Guyana – South America’s hidden gem..


riverIt was the penultimate afternoon of our trip and the final river cruise we were going to take. Over the course of the week Guyana had delivered on so many levels. A country equivalent in size to the United Kingdom with a population of just 750,000. With approximately 80% of the country covered by pristine rainforest and less than 3000 tourists visiting a year I felt extremely privileged to have spent the past week in South America’s hidden gem.

Sloth

So far however, other than Trib, the giant river otter we’d seen at Karanambu’s rehabilitation centre, we hadn’t seen any in the wild so this was to be our final chance. Our base for the night was Rewa Lodge. The lodge is beautifully set in a clearing amongst the rainforest overlooking the Rewa river and is completely owned and run by the local Amerindian community meaning all profit it makes go back to the local people – something that’s common place throughout Guyana and one of the reasons it has one of the best tourism sustainability models of any country in the world. We’d already spotted an unusually active sloth earlier on that afternoon and had just spent the past 30 minutes paddling round one of the beautiful local ponds often frequented by fishermen keen to catch on of the country’s famous arapaima fish. We were now back on the river and heading upstream in our small motorised boat, the eagle eyed guide riding up front on the look out for any wildlife while the rest of us followed suit behind. As we got closer to a large tree on the left hand river bank there seemed to be an unusual amount of activity with large numbers of yellow-backed cacique’s circulating frantically and making a huge amount of noise. As we got closer it became clear their nest was under siege and the intruder was a black caracara. Before we knew it the caracara fled the nest with one of the young cacique’s wrapped in it’s claws. As it flew directly above us the 2 parents did everything they could to save their precious youngster, repeatedly diving and pecking at the flying caracara but all of their efforts were in vain. It had been a successful mission for the hungry caracara and a devastating blow to the cacique’s. A harsh reality of nature but a truly astonishing spectacle to see first hand..

Caracara

As we gathered our thoughts and pieced together what had just happened the guide suddenly pointed to the river bank. He’d spotted a small group of river otters making their way upstream. The levels of excitement in the boat rose yet again as the driver navigated us towards them to get a closer glimpse. The inquisitive creatures had spotted us too and proceeded to make a huge amount of noise as the group of around 7 or 8 took it in turns poke their heads out and squawk at us. After following them up and then down the river bank 3 or 4 times we spotted a large fish leaping from the water and yet another chase was on! The group were clearly acting as a team doing everything they could to disorientate the fish and bag themselves a tasty meal for the day. Whether something suddenly put the otters off their stride or the fish just had a very lucky escape the chase suddenly came to an abrupt end. Having seen one kill for the day our only disappointment lay with the thoughts of the otters but it was fair to say they’d certainly put on another show for us. After a week of searching we had however finally got to see the otters in the wild.

As if the events of the past 20 minutes hadn’t been enough for us to take in 2 squawking red and blue macaws then flew right above us . A minute later a toucan also followed suit and it was if the jungle had decided to put a show on for us!

Toucans

With the group now almost hysterical at the events unfolding around us the driver switched the motor off and we were suddenly floating back downstream and an air of calm suddenly took over. With the now familiar sounds of the jungle providing the sound track all around us, we all took a moment to reflect on the events of the afternoon and the week before that. Guyana really had delivered a truly magical experience and something that will long live in the memory. All I can say is go and discover for yourselves before the secret is out..

Montevideo- A Foodie’s Tour – By Gabriel O’Rorke

When it comes to eating in Uruguay, steak comes very high on the list of things you must try. It’s not just neighbouring Argentina that prides itself on producing some of the world’s finest steak, Uruguay too serves up some very succulent cuts – after all, the country has 16 million cows (and just 3.5 million people)!

Credit- La Otra
La Otra Parrilla, Montevideo Credit- La Otra

 One of the best places in the capital, Montevideo, for a proper parrilla (BBQ) is the traditional restaurant La Otra (http://www.laotraparrilla.com). Or make for Mercado del Puerto, the city’s old marketplace that dates back to the 1860s but is now monopolised by barbecued beef stands.

 

La Pasionaria, Montevideo, - credit Gabriel O'Rorke
La Pasionaria, Montevideo, – credit Gabriel O’Rorke

For something a little more organic and seasonal, head to Restaurant Doméstico in the boho art gallery, design studio and boutique that is La Pasionaria (http://lapasionaria.com.uy/). Here you can order a wholesome bowl of squash and coconut soup, homemade rolls and apple crumble just like granny makes it.

 Chocoholics will be happy to wander down the pretty pedestrianised Pérez Castellano Street in the Old Town, stopping off at Volveras a Mi Boutique de Chocolat (https://www.facebook.com/volveras.ami.7?fref=ts), a Willy Wonka

 Volveras a Mi Boutique de Chocolat, Montevideo. Credit Volveras a Mi
Volveras a Mi, Boutique de Chocolat, Montevideo.
Credit Volveras a Mi

worthy chocolate shop with bright pink stripy wallpaper above a glass display box of bonbons lined up like jewels.

 All the chocolate is organic, chemical free, 70 percent and imported from Bolivia – apparently from the

Volveras a Mi Boutique de Chocolat, Montevideo. Credit Volveras a Mi
Volveras a Mi Boutique de Chocolat, Montevideo.
Credit Volveras a Mi

world’s only cocoa beans that grow in nature (rather than being cultivated). The mouthwatering flavours range from classics like almond, coffee and orange to the somewhat unexpected (but equally moreish) blue cheese or tomato and pepper.

 Last but not least, for haute cuisine the newly renovated and reopened Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco & Spa (http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-7969-sofitel-montevideo-casino-carrasco-and-spa/index.shtml) has a charming chandelier-laden

Bar Thays, Sofitel, Montevideo.  Credit Sofitel
Bar Thays, Sofitel, Montevideo.
Credit Sofitel

restaurant called 1921 (named such because this was the year the original Carrasco Hotel opened). Here you can devour the delights of Head Chef William Porte – start with a cocktail from Bar Thays as it may well be the most beautiful you ever raise to your lips, before tucking into langoustines in coconut milk followed by delicate seabass.

 Gabriel O’Rorke is the author of the Santiago City Guide an app for smart phones and tablets (recommended by The Independent) with maps that work offline so you can explore the city without incurring roaming charges. The guide has been downloaded in 11 countries and is full of cafes, restaurants and hidden gems that you won’t find in standard guidebooks.

 Apple users can download the Santiago City Guide from iTunes, whilst Android users can find it on Google Play.

www.gabrielororke.com 

Twitter: @GabrielORorke
Instagram: gabrielororke

My memories in music… Part 2

Carrying on with Georgina’s love affair with Latin Music. here are the remainder of her favourite tunes:

Orishas – Chan Chan

Chan Chan – the song made famous by Buena Vista Social Club. Orishas are Cuban born French rappers who give this beautiful song a poignant twist  and highlight the feelings of Cubans who love their country, but who have had to leave.

Mana – En el Muelle de San Blas

Mana have been massive in Latin America for as long as I can remember – they are the U2 of Latin America and every single country I have visited there knows and loves them. They are poets and their lyrics are just beautiful. Reminds me of the whole of Latin America and very happy times spent there!

Calle Real – Ya lo Se

This song just makes me want to go dancing – I cant ever sit still when I hear it!

Marc Antony – Ahora Quien

This is probably Marc Antony’s best known tune on the Salsa scene – everyone loves it and has to dance and sing along!

Los Confidenciales – Aceite Agua

Regaetton is so popular in all clubs and parties in Latin America. It  a reminds me of dancing in Cuba with my friends there and also with Cuban friends here in London.

Alejandro Fernandez – Canta Corazon

This man is huge in Mexico. The girls love him and his songs are typically romantically Mexican. I have a soft spot for him too!

Un Monton de Estrellas – Polo Montañez

I hear this song ever time I go to Cuba. Without fail, I hear it in the cafe you stop at on the road between Havana and Varadero called El Peñon, where all buses stop. This song is Cuba for me and the lyrics are so sweet. Polo Montañez was a poet.

Coldplay – Clocks (Salsa Version)

When I hear this song it takes me back to many happy times I spent in Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Our friend owned a cool lounge bar and used to play this album as we sat up on the roof sipping cocktails in the warm evening breeze.

Let Georgina help you re-live her best Latin American moments – Georgina@Chimuadventures.com or visit www.chimuadventures.com 

 

Take me to… Antarctica

More from the icy wilderness on the world’s 7th continent. There is nowhere quite like Antarctica!!!

This video and other Antarctica videos on this blog give you just a glimpse into what this destination has to offer.  To truly experience Antarctica, you have to see if for yourself.

[vimeo 93343201]

For more on Antarctica visit www.chimuadventures.com

Brazil – Life’s a beach.

Visiting Brazil without visiting a beach is virtually impossible. The length of Brazil’s 7,491km coastline is littered with the most incredible beaches. From the awesome dunes of the North, the palm fringed beauties of the East to the South, where the Mata Atlântica  sub-tropical spills out onto the seashore – there is a beach for everyone.

Its a pretty telling fact that the Brazilian phase for  ‘just my cup of tea’ is “é minha praia” (That’s my beach). it also gives you a good idea about the Brazilian way of life, which is much more about having fun at the beach than sitting on the sofa with a brew! 

Of course everyone has their own ideas about Brazil’s best beaches. I’m sure if you asked 100 Brazilians, you’d get a different response every time. There are however some gems that stand out and here is our pick.

Praia de Sancho, Fernando de Noronha .

Praia do Sancho
Praia do Sancho

Fernando de Noronha is often considered Brazil’s idea of Nirvana. Situated 354km off the coast, this stunning island is certainly a heavenly destination.  The archipelago of 21 islands and islets  is a national maritime park and was pronounced an UNESCO World Heritage site because of its importance to the environment. Pretty impressive stuff!

There are countless stunning beaches, but Praia de Sanchos, reached through a crack in a rock wall (the secret garden of beaches) gets our vote.

Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande.

Lopes Mendes
Lopes Mendes

Ilha Grande (Big Island) is located just off the coast in the Rio de Janeiro in the Angra dos Reis municipality. The island is largly unpopulated and covered in lush Atlantic forest. The extra special beaches are dotted around the island in hidden coves and bays, reached by boat or by trekking through the forest.

Lopes Mendes beach is an absolute dream, with a 3km perfect semi-circular bay of the purest white sand and crystal clear water. Georgina from our UK office says that its the whitest beach she has ever seen and when deserted, its absolute heaven!

 Trancoso.

Trancoso  Credit Best of Life
Trancoso
Credit Best of Life

Trancoso is fast becoming the destination of the world’s most beautiful people. Home to stunning beaches, exquisite boutique hotels and some seriously cool beach bars. The beaches are palm fringed and picture perfect. There are several beaches from lively to deserted, so you can pick and choose depending on your mood.

  • Praia do Espelho (Mirror Beach)

Trancoso’s most famous beach. It’s  white beaches and natural swimming pools created by reefs make it a wonderful place to spend the day.  Access to the beach is a half an hour drive via a dirt road only during dry and sunny summer months.

Praia Espelho
Praia Espelho
  • Praia dos Coqueiros (Palmtree Beach)

Praia dos Coqueiros, or Palmtree Beach, is a small beach with medium waves, protected by coral reefs. Fringed with over a hundred palmtrees, whcih give it its nickname.

  • Praia da Pedra Grande (Big Rock Beach)

Another kilometer away and much more deserted. This beach has no bars or restaurants, just a long stretch of uninterrupted pristine beach, popular with surfers and topless sunbathers.

  • Praia dos Nativos (Local beach)

Praias dos Nativos is the local beach in Trancoso, where you will find most of the beachbars, beach hotels and people!

Baía de Golfinho,  Pipa, Natal.

Baia dos Golfinhos  Credit Veja no Mapa
Baia dos Golfinhos
Credit Veja no Mapa

 

Pipa is one of Brazil’s magical destinations. Its probably my favourite place in the world!  Its pristine beaches are backed by tall cliffs, dreamy lagoons, miles and miles of dunes, which can be explored by dune buggy.  Probably the most memorable, however, are the dolphins that play in the waves with you.

Go in search of your favourites with www.chimuadventures.com 

Rio de Janeiro – The hot spots

Rio de Janeiro is the words on everyone’s lips and why not? Its possibly the best city in the world! With stunning beaches, incredible topography and home to some of the most iconic tourist hot spots, Rio de Janeiro is THE PLACE TO BE!

Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro

This blog often explores the unsung heroes and hidden gems, but in Rio, one cannot ignore these unmissable highlights.

Christ redeemer

Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer

Rio’s Christ statue is one of the world’s iconic landmarks and no visit to Rio would be complete without a visit. The panoramic views from the top of Corvovado Mountain are out of this world and the enormity of the 30 metre statue has to be seen to be believed. It is well worth booking your trip to visit Christ in advance with Chimu Adventures as the ticket office at the bottom is now closed in order to control the daily visitors. Tickets can be bought online, but you need a CPF number (Brazilian social security) or join the ridiculous queues outside the central tourist office.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

Sugarloaf
Sugarloaf

Another un-missable Rio highlight. We recommend visiting in the evening in time for sunset. The views are again, incredible and watching the sun set and then the lights of Rio light up before you is an unforgetable experience. Alternatively you can go early and best the crowds and then visit one of the nearby beaches. There are also a number of hiking routes for the more active.

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach

Rio is the home of many beaches and we fully recommend visiting them all. Each one has its own character, but none like the famous Ipanema beach. This beautiful stretch of sand has long been home to the beautiful people of Rio. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind and indulge in some serious people watching. It is worth bearing in mind that different areas are home to different tribes. Posto nove (Lifeguard post no.9) is the beautiful people hangout. Posto Oito (8) is where the rainbow flags fly and this part of the beach is principally frequented by gay men. Posto sete (7) is more of a family and surfer vibe. It is worth bearing in mind that the water is more polluted around posto dez (10) and also that, at times there are some dangerous rip tides, so keep an eye on the life guard flags and don’t go in alone if you are not a strong swimmer.

MAC- Museu de Arte Contemporânea

Museu de Arte Contemporânea
Museu de Arte Contemporânea

 

MAC- Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Contemporary Art Museum) is housed in one of Rio’s most iconic buildings. The flying saucer like building was designed by one of Brazil’s true greats, Oscar Niemeyer, one of the 20th century’s best architects. Set against the backdrop of Niterói’s hills and with incredible views across the bay to Rio, it’s well worth a visit, even if modern art isn’t your thing.

Jardim Botânico

Botanical Gardens. Credit Aleia_Barbosa_Rodrigues,
Botanical Gardens.
Credit Aleia_Barbosa_Rodrigues,

If the heat of the day gets a bit too much for you, why not escape to Rio’s wonderful Botanical gardens? Originally a plant nursery of Prince Dom João VI, the gardens certainly have a regal feel. With towering Imperial Palm, Orchid and Bromeliad gardens, it is a gardener’s dream. There is also a vast quantity of birdlife and even resident toucans and monkeys.  The main house has now also been restored and plays host to national shows and films. Look out for Q and A sessions from famous Brazilian film-maker Walter Lima Junior.

Visit Rio with Chimu Adventures. Visit www.chimuadventures.com for more information.

Street Art – Latin style

Street Art, Graffiti, Vandalism. Whatever you want to call it, one cannot deny the ever growing popularity of street art.

Credit- Os Gêmeos
Credit- Os Gêmeos

 

Latin America is considered to be at the forefront of international street art. The unique style of Saner, Os Gêmeos, Bastardilla and Vitché  amongst others are widely respected on the international scene. Many of them have now also transcended the traditional art scene with pieces of their work being exhibited in renowned galleries including Tate Modern, London and Fondation Cartier, Paris.

Credit Vitché
Credit Vitché

So why is Latin American street art so great? Its not a huge surprise when you think of the wonderfully colourful and vibrant people you find there. This coupled with the mixture of indigenous cultures, local folklore, and the history of European colonization results in a very unique visual style. 

Credit Saner
Credit Saner

Given the history of political unrest throughout Latin America, it is not surprising that  Street Art has been used as a kind of social commentary and expression. As the continent has developed however, it has become part of the national identity and pride.

Favela Painting Haas and Hahn
Favela Painting Haas and Hahn

In Brazil Street Art has been used in some of the poorest areas of Rio de Janeiro to help change attitudes and encourage social change and pride in the community. The phenomenal and  heart-warming story of Haas & Hahn’s Favela paintings truly shows the power street art can have.

Why not check it out for yourself. Visit www.chimuadventures.com  to arrange your next adventure.