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A Quick 5 Minute Guide to Brasilia

A little history…

Brasilia is the capital of Brazil. It is located inland and is somewhat unique in the country and is was fully planned and created from scratch in the 1960s. Behind the city’s design is urban planner Lucio Costa and the architect Oscar Niemeyer and the artist Athos Bulcão. It’s often overshadowed by the more touristy coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Recife, but those who decide to visit find a wealth of attractions, restaurants, nightlife and culture.

Fast facts

- The city was founded on the 21st April 1960
- The population is 2.5 million
- It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage city in 1987
- It played host to the world cup in 2014
- It is the fourth most populous city in Brazil
- If looked at from above, the city is shaped like a bird

Getting there

Due to the city’s relative isolation from other parts of the country, the only practical way to get there is by flight. Flights from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador take roughly two hours.

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Where to stay

Try the Melia Brasil 21, probably the finest hotel in the city. Located between the Television Tower and City Park, it’s also in the best location for exploring Brasilia. All the rooms at this 5* property are spacious and include all the features of a luxury modern hotel. The Norton Grill serves up delicious grilled meats and international cuisine and the Churchill lobby bar serves a wide range of wines and cigars. Other on-site amenities include a fitness centre, sauna and a stunning rooftop swimming pool with incredible views over the city.

Feitico Mineiro

Where to eat

The restaurant Feitiço Mineiro celebrates the cuisine of Minas Gerais. The food here is delicious. Think suckling pig with creamy spiced beans and farofa or grilled chicken accompanied by okra and corn mash. The restaurant was created by Jorge Ferreira in the late 80s. His passion for culture, music and literature shows in the restaurants décor. Although Ferreira sadly passed away in 2013, the restaurant continues the traditional of live shows and music concerts at the venue.

What to do

There are plenty of things to do in Brasilia. Tours can be organized by bike, car or by foot. One of the best ways to see the city is on an architectural masterpieces circuit tour with a local English speaking guide, photographer or artist. During the tour you can explore the avenues, gardens and buildings that make this city so fascinating. Brasilia is located next to the Chapada dos Veadeiros, an amazing landscape to explore. Try taking a scenic flight over the national park in a hot air balloon.

Bar Brasilia

Nightlife

The Bar Brasilia is a favourite amongst locals. Known for having the best draft beer in town, it’s the perfect meeting point after a day of exploration. Although (like everything in the city), the bar is relatively new, it’s traditional wooden bar and tiled floor will transport you back to a bygone era. If you’re feeling hungry try the delicious cod cakes.

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Mistura Food Festival in Lima

Mistura

If you happen to be travelling in Peru in September we highly recommend the 8th edition of the ten-day Mistura Food Festival in Lima and the biggest food festival in South America. A wonderful mistura of Peru’s diverse culinary landscape, highlighting what is one of the world’s great but largely undiscovered cuisines. If you consider yourself a foodie, this is the place to be.

Peru can be roughly split into three different culinary areas – the highlands and Andes, the coastal region and the Amazon. Each has its own distinct set of flavours only made more varied by the introduction of Japanese, Chinese, African and other communities that have played their part in the evolution of Peruvian cuisine. If this is your first time to Peru, there is no better a starting point to get a good hold over the different food the country has to offer. On top of the more common (but nonetheless delicious) ceviches and pisco sours, there is plenty more to get your teeth stuck into.

Held in Exposition Park, the festival is expecting around a half a million people to visit including many top chefs from around the world. It is open each day from 9am until 11pm. This year it runs from the 4-13 September 2015. For more information visit mistura.pe.

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Searching for Sugarman: the ‘70’s Rock Icon Who Never Was

Searching for Sugarman is an Oscar winning true-life documentary about a Mexican-American folk musician who lived in poverty and obscurity in Detroit whilst unknowingly achieving huge commercial success in South Africa. It has become one the most enjoyable documentaries of the last ten years.

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was the sixth child (hence the name) of Mexican parents who had immigrated to Detroit for work. Despite coming from a poor background Rodriguez earned himself a Bachelor of Philosophy at Wayne State University. His music talent was first discovered by two producers when he was playing in a basement bar, called The Sewer, in 1967. They backed him and he released two albums in the US, but these did not sell well; though he did tour Australia, he left the music industry and worked in construction. Somehow his album made it out to South Africa selling hundreds of thousands of albums, even outstripping Elvis in sales without his knowledge. In seems that in apartheid South Africa, they felt a connection with his left-leaning, anti-establishment songs.

Rumours about the star’s apparent suicide has spread, assuming he was dead no one came looking for him. The documentary follows the story of two fans from Cape Town in the late 90’s – Stephen Segerman a record shop owner and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, who starting searching for what had happened to Rodriguez and discovered him still alive in Detroit. He lived in such obscurity in the United States that a local barman thought he was a homeless man. There are many questions raised about how this happened including the royalties which he never received.

Critics were quick to praise this bitter-sweet, soulful documentary. Its only downfall was not mentioning that Rodriguez actually enjoying some success in Australia and New Zealand as well. So what’s happened since the documentary? After the release of the film a surge of interest throughout the United States and Europe led to a revival in his music career. He appeared as a guest on the David Letterman show, CNN, Later with Jools Holland and tours much of the world including playing at Glastonbury Festival and the Beacon Theatre in New York. He still lives in the same derelict Detroit house that he bought in auction in the 70’s and actively tries to help improve the lives of if Detroit’s working class. Interesting Rodriguez turned down the invitation to the Oscars and apparently slept right through the ceremony.

There is one final ironic twist to the story. The skillful director Malik Bendjelloul sadly committed suicide a year after the release of Searching for Sugarman. Bendjelloul’s finest piece of work helped to give Rodriguez the recognition and fame that had been missing for 40 years.

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Ecuador’s Liberty Train from Ibarra to Salinas

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I recently rode on this fun train that winds through the Andes of northern Ecuador. The train starts right in the middle of the town of Ibarra, the streets stop and the people wave as you go along right through the bustling market. The bright red carriages are like something out of Thomas the Tank Engine, but sadly no longer steam driven.

Ecuador’s train network began in the late 19th century; however it wasn’t until 26 August 1957 that the route from Ibarra to San Lorenzo opened. This gave the indigenous communities an outlet to the Pacific which in turn gave brought them closer to the Panama Canal, one of the world’s commercial hubs. I first took this route in the mid-80s, but it was already falling into disrepair and I remember the ‘bus on rails’ that frequently came off the tracks and had to be levered back. Quicker roads and lack of Government support meant a slow decline.

The last ten years have seen a resurgence in the Ecuadorian train network, partly due to the number of tourists rising and the fantastic routes on offer and the personal vision of the president. The Ibarra to Salinas route is now called the Tren de la Libertad (Liberty Train) is named after the struggle from independence from Spain two hundred years ago and the freedom of the slaves who ancestors still inhabit the region. This route was originally a commercial one, mainly used to carry goods such as wool, cotton and fabrics down to the ports for exportation to faraway lands.

Open again, it now takes tourists on a wonderful 30 kilometre journey from Ibarra to the town of Salinas and then back again. From Ibarra we passed rugged Andean countryside, along river valleys, crossed wooden bridges and through farms. The most exciting was through tunnels carved through the mountains; this must have been a particularly arduous job for the workmen who just had pick-axes and dynamite.

On arrival in Salinas we were welcomed by dancers from the local lively Afro-Ecuadorians community, descendants of the workers who were brought to the area to build the railway lines. There was time to visit the salt museum, a plaza with handicrafts and have a local lunch before returning back into the Andes. The journey takes around an hour and a half each way, with a stop for local coffee or ice-cream at Yachay. In Salinas I tried a local version of a piña colada using the local sugar-cane rum. It hit the spot.

If you would like to book the Ibarra to Salinas train journey or would like to incorporate it into your bespoke Ecuador holiday then do get in touch.

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The red frogs of Bocas del Toro

This video, brought to you by the Red Frog Island Resort & Spa, perfectly illustrates the luxury paradise that is the Island Bastimentos in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, often called the “Galapagos of the Caribbean”. As soon as you arrive in the Marina Village you’ll be whisked away on unpaved dirt roads straight into nature and the resort. Along the way you’ll most probably see exotic bird life and maybe even a sloth or two.

Bastimentos Island is just twenty four square miles large and with a population of under 2,000. Although it is one of the larger islands in the archipelago it is the more relaxed alternative to others. The National Marine Park covers the majority of the island. Over the last ten years a reforestation program on Isla Bastimentos has helped the plant and animal life to flourish.

There are a number of beaches on the island including Turtle Beach, Playa Larga, North Beach and Wizard Beach, but perhaps the most famous is Red Frog Beach. Although there is much wildlife including titi monkeys, sloths, marine wildlife and exotic birds, most come to see the famous red poison dart frog.

This species of frog is only found in Central America. They are highly poisonous (hence the bright red colour) and will kill any predator that ingests one. Their toxin comes from their diet of ants and termites and interesting they are immune to their own poison. They are small growing to a maximum size of around 22 milometres. The males are extremely territorial whereas the females are more sociable. The species comes in a number of different colour morphs. One of the most common is the blue jeans morph where the frog’s limbs are blue.

Want to see the red frogs? Get in touch to start creating your bespoke tour to the region.

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Meet us at the Birdfair

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We are pleased to announce Select Latin America will be having a stand at the Birdfair taking place at Rutland Water Nature Reserve 21 August to 23 August 2015.

Described as the birdwatcher’s Glastonbury, Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the bird-watching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation.

There are lectures, events and celebrities and hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts.

This will be our 15th year, find us at Marquee 7 Stand 36. Our experts will be on hand to help plan your next wildlife adventure and our new brochure will be hot off the press.

This year David will also be doing a presentation – ‘Galapagos; A visitors Guide to these Enchanted Islands’ which will be on the 23th August in Lecture Marquee 3 between 3.30-3.50 pm
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We hope to see you all there.

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Get married on Easter Island

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If you are looking for something unique for your wedding how about having it on the mysterious island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), part of Chile but more geographically closer to Polynesia.

In true Polynesian style you’ll be presented with flower necklaces before being whisked away to the Explore Posada de Mike Rapu. During your time on the island you’ll visit some of the most famous sites including Rano Raraku Volcano and surrounding Moai statues. Spend time on the unspoiled beaches, snorkel in clear Pacific waters and horse ride through stunning island scenery.

The ceremony will take place according to local traditions on Anakena Beach. Both the bride and groom will have the opportunity to choose their outfit and traditional body painting. The ceremonial master will ask the gods for protection of the couple and there will be much ritual dancing and singing.

To begin your dream wedding on Easter Island get in touch.

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August kite flying festival in Villa de Leyva

Photo credit: Colombia Festiva

Photo credit: Colombia Festiva

During August the UNESCO town of Villa de Leyva in Colombia sees strong winds making it the perfect time for the Kite Flying Festival. Locals and tourists gather for three days to fill the sky with colourful kites. Throughout the festival there are plenty of competitions to keep everyone exciting including team flying, long-distance and night flights as well as contests for kids.

The festival dates back to the 70s when it was created to celebrate the Battle of Boyacá and since then it’s been a fixture ever since. If you want to visit you’ll need to book up fast – over 70,000 people are expected to attend this year.

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11 Things You Should Know About Potosi in Bolivia Before You Visit

Potosi

Flickr: Adam Jones

1. Indian Diego Gualpa stumbled was the first person to discover the mountain of silver in 1545.

2. From a small community to 3000 within 65 years the town had swelled to 160,000.

3. At 4,000 the town of Potosi is one of the highest in the world.

4. In Spanish it is also known as Cerro Rico or Rich Mountain.

5. Indigenous workers were paid very little but made much wealth for the city.They were called mitayos.

6. At its peak over 13,000 people a year were lost in the silver mines.

7. When the mitayos finally resisted, African slaves were brought across the  Atlantic to continue mining.

8. Over 300 years more than 62,000 tons of silver was mined from Cerro Rico with the cost of an estimated 8,000,000 African and indigenous were lost their lives.

9. The city’s motto is ‘I am rich Potosi. Treasure of the world. King of all mountains and the envy of all kings.’

10. Miners still risk their lives today in search of the big find, most barely scratching enough of a living to put food on the table.

11. UNESCO gave it World Heritage status in 1987.

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The Galapagos needs your help!

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In June the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) along with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) released 201 Española tortoises onto Santa Fe, Galapagos, and island where these tortoises haven’t roamed for over a hundred and fifty years.
However, more projects need funding and they need you’re help. To help fund these conservation projects visit their website. There are three high priority tortoise projects.

1. To rebuild the populations of Pinta and Floreana tortoises.In the autumn, a major expedition to recover the remaining Pinta and Floreana tortoises to begin a breeding program in order to repopulate their islands.

2. Research and monitor tortoises on Santa Cruz
A large scale project for a tortoise census on Santa Cruz Island to determine the size and range of Cerro Fatal tortoises and highlight the threats to their survival.

3. Monitoring the released tortoises on Santa Fe
Each of the 201 tortoises released on Santa Fe has been microchipped and a monitoring trip has been scheduled for next summer.

Any donations are appreciated, however small. Please donate on their website.

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