All posts by chimuadventures

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..

Food On Wheels comes to Santiago- By Gabriel O’Rorke

Over the last few years Chile’s foodie scene has changed unrecognisably. Somewhat like the British with their meat and two veg, traditional Chilean food is simple, safe and somewhat unimaginative. But recent years have seen Chilean gastronomy reaching global standards and global influence appearing in Chilean dishes.

The latest craze in the capital Santiago are food vans. The following trio do not all come on classic wheels but their charm is certainly measured by where they serve as well aswhat is served…

Café Triciclo

Credit Cafe Triciclo
Cafe Triciclo, Santiago. – Credit Cafe Triciclo

There was a time when the height of sophistication when it came to coffee in Chile was being a cup of steaming Nescafé. Luckily times are changing and the Santiago coffee scene is moving from freeze-dried granules to locally ground arabica. Such is the transformation that drip coffee has even come to town.

 One such vendor peddles into Plaza Perú in Barrio El Golf (a smart part of the city known as Sanhattan) each Wednesday and stays from 9am to 4pm. Although very possibly the most charming coffee vendor in Santiago, this coffee is the real McCoy.

 And best of all, with each cup of coffee you’re given a free chocolate. “I like chocolate with my coffee,” says owner Seba Alvarez, the man behind the peddle power. I couldn’t agree more.

 The coffee is roasted in Santiago and smells like chocolate. The origin varies but a favourite is from Cuzco (Peru). Sometimes there are muffins and pastries but you can always stock up at the organic market which also takes place at the same time.

 http://www.cafetriciclo.cl; @CafeTriciclo;  https://www.facebook.com/Cafetriciclo  

Hogs

In a country where hotdogs are lauded as the national dish – there are, of course, other classics like crab pie and abalones but Chileans can’t get enough avocado-filled hotdogs – it only makes sense that they should come on wheels.

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Hogs, Santiago. – Credit Hogs

 Hogs is what is known as a “salchichería” (sausage shop) and as well having a couple of hot dog stands in Los Leones and Lastarria, they also have a van which trundles up to Parque Bicentenario on weekends.

 The difference between Hogs and all the other hotdogs on offer in Santiago (believe me there are plenty) is that these guys have gone gourmet and their artisan sausages are 100% meat.

 And it’s not just pork, they also have venison, lamb and rabbit sausages! As for toppings, if you want to do things the Chilean way it’s got to be the Italiana with avocado, mayonnaise and ketchup but there’s plenty on offer including caramelized onions, blue cheese and chilli sauce.

 https://www.facebook.com/hogs.salchicheria

 Xoco Por Ti

The last one isn’t strictly speaking on wheels, but this Swiss-Chilean owned chocolate shop looks like a little garden shed or a Wendy House. Anyway, Xoco Por Ti is a blue, yellow and white wooden chocolate bar serving purely liquid chocolate. The options are simply strength, origin, hot or cold, cow, soya or almond milk.

 

Credit Xoco Por Ti
Xoco Por Ti, Santiago. – Credit Xoco Por Ti

Owned and run by the perfect chocolatière couple, Olivier is Swiss and his girlfriend Javiera is Chilean and looks just like Audrey Tatou. Five different types of chocolate are used to make the drinks: Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Brazilian, Venezuelan and Bolivian.

 The idea is to go for frappes in summer and hot chocolate in winter. To get a taste of this perfectionist pair, the frappes are made using milk ice cubes so as not to add water and upset the chocolate blend.

 The menu includes the following:

 Paint it Black – 85% Bolivian cocoa

La Mer – 77% Ecuadorian cocoa

I Will Survive – 75% Brazilian cocoa

Billie Jean – 70% Venezuelan cocoa

 The top three blends are also frozen into creamy ice cream so you can opt for scoops of chocolate rather than liquid. Ask nicely and Olivier and Javiera will also sell chocolate by the gram.

 www.xocoporti.com; @XocoPorTi; www.facebook.com/XocoPorTi  

 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.

Twitter: @GabrielORorke
Instagram: gabrielororke

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

Bolivia- the return

Georgina
Georgina

In October last year I was lucky enough to go back to Bolivia for the first time in 10 years. I have to confess it was a country I never imagined being able to go back to, so I jumped at the chance. This landlocked country is not the easiest place to get to and always seems to be added on to trips to other countries rather than visited as a destination in its own right. That is now changing due to the twice weekly flight on Air Europa into Santa Cruz. Bolivia has far more to offer than people realise. Of course, Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni are at the top of the list, but I discovered a whole lot more on this amazing trip.

shutterstock_50506270
Sucre

After arriving into and overnighting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s fasted growing and most modern city, we flew on to Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia, also known as the White City due to the colour of its buildings. It’s surrounded by mountains so the air is fresh and clear and the views beautiful. Sucre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 and it’s easy to see why – it has a lovely feel to it, and reminded me of places like Cusco and Oaxaca, with cobbled streets, Spanish influenced architecture and cosy little boutique hotels built around a flower filled inner courtyard. It also has a friendly and vibrant night life in the many quirky bars and restaurants.

From Sucre we drove on to Potosi – the silver mining town 3 hours away, up at 4070m. This town has so much history!  It was founded by Spaniards after discovering the Indian silver mines at Cerro Rico – the mountain that dominates the city. Over the years the silver has provided immense wealth to the area, as well as to Bolivia as a country. Recent times have however seen a decline in production due to depleted ore reserves, leading to some very hard times and mine closures. Today you can take trips to the few mines that are still working as part of co-operatives. They are quite bleak and it’s both fascinating and saddening to see where and how they work, but it’s their livelihood, they have no real other option. We all came away from there feeling quite moved by the experience.

After Potosi, we continued by road for a further 3 hours to Uyuni, through the most stunning, unspoilt scenery, winding through the valleys and plateaus, past little villages, giant cacti and grazing llamas and vicuñas as the sun slowly set over the mountains.

I had been to Uyuni on my previous trip, and it was just as stunning as I remembered. For me, it has to be one of the most unique and surreal places in the world – completely natural and so far, unspoilt.

This time I was lucky enough to stay in two different salt hotels on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni. These properties are built completely of salt – walls, floor and tables (I checked this by licking them…) and have lovely local textiles and quirky shaped architecture. It’s an amazing experience to stay here, and nothing beats the view at breakfast looking out over the flat white stretch of the Salar as the sun rises.

Air-stream camper. Solar de Uyuni
Air-stream camper.
Salar de Uyuni

It was exhilarating to load up into our 4 x 4 jeeps and set off in a convoy across the salt flats, with the surreal white landscape playing tricks on your eyes. It’s difficult to see where the land meets the sky and in the dazzlingly clear sunshine, it’s even more breath taking. Wevisited the little salt mining town of Colchani to see how they refined the salt, and also saw the various accommodation options available for guests on and around the Salar other than a hotel, such as glamping in Jiririca, with the mountains behind you and vicuَñas and flamingos in front of you, or a brand new shiny silver fully equipped air-stream camper.

Playing on the Salar
Playing on the Salar

After a full day crossing the salt flats, taking in a visit to the Isla Del Pescado where giant cacti grow, we pulled up in the middle of the Salar where drinks, canapés and candles had been laid out for us. So we ended the day toasting the Salt flats wrapped in blankets as the sun set on the horizon.

The following morning we flew to La Paz and then drove the hour and a half to Lake Titicaca, high up in the Altiplano, the world’s highest navigable lake at 3825m. I have forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it is there. The surrounding snow-capped mountains reflecting in the smooth lake waters were so stunning, it wasn’t just the altitude that took your breath away! We visited a local floating reed island and saw how they lived, stopped at Moon Island, and spent the night at

Georgina and her Llama
Georgina and her Llama

the Posada del Inca situated on the edge of a high outcrop on Sun Island. The posada has been part of the village for many years and is rustic yet cosy with friendly llamas to accompany you up the hill to the property. Add to this the spectacular views and it couldn’t get more perfect.

Our final stop was the capital city of La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. I had last been here 10 years ago and it was still just as impressive driving down into the city from El Alto, seeing it glinting in the sunlight down in the valley.

The top of the city lies at 3600m above sea level, and the lower more affluent areas at 3200m. We stayed in this part of the city – a good idea for new arrivals for easier acclimatisation. This part of the city houses the wealthier residents, so streets are tree lined and house large mansions behind guarded walls, boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants. Up in the main Centro of the city there is an eclectic mix of old government buildings and churches alongside modern office buildings. La Paz isn’t the most hi-tech of cities, but it has a real buzz to it and plenty of interesting sights such as the unusual offerings for sale at the Witches’ Market or the human zebras that guide pedestrians safely across the roads at traffic lights.

As to be expected, the night life was Latino standard – excellent choices of restaurants followed by a very friendly and hot nightclub pumping out the latest Latino hits until turfing out time in the early hours of the morning.

This was by far one of the best trips I have been on, not just because of the constant warm and friendly reception we had everywhere, but for the completely surreal pinch-me scenery and experiences you have on a holiday to Bolivia.

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

Chifa- Chinese food that conquered Peru.  

With the World top 50 restaurants in, there is yet again a spotlight on Peruvian cuisine.  Its no surprise to us, we’re always loved Peruvian food!

While the top end restaurants certainly have their place and are well worth a visit for a special treat while you’re away (make sure you book ahead!), local Peruvian food is much closer to our hearts.

We are very lucky to have offices across Latin America, which give us regular insights into ‘what’s hot’. Sandra from our Lima office tells us about the new Chifa revolution in Peru, that is growing popular across the world.

I first heard about Chifa from my colleagues here in Lima, when they suggested it for lunch. Working principally with Peruvians is a huge advantage when you want to get to know a city; they introduce you to new food and show you the hidden gem restaurants which you would never find yourself.

Credit  Jan van der Crabben
Credit Jan van der Crabben

When they suggested Chinese, I found it difficult to imagine Chinese restaurants lining the streets of Lima and feared that I would be presented with the same bland food, lacking in authenticity that I had tried in other areas of the world. How wrong I was.  As it turned out, Peruvian Chifa is very different from regular Chinese food that I have tasted in other countries.  Chifa is a fusion of Chinese with Creole Peruvian food and the result is a unique taste that not only makes it popular in Peru, but slowly, all over the world.  Whether you like Chinese food or not, you need to taste Chifa when you are in Peru!

After doing some research, I discovered the Chinese culture is a deeply rooted part of Peruvian history, though quite often forgotten.

Due to a labour shortage after the abolition of slavery in the mid-19th century, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants came to Peru to find work in mines or on sugar plantations. Many Chinese people were also hired as cooks on the ships for the long journeys across the ocean. Once on land they continued cooking on ranches.  When their contracts ended, they were able to start up Chifa-restaurants which served typical Chinese food made with South America ingredients.

Since many ingredients were difficult to find in Peru, the Chinese modified their cuisine and incorporated many Peruvian elements to create the fusion food Chifa. Even today it is difficult to find authentic Chinese cuisine in Peru, but with the prevalence of Chifa, nobody seems overly concerned by this. Over time, these Eastern influences have found their way into traditional Coastal and Andean dishes. Chifa has become so integrated into national cuisine, that is is not longer really considered Chinese. The famous dish Lomo Saltado- beef and vegetables sautéed in soy and Szechuan root is just as at home on a Peruvian restaurant menu as guinea pig or ceviche. Indeed, Chifa is now very much recognised as  authentic Peruvian food.

The first time I saw the menu, I was utterly confused. I couldn’t make head nor tail of  random names of the dishes. I ended up messaging a friend for recommendations. I am going to do you a favour now and pass on my personal recommendations, so you don’t get lost when you go.

My absolute favourite is the Fried Wonton.  The delicious pork filled pockets are served with a sweet chilli dip and are great as a starter to share. I am not a huge soup fan, but the Wonton soup is also delicious. Other popular Chifa dishes include : Tallarin Saltado (Fried Noodles) and of course the Arroz Chaufa (Fried Rice), which is a big favourite.  The fried rice is made with eggs, vegetables, meat and sautéed in soy sauce and oil. Other versions of Arroz Chaufa include shrimps, chicken, beef, pork and mushrooms.

crispy-southwestern-wontons-20a
Crispy Wonton
Peruvian fired rice
Peruvian fried rice

Chifa is generally, not very expansive, so whether you pay US$20 or US$3, the food will generally be  delicious and of a good standard. So it’s really down to your own personal preference of the sort of restaurant you like to eat in- low key and local, mid-range or fancy.

Inca Kola
Inca Kola

Whatever restaurant you choose, be sure to order an Inca Kola with your meal to add to the authentic experience. It is a bubble gum flavoured soda, using a herb native to South America. This Hierba Luisa flavored drink was actually created by British immigrants. Through clever marketing, this drink has managed to knock Coca Cola off its throne as number one beverage in Peru.

 

Here are our top Some Chifa restaurants recommendations

1. Chifa wa Lok.

Av. Angamos Oeste 700, Miraflores, Lima

Peruvian Peking Duck
Peruvian Peking Duck

Wa Lok is among the best Chifa restaurants in Lima. Hidden on the second floor of a casino, this restaurant has dozen of appetizers and huge portions, so you better be hungry! Their Peking Duck is amazing!

 

http://www.walok.com.pe/

  1. Madam Tusan

Av Santa Cruz 859, Miraflores, Lima

Chifa Madam Tusan
Chifa Madam Tusan

Opened in 2011, Madam Tusan is a restaurant of the iconic Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio. This Chifa will challenge your senses with a variety of 112 dishes and a great selection of cocktails.

http://www.madamtusan.pe/

3. Chifa Chung Yion -Union

Jr. Unión 126, Barranco, Lima

Chifa Chung Yion -Union
Chifa Chung Yion -Union

This is the first Chifa experience and I always return to this restaurant. There are literally thousands online reviews raving about this place. It also has a fantastic  section of vegetarian dishes. It is more of a local place, which is always a good sign.

4. Chifa Hou Wha

Calle Carlos Tenaud 490, Miraflores, Lima.

This spectacular Chifa restaurant  has a beautiful Chinese garden. They have a high quality buffet with a huge variety of dishes on offer.

http://www.chifahouwha.com.pe/

For more on Peru, visit www.chimuadventures.com