Page 6 of Bellini Travel Blog Posts

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

The ferry-bus combo to Montevideo was more expensive than I'd hoped ($80 was the best I could get), but it was a fairly comfortable 3 hour trip. It rained nearly the entire time I was there, though it was unseasonably warm, so I still got in some nice walks and runs, especially along the Rambla, the road and trail that follows the coastline and Rio de la Plata as it mixes with the sea. Nonetheless, the miserable weather met my expectations of a Uruguayan atmosphere. There's a nice locally owned hostel called Buenas Vibras; it's in a residential neighborhood, but still only a half hour walk to the bus station or city center, and only about 5 blocks from the beach. There are loads of small museums with narrow scopes, like the '1972', which is all ... read more
Along the Rambla
Government buildings

South America » Colombia » Bogota July 1st 2016

From Villa de Leyva I took a 40-minute bus back to Tunja, and then an hour-long collectivo to Sogamoso, which I planned to use as a base for exploring Laguna de Tota, a high altitude lake and the largest natural lake in Colombia. As we approached the town, I was pretty disappointed. I had expected it to look like Tunja - crestled in a valley with plenty of hiking opportunities. I also thought it was right on Lake Tota. Instead, I found an industrial city with factories, eroded hillsides, and awful traffic. I thought about just continuing onto somewhere else but it would be getting dark soon and I had basically already paid for my accommodations. But it grew on me, since the owners at Hostal La Cazihita were so friendly, the city is completely void ... read more
Stairs in Sogamoso
Onion Farms

South America » Colombia » Boyacá June 29th 2016

Flying from Medellín to Bogotá took 31 minutes, as opposed to 9 hours by bus. The next morning I took a 3 hour minibus (it should have only been 2; we drove a round Bogotá for an hour trying to find more passengers) to Tunja (which looked like an interesting small city with hiking options in the hills), and then another hour to Villa de Leyva, touted as one of the prettiest towns in Colombia. It certainly is attractive- the well preserved buildings in the town center are so meticulously maintained that I passed several men throughout the day repairing and painting walls that already looked perfectly fine to me. The enormous town square is nice to walk around, though the cobblestone there and throughout the city gets to be a pain to walk on. This ... read more
View from 3600 meters
Iguaque Lake
Paramo Vegetation with View

South America » Colombia » Medellin June 24th 2016

In Salento, some other backpackers enthusiastically recommended getting to the Guatape / Penol region around La Magdelena Gorge, a manmade lake about a two hour bus ride from Medellin. Through Airbnb we reserved a section of a home constructed from four used shipping containers - the building, and basically everything in the place, has been repurposed / recycled. We stopped in Peñol for supplies (it seemed like a nice enough town) and then continued on in a chivero (collective jeep) for a half an hour on bumpy dirt roads, and then by foot for the final kilometer to the house. The place was obviously pretty remote, so the highlight for me was just hiking around the area on dirt roads, chatting with the locals about the trails, and finding new vistas of the lake. The steep ... read more
Container House
Piedra de Marial

South America » Colombia » Medellin June 21st 2016

The 6-7 hour bus journey from Pereira to Medellin was beautiful but incredibly windy- there wasn't a single straight away until we got to the isolated valley where Medellin sprawls up the steep hillsides in a blend of traditional homes with terra cotta roofs, shelters in the poor barrios built with sheet metal, and high rise apartment buildings. It was difficult to capture it all in a photo from the valley. Medellin, the city of eternal spring (not unlike Pereira), was a comfortable place to spend some time in a city and to use as a base to get to Peñol / Guatape (see othe blog entry). While in some ways it's just as hectic as Cartagena, it's cooler, has a clean and efficient metro, and has very few tourists, except in Poblado- and even there ... read more
In a park in Poblano
Botero plaza
Gambling with Guinea Pigs

South America » Colombia » Quindío » Salento June 19th 2016

The flight from Cartagena to Pereira was only 35$ with the discount airline VivaColombia. After an easy one-hour flight (I snuck through the gate even though my bag was an inch too long; follow their requirements or else there are fees, like RyanAir, etc.) we took a taxi to the bus station and just made the 9:30 AM bus to Salento, a tourist center surrounded by picture-perfect fincas, coffee farms, and the fabulous Valle de Cocora, which boasts the tallest palm trees in the world and is on the edge of Los Nevados National Park and contains trails that lead into the paramo. Finca La Serrana- Eco Hostel The reviews of this place on Hostelworld are hyperbolic (a slice of heaven, the most beautiful place in the world), but they're pretty difficult to argue with. If ... read more
Adjacent Finca
Adjacent Finca
Peggy and I in the palms

South America » Colombia » Cartagena June 12th 2016

Cartagena was my first stop in my 2016 summer trip. The only worthy read in this section is the section titled "The Long Way to Baru"; the rest is just my amateur travel reviews. Like I've done with other "14 Places You Need to Visit Now" travel destinations, I visited Cartagena 10 years too late. While the city is still worth a day or two, and while the walled city has been impressively well maintained, the tourist hordes have gotten a hold of this information as well. There are hundreds of worthy restaurants and plenty of picturesque streets, but gentrification has eliminated most of the Colombian ambience, especially in the tourist center. The nearby beaches would be a perfect escape from the stifling heat (index of 44/111 when I was there), but they're just not that ... read more
1982 Renault... Stopping for Gas
Alley in Getsameni
Colonial Buildings in Cartagena

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