Over the Andes

Having travelled down to the Chilean capital of Santiago (which is as far south as I’m going to on this trip), it’s now time to start heading east, and finally go over the mighty mountain range that I’ve been following ever since northern Colombia.  And what better place to do that virgin crossing (and pop my trans-Andean cherry) than in the shadow of the tallest mountain in the Americas. Continue reading

Wine Me Up

Like many parts of the New World, it was Christianity that originally brought the grapevine to Chile.  European vines were brought here by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in the 16th century, with the first recorded plantings in the country made in 1548 by a catholic priest, who brought a selection of vines from Spain.  But it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that quality wine production began in earnest, when Phylloxera destroyed numerous vineyards in France, and French winemakers moved en masse to South America.  With its dry climate and sunny days (and its freedom from all those nasty grapevine pests and diseases), Chile is now one of the world’s most famous wine-growing countries.  And, like the coffee and chocolate tours of Central America, one can now spend a few hours touring the vineyards, learning the oenological facts, speaking the (slightly pretentious) lingo, and (most importantly of all) drinking. Continue reading