Monthly Archives: April 2011

Celebrate the Royal Wedding in Cuenca

Come and celebrate the Royal Wedding with the British and International Community in Cuenca, Ecuador

29 April from 6pm

  La Yunta Restaurant – Pan American sur Km7 Via a Tarqui

$10 includes:

  • Video coverage of the wedding
  • Traditional British finger food
  • Fish and chips supper
  • Free bar till 10pm
  • Royal toast compliments of Grants whisky
  • Disco

Surprises & more………..

TELEPHONE: 072485224 or 080621135

EMAIL: layuntatiendaycocina@gmail.com

Or post a question here for more information

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Beware of Illegal Rogue Local Travel Operators in Peru

Apavit, the Peruvian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies, estimates that between 55%-60% of travel agencies in Peru are informal. This means that almost 4,500 agencies are not registered with the Ministry of Tourism. Major tourist cities are affected by this problem including Cusco, Puno, Arequipa, Lima, Huaraz, Trujillo, Chiclayo and Piura. These agencies may charge up to 50% less than formal agencies, but there are often hidden costs for transport, guides etc. Travelers are advised to choose their agencies carefully and not just opt for the cheapest optio

Trekking The Ausangate Circuit

Ausangate

Ausangate

Ausangate means snow star and this 4-5 day trek around the sacred mountain of Ausangate is undoubtedly one of the most varied, stunning and adventurous in South America.  Add to that easy access from Cusco and hot springs on the first and last days; and you have a fantastic trek for your Peru vacation.

This Ausangate circuit is wilder, more dramatic and much less touristy than the Inca Trail making it ideal for lovers of hiking and travelers looking for adventure in Peru.

Ausangate Trek and Machu Picchu with Into Latin America

High Altitude Trekking in Ausangate

High Altitude Trekking in Ausangate

A Wilderness Trek

The Ausangate Massif is in the Vilcanota mountain range,  one of the most remote and harsh regions of Peru.  A new road makes means the access town of Tinqui is just a 4 hours drive from Cusco.  Once off the road,  you are into a wild area where alpacas outnumber humans and electricity and modern life has had little impact.  Ausangate is recognized as one of the best treks in the world for its  combination of traditional lifestyles and stunning scenery. Every day on this trek there are spectacular vistas with glaciers  coming right down to the passes, turquoise lakes and jagged peaks.  Day two features a high trail through an incredible desert landscape of pastel colours with the snow on Ausangate glistening beyond.  Below there are rolling brown puna, and green marshy valleys populated with stone corrals and traditionally dressed children herding alpaca.

Lunch on the Ausangate Circuit

Lunch on the Ausangate Circuit

A Challenging Trek

Ausangate is a high altitude trek and not for the inexperienced or un-acclimatized.  All of the trek,  including campsites,  are over 14, 300 feet (4400 m) and two of the four high passes are over 16, 400 feet (5000 meters).  Nights are cold but days are generally bright and sunny especially between May and September.   It is a harsh environment with few amenities.  The upside of staying high is that the trek has much less ups and downs than usual in the Andes.  Despite being close to Cusco, the remoteness of the area means that the Ausangate gets few visitors; making this a fabulous and rewarding adventure trek.

A Cultural and Spiritual Trek

Ausangate is the biggest peak in the area and on clear days can be seen as an eerie white mountain as far away as Cusco.  No wonder then that for the indigenous people of Peru, Ausuangate is a sacred mountain, or Apus. For local people, an Apus protects and provides sustenance.  Ausangate is one of the most important Apus and considered the pakarina, or place of origin, for alpacas and llamas.

In the valleys around Ausangate live the incredibly spiritual Q’eros people.  This Quechua speaking community claim to be direct descendants of the Inca and their remoteness has allowed them preserve many beliefs and traditions; so much so that the Q’eros have been officially declared a national treasure in Peru. The communities continue to reveer Pahcamama, mother earth, and Queros shamans are well respected throughout the Andes.  These ancient spiritual beliefs are very much in evidence at the annual Qoyur Riti Festival.  Held in May or June, the pilgrimage to a glacier at 15, 580 feet (4,750 m) draws huge crowds but very few tourists.

Other treks in Peru:

Machu Picchu Anniversary

On July 24th 2011, Peru is celebrating the day, 100 years earlier, when Hiram Bingham quite accidentally discovered Machu Picchu.  He wasn’t the first person to find it, but he was the first to recognize its significance.  Thus began the dramatic rise of Machu Picchu as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the most visited tourist site in South America and the emblematic symbol of Peru and the Incas.

Machu Picchu in 1912

Machu Picchu in 1912

Build up to the Discovery

In July 1911, Hiram Bingham and his Yale University expedition team were roaming the mountains of Peru looking for Vilcabamba, the fabled last city of the Incas.  Records left by Spanish chroniclers led Bingham to believe that he could found the city in the continuation of the Urubamba River.  His team had been promised amazing Inca sites in the past, only to be let down when locals led them to some simple huts.  It is no surprise, then, that when local innkeeper, Mechor Areaga told Bingham of a city on top of a steep and slippery cliff, the explorer was a little skeptical.

Rout Along The Urubamba River

Rout Along The Urubamba River

An Accidental Find

As Bingham relates in his book, Lost City of The Incas, the team met Arteaga at what is now the outskirts of Aguas Calientes.  At the time he was the owner of the local ‘inn’, a grass roofed affair, and was quite put out that the explorers preferred to sleep in their tents.  When Arteaga heard the group were looking for Inca ruins, he offered to show them a city hidden on the cliffs nearby.  The next morning dawned drizzly and there was little enthusiasm for the trip.  Bingham’s companions chose to do their washing and look for butterflies rather than go climbing up an overgrown and difficult mountain.  Bingham,  Arteaga and the local Sergeant escort arrived at the top of the difficult climb to find a series of terraces being farmed by two men named Richarte and Alvarez.  These local farmers had unknowingly made the sacred Inca site their home; saying they enjoyed being hidden away from visitors.  Ironically enough, their once hidden home is now the most visited place in South America.

Bingham continued on to Machu Picchu proper and saw that the stonework was of incredibly good quality.  He claimed that he immediately recognized that the site was built for ceremonial purposes, though it is more likely that he only discovered this later. In short, you get the impression that Bingham was initially not impressed by Machu Picchu. After all, this was not the last city of the Incas that he had been looking for.

Hiram Bingham

Hiram Bingham

Hiram Bingham

Bingham was a man looking for a big find; something to make his fame and fortune. In 1911 he thought he might find glory with the discovery of some bones found in an ice hole.  Gradually he realized that the collection of terraces and white granite walls that make up Machu Picchu, were to be his legacy.

In 1912 Bingham returned to Peru with a team from Yale University to excavate Machu Picchu and the rest, is history.

Explore Peru

Nowadays, with the popularity of Machu Picchu as a tourist destination, it is difficult to recreate that sense of discovery experienced by Bingham.  On the other side of the mountains, though, Choquequirau sees just a handful of visitors and parts of the ruins are still emerging from the dense vegetation.  Kuelap, in the north of Peru, sits quietly and dramatically on top of a mountain as it has for 500 years.  Other nearby forts of the Chachapoyan people are completely covered by dense forest.  Bingham did finally get to the last Inca city at Espiritu Pampa and even now, the 8 day trek there is an Indiana Jones style adventure into the unknown.

Photos from National Geographic

Hidden Forts Near Chachapoyas

Hidden Forts Near Chachapoyas

Blue Parrot in Movie Rio- What is the real Blu?

Rio The Movie

Rio The Movie

From the makers of Ica Age The Movie comes new release ‘Rio’.  This fun packed family animation features a rare blue macaw parrot called Blu.  He thinks he is the last parrot of his breed, so when he hears that there is one surviving female, he heads down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to hook up with the feisty Jewel.    The movie features Ann Hathaway as Jewel and Jesse Eisenberg as Blu.  Itwas premiered in Rio on March 25.  Blu is based on a real blue Brazilian parrot, The Spix’s Macaw.

Visit the home of Jewel in Brazil

What kind of parrot is Blu?

Spix's Macaw (Blu)

Spix's Macaw (Blu)

‘Blu’ is based on Spix’s Macaw; an almost extinct blue macaw parrot from Brazil.  Like Blu and Jewel, the real Spix’s Macaws are bright blue with a slightly lighter blue on their head and under parts.  The underside of the wings and tail are black.  Adults have black beak and feet but young Spix’s Macaws often have a white stripe down the center.  These Brazilian parrots are 55-57 cm long and live for 20-30 years in the wild.  When mating they make a noise like “whichaka” by creating a low rumble in the abdomen bringing the sound up to a high pitched end of the vocal cords. These bright and noisy birds are unfortunately easy to spot by smugglers.

The Loneliest Bird in the World

The story of the last Spix’s parrot is a sad and poignant story.  In the 1980s, naturalists thought the Macaw had disappeared. Then, in 1985, 5 birds were found in Bahia, Brazil.  Unfortunately, by 1990, four had either died or been caught by trappers.  This left only one 10-year-old male living along in the semi-arid Caatinga area.  For 10 years, conservationists and naturalists observed this lonely bird, keeping close tabs on its movements in order to record how this almost extinct bird lived. In 2000 the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources (IBAMA) sadly announced that the last Spix’s Macaw had disappeared.  After two months of searching,  the Institute concluded that the last Little Blue Macaw had probably died.

Why did Spix’s Parrot become extinct?

Caatinga Lanscape

Caatinga Landscape

Spix’s Macaw comes from just one area of Brazil: the dry Caatinga area of north Bahia state, Brazil.  It is there that the Caraibiera riparian woodland, and favourite nesting place of the birds,  grows along the river banks.    When much of the land was cleared for cattle raising,  the birds’ natural habitat was greatly reduced.  Poaching was probably what wiped out the Spinx’s Macaw in the wild, though.  Despite being highly illegal, poachers would capture these beautiful birds to sell overseas as pets for as much as $40, 000.

Is this the end of the story for Spix’s Macaw?

Spix's Macaw

Hopefully the future for the Spix's Macaw

The future for Blu’s breed is happily, not so bleak.  Conservation efforts are focused on buying farms in the Caatinga area and allowing the land to revert to its natural state; providing a habitat for Spix’s Macaw and other endangered birds.

The biggest focus  is on an international breeding program.  There are currently 85 parrots in captivity inlcuing 4 in Sao Paolo Zoo and 56 at the Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation (AWWP), Quatar.   Thanks to the last lonely Spix’s Macaw, breeders have lots of information on how the bird behaved in the wild and the hope is that in the future, the Little Blue Macaw will again fly freely in the Carabibeira ribarian woodlands of Bahia.

Bahia, Brazil

Spix’s Macaws come from one of the most beautiful and fascinating parts of South America; Bahia,Brazil.   Bahia’s main city, Salvador is a vibrant city with a historical center, beautiful beaches and a lively tradition of street music and dance.    There are crystal clear waters in the diving and snorkeling center of Parque Nacional  Marinho de Abrolhos and the stunning interior in Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina is a trekkers paradise.

 

Let Into Latin America show you the real South America

Mother’s Day in Latin America

Mothers Day‘A mother is someone who, on seeing only 4 pieces of chocolate cake for 5 people, will be the first to say that she doesn’t really like chocolate.’  In Latin America, a mother plays an important role as self-sacrificing goddess and center of the family.  Women are sacred and revered, and the mothers are the most revered of all.   It is no wonder, then, that Mothers Days across Central and South America are major days of celebration and thanks.

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 10th.  When ‘Dia de la Madre’ falls midweek, mothers often take the day off work and children stay home to spend time with their mama.   Traditions on this day include waking mother up with a traditional song then presents, flowers and general pampering for the day.  Schools will invite mothers to performances of songs and dances, many businesses also offer small gifts and mementoes to show their appreciation of mothers in general.    In more traditional areas, the whole family gather around the grandmother for a day of eating, drinking, singing and family togetherness.  Everywhere you will see a lot of flowers on Mother’s Day especially in churches, cemeteries and family homes.

Mother's DayIn Panama, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th to tie in with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  This is in recognition of the connection between Mary, the mother of Jesus and mothers everywhere.  There are local festivals and dances and religious parades.  Some say, thought, that the day was chosen to coincide with an important religious festival in order to make it a national holiday.

In some countries Mothers day is tied to the mother country (la patria).  In Bolivia, May 27th, also commemorates the Battle of Coronilla, in the Bolivian War of Indpendence.  During the battle, hundreds of women fighting for independence were slaughtered by the Spanish in the city of Cochabamba.

In Paraguay, May 15th is a celebration of both mothers and the independence of Paraguay.  The date was chosen in recognition of the role played by Juana Maria de Laura in the independence struggles.  Not a happy combination for the Paraguayan Minister of Culture who, in 2008 complained that the day of Independence was regularly overshadowed by the celebrations of mothers and asked for the date to be changed.

Mother's DayIn Argentina, mother’s day is celebrated in October.  Since Argentina has an austral summer, October coincides with the arrival of spring.  Mothers are associated with spring and the arrival of new life into the world.  It is no coincidence that north of the equator many countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and Colombia celebrate Dia de la Madre in spring like May.

In Ecuador, Mother’s Day begins with a serenade.  Trucks of men and boys travel the countryside,  guitars in hand to sing outside the houses of their mothers.  The grateful mothers will hand them glasses of Canelazo – the local liquor.  After a few glasses of this local alcohol, the romantic songs for mothers and the emotion that a Latino Man’s love for his mother can produce; you can be sure there are plenty of tears before daybreak.

Wherever you travel in South and Central America you will be delighted by the strength of family ties and the joy of celebration.

Into Latin America would like to wish mothers everywhere a Happy Mothers Day for April 3rd when mothers are celebrated in the UK.

Special Offer on First Class Glapagos Cruise

Fabulous last minute specials aboard the First Class Queen Beatriz Catamaran. First Class curise for less than $1000!

Galapagos Sea Lions

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