Category Archives: The Places We Love

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

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.

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

 

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.

A little piece of Peruvian Paradise

DSC03481_Fotor

Our Product and Marketing Assistant Sandra, who is currently working in our Peru office, spent a wonderful weekend at Huacachina on the Peruvian coast and this is her story. Sat in cold and wet London we’re not jealous… much!

Imagine…it is 6 o’clock in the evening and you are sat at the top of a giant sand dune watching the sunset over a breathtaking landscape, where golden yellows, rusty reds and pinks blend with each other. Below lies an oasis with a desert lagoon surrounded by exotic palm trees.

It took thirty exhausting minutes to climb  the sand dune. I spent the entire climb trying to convince my friend that we didn’t need to go all the way to the top, the view from the middle would be just as good. It was serious work out for the thighs! But her stubbornness was in the end our gain. Pull yourself together and get up that dune! I promise, every welding sputter will be worth it when you see the the view she said. And my goodness, she was right!

Huacachina is a tiny town in southern Peru, around five hours from Lima. I had always wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunately I missed out when I was travelling through Peru for the first time last year. I am now working at the Chimu office in Lima, so Huacachina seemed like the perfect little getaway for the weekend.

My friend and I took the Cruz del Sur Bus on Saturday morning from Lima and travelled south.  It is a five hour journey by bus to Ica and then a ten minute drive on to Huacachina. Tourists visit Huacachina for three reasons:  the beauty of the desert with its massive sand dunes, the opportunity to sand board and to ride around in one of the four-wheel-drive dune buggies that whiz up and down the dunes at a breakneck-speed. You can certainly count on having a lot of fun when you visit DSC03443_Fotorthis little Oasis.  The town is quite small and visitors can easily get from one end to the other in a few minutes.  Right in the centre there is a huge lagoon surrounded by palm trees and huarangos trees. You can hire paddle-boats or swim in the lagoon… but be aware of the mermaid! According to legend, a mermaid lives in the lagoon and takes one man each year. I think, however that certain Peruvians inability to swim is a more feasible explanation of the yearly drowning!

Climbing to the top of one of the dunes for the amazing views of both the gorgeous lagoon and the city is an absolute must! It is simply mesmerizing! I would recommend setting off a good hour before sunset, particularly if you have similar fitness to me (virtually non-existent). Take plenty of water, your camera , maybe a cold beer (which will be warm by the time you get up there anyway, but better than nothing right?) and maybe a scarf to protect yourself from the wind. You will notice that it is a common ritual to finish the day on top of the dunes. After that, we jumped, rolled and fell back down 400 meters, back to our hotel.

The following morning we went on a dune buggy ride, which took us out to the desert.  The buggy drove with such a speed up and down the dunes, that the little 12 year old in you screams with delight….weeeeee!!! Within a matter of seconds we went from 0 to 35mph with nothing more than fine grains of sand serving as a grip. The scary part is when you can’t even see over the hill you are about to hurtle down, but you soon realise that the steep

DSC03523_Fotor dunes are the most fun!  After some speeding fun, we drove to the top of a dune so we could do some sand boarding. I would suggest renting a real snowboard, with the right gear, so your feet are properly attached to the board. This way you are able to do turns. Before booking a tour, remember to mention this to your tour guide, otherwise they give you a ‘Chile board’ which is basically just a wooden board and with nothing to attach your feet to. Sand boarding is a lot of fun for everybody, whatever your age or fitness. If you fall, the worst thing that can happen is that you might need a bit more time in the shower,  removing the sand from every possible corner of your body!

After two days we headed back to Lima feeling pretty miserable. Huacachina is such a chilled little oasis with so much to offer. When planning your trip to Peru, don’t forget to put Huacachina on your list.

For more on Peru visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/peru or contact Chimu UK: uk@chimuadventures.com

The beautiful game- Boca style

Credit Maxisport  Shutterstock.com
Credit Maxisport Shutterstock.com

As a Brit, I know only too well about the fanaticism surrounding football. I have been lucky enough to attend a few matches in Latin America and I have to say, NOTHING prepares you for the experience! It’s an absolute must for any sports fan visiting this part of the world!

In this post Chimu Adventures consultant and football fanatic Karel Topic describes his amazing experience at a Boca Juniors match in Buenos Aires.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been football mad! So, when I spent a few days in Buenos Aires, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to see a traditional South American match. I had to see the electric atmosphere that everyone describes for myself!

Credit meunierd / Shutterstock.com
Credit meunierd / Shutterstock.com

Boca Juniors is easily the biggest club in Argentina. They are one of the most successful and once the home of legendary and infamous Diego Maradona – still one of their biggest fans.

Sunday evening is the time when all true Boca Junior fans congregate at the colossal La Bombonera stadium in the La Boca suburb of Buenos Aires. It truly is a sight to be seen! Everywhere you look people are adorned with the club colours; yellow and blue.

Caught up in atmosphere and excitements of the day, I suddenly realised I didn’t have a penny on me. There were no cash machines and couldn’t pay by card for my tickets! Imagine my dismay faced with the prospect of missing this experience of a lifetime!

I must have looked pretty desperate, as I wondered around trying desperately to figure out what to do. A Dutch guy stopped and asked me if I was OK.  I explained my sorry situation. To my shock, but overwhelming relief, he took pity on me and said he would buy me a ticket! I couldn’t believe his generosity or my luck!

He bought us both a ticket and we were game on!!

As I entered the ground, I stopped to take it all in.  The stadium was enormous!  Brightly coloured blue and yellow with steep seating along the sides, it has capacity for 50.000 spectators. The game I attended was Boca Juniors vs Gymnasium and had roughly 35000 spectators. No one seemed to care that Boca aren’t doing too well this season, the fans were going crazy. The standing areas were completely full of fanatical fans , who started singing a good 30 minutes before kick-off. The atmosphere was amazing during the whole match; fans sang without stopping and soon after the opening goal the vibe was so intense, that without realising I became a Boca fan too. The pride was almost palpable as Boca scored their fourth goal of the day.

At the end of the game there was a big celebration which spilled out into the streets as the fans reveled in their victory. It was a wonderful thing to be part of. I can’t think of anywhere better to experience true Argentinean passion! I now feel like a true Boca fan and I’ll certainly be arranging my next trip around the home games!

And the end of the story? Next day I went and found the Dutch man in his hotel and paid him back for my ticket.

For more on Argentina visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/argentina or contact Chimu UK: uk@chimuadventures.com

Antarctica- the return!

Credit Agnes Schneider
Credit Agnes Schneider

Agnes in our UK office LOVES Antarctica. Her love for this incredible continent took her there, not once, but twice in 2013!  Her Antarctica obsession is addictive, especially for those (me) yet to travel out there. Here she recalls her second visit, where she was lucky enough to travel with two of her Chimu friends Sandra and Nicole, on the first boat of the season and see South Georgia and Antarctica at their most pristine.

Being the first to see Antarctica this season was a very special feeling indeed! This would be my second trip to Antarctica in the same year, crazy I know! You would think that this would take some of the excitement away, but in fact knowing what wonder awaited me, only added to the experience.

We boarded the MV Ushuaia mid October in Stanley on the Falkland Islands and set off for South Georgia. Two days at sea accompanied by many sea birds including giant petrels and different kind of albatrosses, we arrived as the shores of remote South Georgia. We could not believe our eyes!  Of course we had all come here to see King Penguins, but we were not prepared for what awaited us!

Credit Sandra Kormann
Credit Sandra Kormann

There were literally thousands of them waiting for us on the beach on our first landing by so called zodiacs. For some, this was probably their first contact with humans and many of them were quite curious. IAATO rules state that you are not allowed closer than 5 metres from the wildlife, but the penguins don’t live by these rules and there is nothing to stop them scampering right up to you! Those beautiful colours of black and white, orange and yellow go beyond imagination and the sheer number of penguins everywhere is mind-blowing! What an experience!

As we ventured inland to the more remote and protected areas, we were presented with the real icing on the cake- the little brown fluffy chicks. They were utterly adorable and it was wonderful watching them search for their mothers by sound in order to feed.

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Credit Sandra Kormann

A highlight I wasn’t expecting to even like was the elephant seals.  They are absolutely huuuuuge! Enormous and weird shaped  males lounge around surrounded by all their females and  pups. It was a very impressive sight! And with such a small group (there were only 40 of us in total on this departure) it felt so special to be surrounded by such abundant and  impressive wildlife!

We spent four days in South Georgia – a beautiful wildlife paradise, and enjoyed two or three landings each day in a variety of weather conditions. At the beginning of the season, which is basically the beginning of spring, everything can be possible in terms of weather! We for instance, encountered one day full of snow and sea ice on our landing in Salisbury Plain. There we saw a million penguins in snow, which is apparently quite rare, so yet again we were made to pretty special!

In contrast, the next day can be sunny and warm with the water glittering turquoise beneath you! This happened on our visit to Grytviken, the renowned whaling station, famed by the adventures of Shackleton. It has a fantastic museum and an even better gift shop, a church, a post office, from where you can send your most remotely written postcards, and most importantly you can visit Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave.

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Credit Agnes Schneider

The highlight of that island, however, was certainly St. Andrew‘s Bay. Home to three million  King Penguins, the largest colony of penguins in the world! They were everywhere you looked, stretching out for miles and miles and further back, again with their brown fluffy chicks.

Many landings, penguins, seals, albatrosses and snowfalls later we departed for the Antarctic Peninsula.  A few days of sea crossing awaited us, as well as a big storm with winds of almost 50 knots. It slowed us down by a few days, but didn’t stop us learning more about that end of the world! It is not only what you see on an expedition, but also what you hear and learn. The excellent team of expedition staff kept us enthralled with fascinating lectures and great movies making us even more hungry to learn more about this incredible continent.

Finally, we reached Elephant Island, famous for Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition. You can’t go on land because of the rocky terrain,  but we were able to see the impressive glaciers in an hour long zodiac cruise, including stops for seal and penguin spotting along the way. We then continued to Deception Island which was beautifully covered in snow and ice and then on to Half Moon Island, a small island of the South Shetlands.

After days exploring the Peninsula, visiting numerous colonies  of Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins and deserted whaling stations, it Antarctic Voyage 2012 (198 of 309)was time for our journey home. We were so sad to leave! We were however left with the  many spectacular and unique memories and new friendships from this amazing trip of a lifetime, or in my case second trip of a lifetime…

Nevertheless, I can’t help but think there is more to see. Every departure and every day is different. So I still have this overwhelming urge to return to this magical place called Antarctica.

A word from the wise – be careful when you travel to Antarctica- you might be struck down with ‘polarhullar‘!!! This is a Norwegian term for those addicted to travel to polar regions. And yep, I can categorically say that’s what I’m suffering form right now….. I will be back!

If you are interested in visiting Antarctica visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/antarctica or contact Chimu UK: uk@chimuadventures.com

Agnes, Sandra and Nicole in Antarctica
Agnes, Sandra and Nicole in Antarctica

From Cuba with love…

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When you ask anyone at Chimu What is it about Latin America? A huge smile appears across their face and their eyes glaze over as they are transported back there. Some will be thinking of the morning they saw the sun rise over Machu Picchu, others of snorkeling with baby sea lions in the Galapagos or maybe sailing along the awesome Amazon River. Wherever their mind takes them, they are all thinking of the same thing- the moment I fell in love with Latin America.  For me personally, it’s the sand dunes of Genipabu just outside Natal in North East Brazil. I was literally fresh off the plane at the beginning of my year studying out there. I’d spent the day whizzing across the dunes in a dune buggy (an experience not to be missed!) and swimming in crystal clear lagoons. It was the end of the day and as I stood on top of a dune looking out to sea watching the sun set, I turned to my friend and said I think I’m going to like it here. That moment has always stayed with me and from then on I was hooked.

In this series of blogs the wonderful staff of Chimu Adventures from across the globe (we have offices in Australia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and the UK) will tell tales of their favorite destinations. The first blog is from Matt in our Sydney Office.

Having traveled extensively in Latin America including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, it’s difficult to pick a favourite, but if I’m really pushed, I’d have to say Cuba. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been in the world!

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I think it’s the history of the place that fascinates me the most. The revolutionary times of Che Guavara and Fidel Castro, which still leave their mark on the landscape today. It’s as though the entire country stood still in the 50’s while the rest of the world carried on. In Havana,  vintage American cars wend their way through the crumbling colonial old town giving the place an air of yesteryear grandeur. It has to be seen to be believed.

There are no shops to speak of in Cuba and nobody really has any material possessions. Despite this, people seem very happy. They are so warm and welcoming. Everyone wants to talk to you, find out where you’re from, why you’re in Cuba. They all love to sing and dance and of course enjoy their famous Havana Club rum- something I certainly enjoying getting involved in!

There is a wonderful old bar in Havana called El Floridita. It’s famous for its amazing daiquiris and for being a favorite hangout of Ernest HatHemingway. Its probably just as popular now as it was then and I doubt much has changed from the bars decor to the drinks they serve up. If you do go to Havana its an absolute must!

Trinidad in the south also has a stunning colonial centre filled with salsa bars. If you like dancing, you’ll love Trinidad! The great thing about Trinidad is its location. The old town is just inland, but a short 15 minute drive to the stunning Caribbean coast and some incredible beaches. Then north of the city is the spectacular Escambray Mountains, which is a great trekking destination.  The Topes de Collantes nature reserve in the south east of the mountains is only a short distance from Trinidad and showcases a whole host of beautiful waterfalls, rivers, caves and canyons. A day spent there is my idea of bliss. I can’t wait to go back!

If you’re interested in visiting Cuba, visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/cuba