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Monthly Archives: March 2016

How you can make a difference to your Inca Trail porter’s welfare

Flickr: Amelia Wells

Flickr: Amelia Wells

The Inca Trail. Arguably the world’s greatest trek. Walking an ancient network of paths through Andean countryside and past the crumbling ruins of ancient civilizations to Machu Picchu, the famous citadel that teeters shrouded in mist.

For adventurers and hikers, this is the holy grail, the Hajj pilgrimage – to be done at least once in one’s lifetime. There are other treks in the region, some even more visually spectacularly, but nothing quite evokes feelings of a bygone era of exploration than the Inca Trail.

This is a challenging trek. To complete it you will need a good level of fitness and the support network of guides, fellow hikers and porters.

While you hike with a small backpack armed with camera and waterbottle, by the end you will have a new found respect for the hardy porters who walk the same route with 20kgs on their back, reaching the camping sites each day long before you.

But for many years the porters who make the dreams of many achievable have had a raw deal. Abused, underpaid and forced to carry enormous loads in crippling conditions. And unfortunately although the porter system has got better, these practices still exist.
Porters should be paid a minimum wage of 43 soles per day. The maximum weight a porter can carry is 20kgs which includes a minimum of 5kgs for personal allowance. Although the weight limit is now fairly well enforced (porters are weighed at checkpoints), unscrupulous operators are restricting their personal allowance meaning they can’t carry the blankets and warm clothes they need.

Porters are doing a strenuous job and need to be fed and watered properly. Unfortunately, some are given little to eat or just the leftovers after the tourists have finished eating. Their little personal allowance mean porters often don’t have the necessary gear to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep.

So what can be done. Although the fault of these bad practices sit squarely on the tour operators who employ them, as the customer you can make a huge difference in helping stamp it out.

Book with a reputable tour operator

The very first thing is to ensure that the tour operator you book your Inca Trail through has a porter policy. Ask them directly about their treatment of porters. There are a huge number of operators who run treks along the Inca Trail, some at rock bottom prices. Although this can be tempting, remember that if you pay such small prices, the porters welfare will most likely be at risk.

Treat porters with respect

During the trek, treat porters with the respect they deserve. They are humans and they are doing a great service, helping many hike the trail in a way which would otherwise be impossible. Interact with them, find out about their way of life, take the time to share a coca tea with them. The local insight and knowledge they have about the region is invaluable. When you’ve completed the trek, don’t just tip, thank them verbally for their time and efforts.

Report the abuse

If you see any porter abuse or are unhappy about the way porters have been treated, don’t just sit back and forget it. Report it. Talk to your guide in the first instance. If the issues aren’t resolved complain to the tour operator when you return. If you bought the trek through a company in your home country, complain in writing. If these complaints aren’t enough to change their policy or porter welfare, the bad PR certainly will be. You can also make a complaint to Tourism Concern.

To book your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, get in touch with us today.

These 21 quotes prove that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was a hopeless romantic

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1.
“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” 

2.
“Tonight I can write the saddest lines
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”

3.
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

4.
“You are like nobody since I love you.”

5. 
“Through nights like this one I held her in my arms. I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.”

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7. 

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.”

8.
“I am no longer in love with her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her. Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”

9. 
“Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.”

10. 
“If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life”

11. 
“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

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13.

“My soul is an empty carousel at sunset.”

14. 
“I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every window.”

15. 
“Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.”

16.
“In love you loosened yourself like sea water.”

17. 
“Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness
And the infinite tenderness shattered you like a jar.”

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19.
“I searched, but no one else had your rhythms, your light, the shady day you brought from the forest;
Nobody had your tiny ears.”

20. 
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this”

21. 
“From your hips down to your feet
I want to make a long journey.”

To begin planning your tour of South America, do get in touch.

The Lost City, Colombia’s Machu Picchu

The Lost City (or Ciudad Perdida) is Colombia’s Machu Picchu. This ancient city located in the Sierra Nevada, was founded in 800 CE, many centuries before Machu Picchu even existed.

Unlike Machu Picchu which can be reached by train, a visit to the Lost City requires a challenging 44 kilometre, four-day jungle trek across rivers, dense jungle and steep climbs. A good level of fitness is a must in order to complete the journey. Although some adventurous travellers make this journey themselves, a guide is recommended. Not only will a guide mean you won’t get lost, but they also set up camp, cook food, help spot and identify wildlife and impart fascinating knowledge about the history of the Lost City.

Many local tribes have long known about the site, but the Lost City was first discovered and brought to international attention in the early 70s when a group of looters stumbled across it during an expedition. As the local black markets were flooded with ceramics and ancient gold, archaeologists from the Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia went to the site and spent 6 years protecting and reconstructing it.

It’s thought the city was the region’s cultural, political and manufacturing centre during its peak when it was home to 8,000 people. Like Machu Picchu, the city fell and was abandoned when the beastly Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century. The city is built upon hundreds of terraces carved into the jungle’s hilly interior and linked with a network of paths and plazas. The advanced civilization built a series of bridges and drainage systems that help mitigate the damage that the common tropical rainfall would otherwise do. It’s only accessible by a thousand-step climb up through dense jungle.

Although the site is now completely safe to visit, the region was once inhabited by the left-wing rebel groups, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). In 2003 eight foreign tourists were kidnapped during a visit to the Lost City, although they were released three months later. The conflict and inhabitation of these rebel groups and logistically difficulty of reaching the site was probably why it has never hit the same tourism numbers of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Want to visit the Lost City? Start planning your tour today.

The best drone footage of Latin America

Aerial footage from drones is fast becoming the most creative way to make short travel films. Capturing Latin America’s diverse landscapes, iconic monuments and natural wonders up close and from above adds a new perspective not seen in more tradition handheld camera films. Here are some of the best drone films from Latin America.

Peru

Iguazu – Argentina, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Mexico

Whale watching, Baja California – Mexico

Patagonia – Chile, Argentina

Galapagos – Ecuador

Easter Island – Chile

Orcas, Valdes Peninsula – Argentina

Guatemala

Costa Rica

Panama City – Panama

South America

To begin making your film of Latin America, get in touch today.

6 epic waterfalls in Latin America

Latin America is a land of epic landscapes. Tropical rainforests, windswept steppes, towering glaciers and cascading waterfalls. Iguazu Falls borders Brazil and Argentina in the subtropics and is found on most tours, but there are plenty more falls in South America to explore.

Iguazu Falls – Brazil & Argentina

Flickr: AussieGold

Flickr: AussieGold

The most famous, and for good reason. These falls originate in Brazil before fanning over the rocky plateau and plunging over countless cascades. The walkways that zigzag above and below the falls make viewing the falls from different angles easy. There only downside? It’s a seriously popular attraction in South America so you unless you stay at the Hotel Das Cataratas, you will never have the chance to view Iguazu without the hordes of tourists.

To begin planning your tour of Brazil and Argentina get in touch today.

Yumbilla Falls – Peru

YumbillaEven though these falls are the fifth largest in the world, they have only just began to attract international attention. It doesn’t have the volume of Iguazu, nor does it have the straight drop of Angel Falls, but at a kilometre high, it’s certainly just as impressive. It’s difficulty to reach keep many tourists away, but for those who make the journey often have the falls to themselves. An excellent option for those with more time on their hands and a love for natural wonders.

To begin planning your tour of Peru, get in touch today.

Salto Grande – Chile

Wikipedia: Anjiekay

Wikipedia: Anjiekay

What this Patagonian beauty lacks in height, it makes up for in sheer power. Surrounded by a backdrop reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, glacier meltwater feds the Paine River in the Torres del Paine National Park. If that’s not enough, the region is excellent for wildlife species including condors that circle above and guanacos that roam the rugged scenery.

To begin planning your tour of Chile, get in touch today.

Kaieteur Falls – Guyana

Wikipedia: Bill Cameron

Wikipedia: Bill Cameron

Located in the Kaieteur National Park in Guyana, these powerfall falls are over four times higher than Niagara Falls. Although easily accessible, relatively few tourists visit the country keeping the falls pleasingly uncrowded. An 800 feet single drop plunge along the Potaro River and located in unspoiled parkland make these falls seriously deserving as one of Latin America’s finest natural wonders.

Angel Falls – Venezuela

Flickr: ENT108

Flickr: ENT108

The falls isolated location in the jungles of Venezuela mean much fewer tourists compared to Iguazu visit. However, these are the tallest falls in the world. The single drop plunge of 2,648 feet before hitting a series of cascades for a further 600 feet resemble something from a movie. One of the best (and easiest) ways to see the falls is taking a scenic flight, although nothing compares to viewing it from its base.

Gocta Falls – Peru

Although these falls in the northern Chachapoyas region of Peru have been known by the locals for hundreds of years, it was only brought to international attention in 2006 when a German explorer took an expedition here. It’s since become a major tourist attraction. Its size is disputed, but most agree that its 2,530 feet high. A small hotel built at its centre is an excellent base from which to hike or horse ride around the falls.

To begin planning your tour of Peru, get in touch today.

The ultimate guide to Peruvian drinks

Although most have heard of Peru’s national drink; the Pisco Sour, a sharp, citrusy cocktail best drunk as an aperitif before dinner, there are plenty that haven’t reached the same fame, but should. Other than some excellent beers and perfectly drinkable wines, Peru produces some fine beverages. Here are nine that everyone should try.

Pisco Sour

Lets start with the famous Pisco Sour, the national drink. For those who enjoy a tipple, it is unthinkable not to try this simple concoction of Pisco (a Peruvian liquor similar to brandy), lemon juice, sugar and ice. Be careful though. These strong and seriously moreish cocktails slip down all too easily. To find out how to make the perfect Pisco sour take a look at this recipe.

Inca Kola

Inca Kola is perhaps the second most known drink, although it’s rarely found outside the country. The sugary soda made from lemon verbena (known in Peru as hierba luisa) has a strong bubblegum-like flavour that divides opinion. Some can’t get enough while others find it rather revolting. Invented by an Englishman in the 1930s, this bright yellow drink’s slogan ‘El sabor del Peru’ (the flavour of Peru) may not be entirely accurate, but certainly accompanies Peruvian food well for those with a sweet tooth.

Kola Inglesa

Flickr: sandyshoes

Flickr: sandyshoes

Slightly less popular than its Inka cousin, Kola Inglesa (English Cola) is another sugary soda drink with a distinct cherry and strawberry flavour. Its bright red colour makes it hard to miss.

Agua de Manzana

A refreshing option for those who don’t want to drink the sugar laden alternatives. Literally translating to apple water, this is not just a simple fruit juice. Cloves, all spice and cinnamon are added to create a wonderfully rich and spiced beverage that quenches the thirst in the summer months or warmed up during winter. Interestingly the drink is also commonly referred to as ‘agua de loco’ (crazy water) which is odd as the drink is known for its soothing qualities that relax the mind.

Chicha de Jora

This ancient low alcohol drink made from fermented corn has been produced in the Andes for over a thousand years. During the Incan Empire is was drunk in enormous quantities, particularly during rituals or festivals. The younger the drink the sweeter the taste. As it matures it becomes more sour, almost like a Scrumpy cider.

Chicha Morada

Flickr: McKay Savage

Flickr: McKay Savage

Peru has over 55 varieties of corn, so it should be no surprise that a drink has been created from it. The base of purple maize gives this non-alcoholic drink a rich, deep colour and the addition of quince, cinnamon, cloves and sometimes pineapple produce an interesting flavour. Homemade chichi morada is of course best, but the mass-produced supermarket variety is perfectly drinkable.

Mate de Coca

Wikipedia: Stevage

Wikipedia: Stevage

A simple tea made from the infused leaves from the coca plant. In taste it is similar to green tea with a slight bitterness and is drunk throughout the Andean regions of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. The stimulating chemicals found in the leaves give an energy boost and are effective at warding off altitude sickness.

Emoliente

Emoliente is a herbal tea made from a complex mix of toasted barley, flax seeds, dried horse tail herb, grass and plantain leaves. When chilled, the drink is refreshing during the summer months, but is arguably best in the winter when warmed through. Rich in minerals and vitamins, the drink is an excellent way to give your body a boost and is said to have healing powers.

Cremolada

Colourful cremoladas (a word derived from crema helada, literally frozen cream) sold from street vendors along the coast of Peru are fruit drinks that are best described as sorbet, minus the egg whites. The pulp of exotic fruits mixed with a little water and sometimes sugar can be sipped or eaten with a spoon and are best enjoyed on the beach as a refreshing alternative to traditional ice cream.

To begin planning your tour to Peru, get in touch with us today.

Facts about Pelé, the world’s greatest footballer

Pelé_1960

Pelé is considered the greatest football player of all time. The Brazilian revolutionised the beautiful game with his creative and energetic style. The legend is now a global ambassador for the sport, promoting the game throughout the world. Here’s 21 interesting facts about Pelé you probably didn’t know.

1. Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimiento and he was born in Três Corações, Brazil.
2. During his career he scored 1,283 goals, 77 of which were for Brazil.
3. He became the youngest World Cup winner at the age of 17.
4. After being signed at 15 he scored four goals during his first game against FC Corinthians in 1956.
5. In 1995, Pelé was named the Minister of Sport in Brazil.

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6. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted Pelé the athlete of the century.
7. Pelé was given an honorary British Knighthood in 1997.
8. Pelé’s 1000th goal was a penalty after which the fans rushed onto the pitch.
9. 19 November is celebrated as Pelé Day at Santos to celebrate his 1000th goal.
10. The violent clashes between government and rebel troops during the civil war in Nigeria in 1967 had a temporary 48-hour ceasefire in 1967 so Pelé could be watched.
11. Pelé thinks that a penalty is a ‘cowardly way to score’.

Pelé_&_Lula

12. The Times of London once said that Pelé was spelled G-O-D.
13. Pelé never beat his father’s record of scoring five headers in one game, although he did manage four.
14. Pelé is married to gospel singer Assíria Lemos Seixas.
15. In Brazil he is named Black Pearl (Pérola Negra).
16. In 1961, the Brazilian government declared Pelé a national treasure to stop him from being transferred out of the country.

Pelé_Schiphol_1962

17. Pelé couldn’t afford a football as a kid so often used a stuffed sock.
18. As a child he formed a team with friends and named them ‘the shoeless ones’.
19. He is the only person to been in three winning World Cup teams.
20. Pelé’s 100th World Cup goal was a header.
21. The star helped break the taboo of erectile dysfunction when he fronted an advertising campaign for Viagra in 2005.

To begin organising your tour of Brazil, get in touch with us today.

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