santa Cruz August 5th 2016

The Colchagua Valley, a 3 hour bus ride south of Santiago, is often visited on a day tour from the capital. Santa Cruz, the principal town, has pretty poor accommodations unless you're willing to splurge, but Peggy and I found a private apartment in town on Airbnb that was suficiente. The town itself was pretty ordinary, especially in the low tourist season (early August). We hired a cab for 30,000 for the day (42 dollars) and visited 3 wineries: Montes ( Peggy arranged a wine tour here, and since it was low season and we requested an English tour, it was just the guide and us. The guide looked half our age but was surprisingly knowledgable; his youthfulness translated into being a wine fanatic. Thankfully, he didn't concentrate on the separating of grapes or the process ... read more
Grapevines at Viu Manent
At Estampa Winery
Tasting Room at Montes

Valparaíso is probably the dirtiest city that I've ever enjoyed. Even Cerro Alegre, a touristy hill where I stayed at both a boutique hostel and a bed and breakfast, has a serious stray dog and trash problem and nearly every wall is plastered in graffiti. But it's also a vibrant and mesmerizing city, with graffiti artists dipping brushes into plastic cups in narrow pasajes, street musicians playing on most buses and trains; clever ways to deal with the terrain (funiculars, pedestrian stairs, and even slides), naval officers in uniform carrying light briefcases along the muelle, and the buildings painted a mosaic of vibrant colors, often with murals fringed by tags, and some yards of creative reuse of plastic or hubcaps or tires, cradled in the robust vegetation that survive the winter but remind me of Pittsburgh ... read more
Above Reina Victoria Funicular
Parque along Atahualpa

South America » Argentina » Mendoza » Mendoza July 27th 2016

Mendoza is an attractive enough Argentinian city on its own, but most make a stop there because of its proximity to the mountain crossing to Chile or to visit wineries in the nearby valleys. But on my budget, I felt trapped there, since most excursions required going on expensive guided tours, even the most basic of which cost 90 USD a day. This would feel inevitable in countries like the US and Australia, but it's difficult to pay that much somewhere where it is $10 for a dorm bed, $5 for an acceptable bottle of wine, and $3 for all the groceries I need for dinner. So instead I booked four nights at my hostel and got a free bike rental in Maipú (pronounced My-poo, making for endless puns, considering how ugly it was), which is ... read more
At the Border
Approaching the pass

South America » Argentina » Salta » Cachi July 21st 2016

Even though it's a route frequented by tourists, most of the 157 km stretch from Cafayate to Cachi is unpaved and there is no direct bus (see map). Suggestions of how to get between the two ranged from going all the way back to Salta first (see map below) or taking 2 days by making use of the limited, semi-daily transports. I took an 11AM bus to Angostaco via the famous route 40 (think route 66) and the scenery on this leg of the trip- especially the Flechas (rocks that look like arrows) - made the rest worthwhile. I made the mistake of getting off the bus at the town itself rather than at the junction with route 40, which added another km or two to my walk. Once back on the road I started walking ... read more

South America » Argentina » Salta » Cafayate July 21st 2016

The Cafayate (CAH-fah-SCHA-tay, as the Argentinians pronounce it) valley is one of the finest wine regions in Argentina. There are around 20 public bodegas (wine factories) in and around town; the valley floor and surrounding hills are covered in vineyards. The 4 hour bus ride from Salta was stunningly beautiful, especially in the tight, broken valley (Quebrada del Río de Las Conchas) about 20 km before Cafayate, with moonlike eroded rock formations like parts of the American West. It's possible to return to do tours and treks, or to rent a bike and ride there from Cafayate, with proper bike trails part of the way. The town itself isn't much- mainly a cluster around route 40 that's a hub for tourists and bodegas. The quality of the wine at the bodegas varies quite a bit- some ... read more
Vineyard with Clouds and Quebrada
Waterfall Trail
Red Rocks

South America » Argentina » Jujuy July 16th 2016

Theee or four hours (by bus) north of Salta is the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a river gorge formed by the Río Grande, which is no more than a stream in July, the driest and coldest part of the year. Argentinian schools are on break during July, so the region was overrun with tourists, but most stuck to tourist vans and buses and were only a problem when it came to finding accommodations. Dayhike to Alfarcito I stopped first in Tilcara for two nights. Tony at La Albahaca hostel told me there is a good day hike beyond the Garganta del Diablo waterfall, so I set out relatively early the next morning to avoid the crowds that I dreaded. It was near freezing when I started, but an hour later when the sun rose above the red ... read more
Inside the Hacienda
Painted hills in distance

South America » Argentina » Salta » Salta July 14th 2016

I just used Salta as a hub for visiting Tilcara to the north, Cafayate to the south, and Cachi to the west. The city is comfortable and pretty and genuine, with countless food stalls near the long park by the bus station. There's a teleférico that goes up a big hill for nice views and a parallel trail that's a 40 minute stair hike. To make up for the unavoidably expensive taxi in Iguazu, I walked to and from the airport in Salta. There was a bike trail along the road most of the way and it took about 2 1/2 hours. ... read more

I made a last-minute decision to visit Iguazu after finding a flight from Buenos Aires that was only $150, since it was low season. This was actually cheaper than the 20+ hour bus. Another factor is that the $160 Brazilian visa fee has been lifted for the Olympics, so visitors can visit both sides relatively cheaply. The only problem that can't be solved is that there isn't much else to do in the area, so I just stayed for two full days (which is plenty) before flying to Salta. The Argentinian side is vastly superior and it alone made the trip worthwhile. 10 miles of trails and walkways take visitors to different viewpoints of the 275 separate drops in the falls, the largest of which is similar to Niagara. It isn't very crowded until the tour ... read more
From the Island
From Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo)

South America » Argentina » Buenos Aires » Buenos Aires July 10th 2016

Nearly everyone I've met who has traveled to Buenos Aires comments about how it feels more like a European capital than like a South American one. In the regional context, this seems like a cultural disappointment, but as Latin American capitals go, the only ones that I've been to that compare (or that even are tolerable) are La Paz and La Habana. The city is enormous (the population of LA), and each section is visually (and apparently culturally) unique. The guide on the mediocre historical walking tour pointed out how the predominantly Italian and French architecture are fused with other styles, and this extends to the atmosphere in the traditional bars and cafes, which I thought to be the best experiences in the city: Wandering the streets near the docks to tentatively enter a cafe that ... read more
Capital Building and Thinker
Eva Peron
The Pink House

After Montevideo, I figured it was better to sit in the rain in the country rather than in the city, so I headed back toward Colonia del Sacramento and the port that connects to Argentina. An hour before Colonia, I got off the bus in Valdense and El Galope horse farm (which is on Hostelworld) had a taxi waiting for me. The area is pretty ordinary in terms of scenery. It reminded me of Ohio, really, except with palms, parakeets, and functional towns (with a variety of locally owned stores). The farms gets its milk, cheese, honey, etc. from its neighbors. It was too wet to consider riding the horses, but the second day the sun came out and I went for a nice, long run through the farms and the nearby town. It was a ... read more
El Galope, with cold pool for after the sauna.
Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse
Adjacent farm

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