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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Who Was W.H. Hudson?

William Henry Hudson was a gifted writer born on the Argentine Pampas in 1841 and grew up surrounded by nature. He was a self-taught naturalist and great observer of wildlife and particularly birds; (he was one of the first to campaign for their protection). I first came across him as the author of ‘Far Away and Long Ago’ a wonderful book about his mid 19th century youth on the plains, written from memory in later life. It told of a precarious life on a ranch in a frontier land guarded by armed garrisons in mud forts, with hostile indigenous people still roaming and a blood-thirsty civil war. He helped his father run the estancia and a trading store where he got to hear the stories of the Gauchos.  He had his own pony at six years old. This idyllic life was brought to an end by a tyrannical tutor followed by a placid but rather ineffective priest, and then his final tutor was a drunkard. He more or less taught himself after that. The young Hudson nearly died or typhus and later a fever weakened his heart and doctors said he would not live long. His mother died whilst he was still a teenager and he was employed to run a friend’s sheep farm. He made additional income collecting specimens of wildlife for American museums although he later hated collectors, unless it was for scientific reasons, and the destruction wrought by hunters.

He moved to England in his thirties. He lived an impoverished life in London but began to write scientific essays and reminiscences of Argentina and magazine articles and novels, Green Mansions being the best known. His first novel, The Purple Land, is said to have influenced Hemingway. He married his landlady. He was reticent about his private life and destroyed many of his personal papers. Much of what we know came from his letters and his writings, some of which are considered classic works of literature his work can be appreciated by anyone and was never sentimental. He achieved some fame from his later works about the English countryside such as A Shepherds’ Life. Although he suffered from ill health he lived to be 81.

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12 Classic Films Set In Latin America You Have To Watch At Least Once

1. Diarios De Motocicleta  / The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries follows the account of the young Che Guevara before he became a Marxist revolutionary. With his friend Alberto Granado, they travelled over 8,000km through Argentina, Chile and Peru, some of which was on a 1939 Norton 500cc called The Mighty One.

2. Cidade de Deus / City of God (2002)

City of God tells the story of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro between the 60s and 80s. A number of storylines intertwine including that of a young man called Rocket whose dream to become a photographer comes true when he begins supplying a newspaper with photos of criminal activity in the favelas.

3. Mi Mejor  Enemigo / My Best Enemy (2005)

My Best Enemy is set in the 1979 Beagle conflict between Chile and Argentina. Two small patrol units from both sides who have become lost in the Patagonian steppes begin interacting with each other whilst searching for the border.

4. Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Fitzcarraldo is based on the true story of an Irish adventurer in the early 20th century who tries to access rubber in a hidden valley in the Amazon. His outlandish plan involved hauling a boat from one river to another with grave consequences.

5. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

Aguirre, Wrath of God is West German film loosely based on a conquistador’s search of el dorado in between the Andes and Amazon in what is now known as Peru.  The film’s opening sequence shot of armour-clad Spaniards on the side of Huayna Picchu is breathtaking.

6. Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros is often referred to as the ‘Mexican Pulp Fiction’. Three different stories become intertwined and connected by a car crash in Mexico City. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in the year of its release.

7. María Llena Eres De Gracia / Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Maria Full of Grace is the story of a Colombian teenager who, after becoming pregnant, takes the risky decision of becoming a heroin drug mule and flying to New York.

8. The Mission (1986)

The Mission is a British drama about a Jesuit missionary in South America during the 18th century whose aim was to convert the local Guaraní community to Christianity. Set with the mighty Iguazú falls as the backdrop and starring Robert de Niro, this is a must for any film fan.

9. Tropa de Elite / Elite Squad (2007)

Elite Squad semi-fictional account of the highly trained BOPE police squad whose dangerous job is  to clean up the crime ridden streets of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and a captains search for a replacement for his job. The film also has an excellent sequel – Elite Squad: The Enemy Within which was released in 2010.

10. Frida (2002)

Frida is the biography of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, her tangled relationships including her affair with the Marxist revolutionary and theorist Leon Trotsky, political stance, illness and of course, her art. The film stars Salma Hayek.

11. No (2012)

After coming under international pressure, Augusto Pinochet is forced to call a referendum on his Chilean presidency. The ‘No’ campaigners enlist the help of Rene Saavedra, an advertising executive, to help create a plan to win the election.

12. The Galapagos Affair (2014)

This recent full length documentary tells of the mysterious goings on amongst the first inhabitants of Floreana Island in the Galapagos. Using rare archive footage and interviews with the islanders today it tells of the murder and disappearances that remain a riddle to this day. Cate Blanchett narrates.

To start planning your holiday to Latin America, get in touch.

RELATED: The best Latin American films of 2017

Adventure To The Cristalino Jungle Lodge

David Horwell

Having spent a week in the biggest city in South America, São Paulo, I took a flight to Alta Floresta one of the least populated places in the World. Here in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, part of the Amazon, is home to cattle ranchers and folk living on the edge of the civilized world. The temperature on arrival was 37°C. I was shocked at the few pockets of trees left as we flew low over what was once primary rain forest. From the plane I saw plumes of smoke from the burning vegetation. The high temperatures are the result of land unprotected by trees, (the current drought over much of Brazil also exacerbated by deforestation).

Cristalino River

Happily not all is doom and gloom, after an hour in a car on a bumpy dirt road we came to the river Telespires, deeply verdant forest was evident all around. I took a boat up river to the Cristalino river that flows through a private reserve 7,000 hectares of protected forest. This is thanks to the dream of Vitória Da Riva Carvalho and her husband who came here when Alta Floresta was just a frontier hamlet 25 years ago.


She had a vision of creating a way of making a living by protecting the natural environment and in 1992 Cristalino Lodge was born. Vitória’s first priority was to stop the forest being destroyed, and then achieve a sustainable income derived from tourism. They created the first private natural reserve in Mato Grosso in 1997 and two years later the Cristalino Ecological Foundation with both tourism, education and scientific research as key activities. The reserve is now bigger than the size of Manhattan island.


Only accessible by boat the lodge is surrounded by tropical forest making it a true jungle haven, Amazon and ringed kingfishers showed-off as I was paddled in. Once settled into my smart bungalow and refreshed with a tropical juice, it was off into the forest with my guide Fito. The reserve is known for rich diversity of birds and butterflies – more than 550 bird species and at least 2,000 butterfly species – but also for its varied jungle of primary rainforest and aquatic habitats.


Fito showed me the extensive trail system and a clean river perfect for canoeing and swimming. The tannin-rich black-water means mosquitoes are few. The eco-friendly bungalows follow sustainable practices, built on already disturbed land using local materials, ventilated screens instead of air-conditioning. Solar power is used for much of the energy. Waste water is biologically treated with permaculture.


The gardens are planted with native plants. Tour groups are kept to a maximum of 8 per guide. Despite the eco-credentials comfort is not sacrificed. The cuisine is traditional Brazilian fare cooked in a wood stove, dinners are lit by candles and plenty of organic fruit and vegetables, much grown in their own organic garden. The inside and ‘al fresco’ showers were powerful and among the best I’ve had in all Brazil. Cristalino ticks all the boxes.


At dawn Fito took me to one of the two 50m towers that soar above the forest canopy. The sight of the mists evaporating over the carpet of green will stay with me forever. We scanned for the elusive harpy eagle but made do with scarlet macaws, white-bellied parrots, laughing falcon, white-throated toucans, chestnut wood-peckers, hook-billed kites to name but a few.

canopy tower

On the way we stopped at trees covered in spikes and saw one of the few remaining giant Brazil nut trees.

Brazil nut tree

After lunch and a siesta we took a canoe ride to observe the birds of the river: Cocoi heron, green ibis, anhingas (snake-bird), neotropic cormorants, white-banded swallows, great jacamar plus bats sleeping under a branch and white-whiskered spider monkeys playing in the trees.


We made many sorties at dawn and dusk when creatures are most active, catching up on sleep after lunch. We surprised many a caiman alligator sunning itself on the banks of the river, and river turtles on rocks and branches poking up through the water. I was surprised to see large mammals like deer, which show the forest is healthy.


The biggest shock was when Fito signalled for us to go up to a hide, rather like a kid’s tree-house, and minutes later a troop of white-lipped peccaries surrounded us. First a dozen or so of these noisy grunting boars arrived and wallowed in the mud. Soon there must have been over a hundred or so including families with babies. For a good half an hour we watched these pungent smelly pigs cavort, and then the leader made an eerie clicking sound and they disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived.


On my return to the lodge I had picked up a souvenir, a tick, but the attentive staff gave me special tweezers to remove the offending parasite. Just when I thought I’d had the last mammalian encounter on the afternoon’s boat ride, our boatman turned the canoe round and we were face to face with a tapir having a refreshing soak at the river’s edge.


My final exploration was on a hill made of ancient granite that poked up above the forest, it felt like Conan Doyle’s Lost World with strange multi-coloured trees, and parts are so steep a rope is provided as a hand rail. The hiker is rewarded with a great view from a natural vantage point. It was a special finale to a wonderful few days far from the madding crowd. Spider monkeys came to see me off; I never did see the harpy though so that’s a good reason to go back one day.

David Horwell

All photos © David Horwell. Please do not use without the express consent of Select Latin America.

RELATED: Top 5 holidays in Brazil

Chupe de Camarones (Peruvian Shrimp Chowder) Recipe

shrimp chowderFlickr/_e.t

A delicious southern Peruvian chowder recipe originally made in Arequipa using crayfish. Although many ingredients are needed, the dish is super easy to make.

1kg shrimp (unpeeled)or crayfish
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
200g sweet corn
300g peas
3 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp aji panca paste
4 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
100g rice
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 small can evaporated milk
300g fresh cheese
1 handful chopped coriander
Juice of one lime
Seafood stock
salt & pepper

Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat with the oil. Sweat the onions for around five minutes until soft, before adding the garlic, cumin, aji panca paste, chopped tomatoes and oregano and cook gently for another few minutes. Add the peeled potatoes and rice, stock and seasoning and leave on a gentle heat for fifteen to twenty minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked add the corn, evaporated milk, peas and shrimp and cook for two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and serve the chowder in bowls topped with crumbled cheese, chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime.

RELATED: Peruvian Causa Rellena Recipe

11 Experiences You Can Have In Costa Rica

1. Scale a volcano


Every fancied hiking around a volcano? Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano is one of the best for hiking in the world. You can even do a night hike should you wish.

2. Smell the coffee

Coffee tourFlickr/Andy Rusch

Costa Rican coffee is considered some of the best in the world. They produce over 168,000 tons of the stuff each year, most of which is exported. Try the Doka Coffee Estate for an excellent introduction to Costa Rican coffee production.

3. Stay in a luxury jungle lodge

Lapa Rios Room

Costa Rica has no shortage of luxury jungle lodges. Head south to Corcovado on the Osa Peninsula and stay at the Lapa Rios Eco Lodge for the best. The sixteen private bungalows are nestled along ridges that overlook the thousand acres of private natural lowland rainforest. Not only is this wonderfully luxurious, it’s also a wildlife lover’s paradise.

4. Learn to surf


The Nicoya Peninsula in the west of the country is one of the best places to surf in the world. Try Playa Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen and Malpaís which have many surf schools.

5. Help protect sea turtles

TurtlesFlickr/Steven Gerner

Conservation of the endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica continues. Tortuguero, located in the east of the country has the largest green turtle rookery in the Western Hemisphere. Leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles also nest here.

6. White-water raft

White waterFlickr/David Berkowitz

Costa Rica has some excellent white water rafting opportunities. We suggest visiting the Pacuare River, which blends great white water rafting and stunning scenery.

7. Search for the resplendent quetzal


One of the most beautiful birds on the planet can be found in Costa Rica…….if you know where to look.

8. Visit a national park

National parkFlickr/Beth and Anth

There are currently 50 national parks in Costa Rica and over 25% of the land mass is protected by the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion.

9. Visit a sloth sanctuary

SlothFlickr/Jenny Jozwiak

Love wildlife? There’s is no better place to see the sloths, both in the wild and in sanctuaries. We suggest a visit to Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary which looks after sloths which have been injured or orphaned.

10. Take soak in a hot spring

Hot SpringsFlickr/Jeremy Vandel

After all those activities, take a nice long soak in one of the many hot springs dotted around Arenal Volcano. Tabacon Hot Springs is one of the best.

To start planning your holiday to Costa Rica get in touch with us here.

RELATED: 10 exotic creatures you’ll see in Costa Rica

An Orchid of the Andes

I recently attended the annual World Travel Market in London and met the new Ecuadorian Tourism Minister Sandra Naranjo. She gave a press conference emphasizing the country’s ‘mega-diversity’ and the natural and cultural reasons to visit the country and not just their Galapagos Islands.

David and Sandra Naranjo (3)

I was impressed with how passionate Sandra is about her country and was pleased to hear how her government is devoting more resources to marketing Ecuador to Europe and the UK. Select Latin America was one of the first companies to offer tours to all parts of this small but diverse country from the headwaters of the Amazon to whale-watching in the Pacific. For a first visit to Latin America we highly recommend Ecuador.

Orchids of Ecuador

One of the lesser known facts about Ecuador is the abundance of orchids, over 4000 species, mainly found in the cloud forests either side of the Andes. The Ecuadorian stand at the trade show highlighted this with an award-winning display of orchids and also roses (which are a big industry there). The country is also renowned for its gourmet chocolate and I was delighted to watch a display of making a fruit and nut brittle and taste some of the World’s best chocolate…

Chocolate making display Ecuador stand #WTM14 1

Chocolate making display Ecuador stand #WTM14

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America