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Monthly Archives: September 2012

South America Gray Fox

Whilst trekking in the renowned Torres del Paine national park in Chile I had a close encounter with the South American gray fox (Lycalopex griseus), which is as curious as our own feral foxes, sniffing around campsites for any left-overs. This species is also known as the Patagonian fox, the chilla, or the grey zorro, is a species of zorro, the “false” foxes. They are found in the Southern Cone of South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile, on both sides of the Andes as far south as Tierra del Fuego. In Argentina they are found South from the Río Grande river. In Chile, they can be found throughout the country. The South American gray fox was introduced to the Falkland Islands in the late 1920s early 1930s and is still present in quite large numbers on Beaver and Weddell Islands plus several smaller islands. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from the warm, arid scrublands to the cold, arid Patagonian steppe. They survive on a diet of rodents, birds, and rabbits. They breed in late austral autumn, around March. After a gestation period of 2 months, 2-4 kids are born in a den. There is much research still to be done on this creature.

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Teotihuacan was the centre of a great civilization which extended its influence over much of Mesoamerica. Once the largest city in Mexico and the capital of a vast pre-Columbian empire. Though its exact origins are not certain, it is known that at its height, about 450 AD, the city had a population of nearly 200,000 people, including multi-storey buildings. The Aztecs believed that the gods created the universe at this site, but its origins date back to earlier cultures. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage site and it is one of the most visited archaeological places in Mexico. The Dead Avenue is surrounded by impressive ceremonial buildings such as the Sun Pyramid, the Moon Pyramid, the Quetzalcoatl Temple, and many other temples and palaces. The Sun Pyramid is one of the largest buildings of Antiquity, almost as great as Cheops in Egypt. Both human and animal sacrifices were known to take place here. Only 48 km (30 miles) from Mexico City Teotihuacan is an ideal place to visit if you have a free day.

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Forget Hummus, Try Humitas

Latin American-inspired menus are about to hit the Scene in London and cities around the country: A Brazilian barbecue restaurant is about to launch in London’s West End and at Stratford. Two more restaurants, Ceviche in Soho and Lima in Shoreditch, both in central London, are also due to open next year. The South American-inspired restaurant chain Las Iguanas is opening in Newcastle and Sheffield this month, while Rodizio Rico, which has four Brazilian restaurants in London, will expand to Birmingham, and the Argentine grill De la Panza (“All about the belly”) opened in Islington.

RELATED: Authentic Mexican steak quesadilla recipe

Ecuador’s misty cloud forest

After a day or two in Quito, try one of our cloud forest escapes only an hour or two from the Ecuadorian capital. The views on the way down are spectacular mountains and steep valleys shrouded in forest. You can enjoy our guided hikes or on mountain bikes get deep into the heart of cloud forest, where it is possible see one of the rare spectacled bears. A new route, the Quinde Trail, will take visitors along ancient rural roads connecting Quito with the coast; these routes were used by intrepid travellers in the eighteenth century, for example the French naturalist and explorer Charles-Marie de la Condamine. Today it is easier to reach our Ecolodge in the Mindo Conservation area, famous worldwide for its bird life, such as the celebrated Cock of the Rock and the giant antpitta. There are also many orchids and bromeliads for botanically minded.  Plus the chance to relax in the warmth alongside the river, enjoying the sounds of the forest in this setting nestled in the peaceful Ecuadorian foothills.

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Archaeologists have found an apparent ritual mass sacrifice, including decapitations and a royal beer bash, near a pre-Inca pyramid in northern Peru, according to National Geographic News. Excavations near the ancient Huaca Las Ventanas pyramid first uncovered bodies in August, and more have been emerging since then. The pyramid is part of the Sicán site, the capital of the Lambayeque people—also known as the Sicán—who ruled Peru’s northern coast from about A.D. 900 to 1100. Perhaps more than a hundred bodies lie in a pit, buried nude and some headless. The bodies are almost all adult males, each accompanied by what appears to be an adult woman.  Despite the huge mass burial, the Sicán were not warmongers, they used an economy based on trade to build an empire that, at its peak, spanned thousands of miles across what is now Ecuador and Peru. The remains were found with ceramic jars used to brew and serve the corn-beer chicha, a common drink at funeral feasts throughout the Andes. The pit also contains ceramic heads of llamas, pumas, monkeys, turtles and bears. Whilst we recommend Peruvian beer we advise our passengers to keep their heads on.

RELATED: 10 classic things to do on your first time in Peru

Mystery of the Moai statues

Ever wondered how the native inhabitants of Easter Island managed to move their 33 feet, 80 tonne statues – known as ‘moai’ – to their positions on the coast without any use of wheels or draft animals? Scientists say they’ve got an answer: it was a combination of manpower, patience and ropes that allowed the statues to ‘walk’ to their current locations. This idea, first put forward by anthropologist Terry Hunt, was put into practice with the help many volunteers. What makes this all so wonderful is that the Easter Island natives, the Rapanui, have long claimed in their myth and traditions that the statues did indeed walk, so this all fits together rather wonderfully. In the Rapanui oral tradition, the moai were animated by mana, a spiritual force transmitted by powerful ancestors. An experiment involved two groups rocking the statue from side to side while a third stabilized it from behind. This showed that a minimum of 18 people could move the 10-foot, 5-ton moai a few hundred yards without it tipping over. As a team of volunteers pulls in one direction and a group across from them coordinates, a full-scale replica of an Easter Island moai ‘walked’ down a road in Hawaii, where the experiment was conducted.

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Argentina – anti-stress locations near Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires can be quite frenetic but luckily there are many ways to escape from the city, leave all worries and relax just minutes away. Only 27 km away from downtown Buenos Aires the Tigre Delta offers amazing options to take a boat or kayak through their channels, stay at rustic boutique hotels and enjoy delicious food. In Argentina, the estancias are tightly linked to the history and essence of the culture. Surrounded with tradition, they shelter the past and present of both criollos and later European immigrants. The place to get in touch with your inner gaucho is the Pampa Argentina, for example at San Antonio de Areco, there are a couple of excellent estancias such as El Ombu or El Rosario, the latter dates back to the 19th century. Here you can ride horses, even play polo or just enjoy the peace and space. These estancias are like ranches with magnificent homes, usually with cosy fireplaces around which to enjoy fine wines and the best beef in the world…

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Ceviche, the hangover cure

Classic ceviche is cubes of red snapper ‘cooked’ by immersing in lime juice. Like carpaccio, ceviche is a raw fish recipe that modern chefs just love to play with.

The fish is transformed by the acid of citrus juice and usually served with a cold beer on a hot day. The dish originates in Peru, and is thought to be a development from Spanish escabeche, which is a vinegar-marinated dish.

This recipe is for the classic Peruvian ceviche. Use any tough-fibred fish (albacore, sole, snapper, halibut) cut into slices then chunks and place in a glass or ceramic bowl. Slice up chilli peppers, with seeds if you like it hot, and add together with sliced red onions. Pour over the juice of several limes, enough to cover all ingredients and season.The fish is done once the colour turns white. Some cooks say 10 minutes is enough, others suggest up to 3 hours. Excess juice may be drained before serving.

Traditionally the chilli should be aji limo but you can substitute habaneros, rocoto or others you prefer. Garnishing variations include tomatoes, parsley, avocado or coriander. The chillies add a spicy kick to the dish, but can be balanced out by serving with a mixture of sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and lettuce. You can make it mixto which is with fish and sea food, from octopus, shrimp, mussels, whelks, oysters, scallops, etc. In Ecuador it is less spicy and served with salty popcorn or toasted corn.

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Survival International

We like to keep you all aware of the great work of Survival International. Here’s a clip from their website and a link to act: Survival estimates there are 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru. All of them live in the most remote, isolated regions of the Amazon rainforest. All of these peoples face terrible threats – to their land, livelihoods and, ultimately, their lives. If nothing is done, they are likely to disappear entirely. Uncontacted tribes are extremely vulnerable to any form of contact with outsiders because they do not have immunity to Western diseases. International law recognizes the Indians’ land as theirs, just as it recognizes their right to live on it as they want to. That law is not being respected by the Peruvian government or the companies who are invading tribal land.

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