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TOP 5 PERUVIAN DISHES

    My first backpacking trip to Peru was when I was 20 years old and an idealistic vegetarian on a $20 per day budget. That’s $20 per day for everything – transportation, hostel, sightseeing entrances, and food. Being a vegetarian anywhere is South America is a challenge but particularly when you are on a super tight budget. This all being said, my first introduction to Peruvian cuisine was very lack-luster and involved mostly potatoes (of which there are some 4000 varieties), avocados, quinoa (ancient protein-rich super grain), corn, and runny eggs. Needless to say I did not return home after my first foray to South America and rave about Peruvian cuisine (though I did rave about almost everything else). Oh how times have changed. I am no longer a vegetarian. I do not travel on a $20 per day budget. I have been to Peru at least a dozen times. I love Peruvian cuisine. Over the past decade and a half my love affair with Peruvian cuisine has become very potent but apparently, I am not the only one. Peruvian cuisine has recently received an immense amount of attention in the culinary world and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Modern day Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot indigenous dishes combined with nearly 500 years of Spanish and more recently African, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian influence. Peruvian cuisine is varied in colour and texture, extremely fresh, and mildly spicy. From the seafood-rich Pacific, to the fertile Andes where potatoes, corn and tomatoes… Read More »TOP 5 PERUVIAN DISHES

    REASONS TO RISE EARLY WHILE TRAVELLING

      During my tour leading career I have been cursed at by group members for setting pre-dawn wake-up calls, I’ve encountered mini-protests within my group when informing them of departure time, and I’ve literally dragged people out of bed. Why? Am I a horribly sadistic person? Nope…in fact the opposite is true. It’s my desire to showcase a location in its purest form; untainted by hordes of people or extreme heat. So I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite reasons to get outta bed ridiculously early while travelling: 1. BEATING THE CRUISE SHIP CROWD. The cruise ship crowd doesn’t get up and going before dawn, so you should. Get your butt out of bed early. Anyone who has visited sites such as Pisa, Santorini, or the Venice knows that once the cruise ships arrive, all pleasure you experienced exploring is immediately drained and panic sets in. My favourite quote from a cruise ship goer was at Ephesus in Turkey stating with a southern drawl, “Where are we? I don’t even understand why we came here…everything is just old and in ruins.” Yup. 2. HOT AIR BALLOONING. Whether it is over Luxor, Cappadocia, Bagan’s Temples, or the Serengeti, hot air ballooning at dawn is a surreal experience.  In the darkness of the early, the glow of the fire filling the massive balloon is an impressive site in and of itself. For me, the serenity at dawn rising above the vast golden-hued plains with hundreds of grazing zebra and wildebeests below in the… Read More »REASONS TO RISE EARLY WHILE TRAVELLING

      DON’T TOUCH MY BOMBILLA

        Since my first adventure to South America many moons ago, I have been intrigued by this mysterious herbal beverage that is sipped through a metal straw. Frequently consumed and shared in parks, on buses, trains, and even on horseback by gauchos, Porteño hipsters, bus drivers, families, and groups of friends alike. What is this substance? The only thing that is shared like that in Vancouver isn’t a beverage. Yerba mate is more popular than coffee yet not found on any menu. It took a couple more visits to South America until I got a taste of yerba mate culture and was invited into a mate circle. I’ve been hooked on the green stuff ever since. What the heck is yerba mate (yer-bah mah-tay)? Perhaps one of the most incredibly nutritious, invigorating drinks ever. It packs the same amount of punch as coffee (without the jitters), has the health benefits of tea, and the nourishing euphoria of chocolate. The leaves of the rainforest mate tree (holly family) naturally contain plenty of caffeine, heaps of vitamins and minerals, amino acids plus a plethora of antioxidants. It is widely consumed in South America, particularly in the southern parts of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Originally harvested by the Guarani people in the sub-tropical forests around Iguazu Falls, people have been drinking this unique beverage for centuries. Yerba mate culture is so ingrained in some societies of South America, particularly in Patagonia, that I’m convinced babies come right out of the womb… Read More »DON’T TOUCH MY BOMBILLA

        BOGOTA STREET ART

          Colombia is throwing off its negative reputation with a cultural and artistic renaissance to match any of its South American neighbours. Nowhere is this more evident than in the street art which adorns Bogotá’s walls, and which reveals the untrammelled creativity of the capital’s graffiti artists. Check out some of my favourite pieces of street art…

          HEART FLUTTERS AT MACHU PICCHU

            As a professional gypsy, I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to some of the most amazing places on earth. I have been affected by all of the places that I’ve visited but am very aware that not all destinations are created equal and everyone’s personal experiences in those places are different. For me, there are those places on this planet that cause my heart to flutter and face to beam every time their names are mentioned. I light up when someone asks me about them and a sense of euphoria overwhelms me when I begin to talk about them.  Rapa Nui, Iguazu Falls, Torres del Paine, El Camino de Santiago, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Salar de Uyuni are a few of those places that make my heart skip a beat. The one place above all that has this euphoric effect on me is Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is one of the most mind-blowingly beautiful places that I have ever seen. Of course there are older and more important archaeological sites in the world, but few of them have a location as stunning as Machu Picchu. The Inca were not only ingenious architects but they knew it was all about location, location, location. They could appreciate a room with a view in the 14th century. Located high above the lush Urubamba Valley, the stone buildings hug the mountain and the terraces cascade down the steep-sided slopes into the dense vegetation. There is no question that this… Read More »HEART FLUTTERS AT MACHU PICCHU

            PIRAÑHA FISHING IN THE AMAZON

              Deep in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, with sweat rolling down my back, I sat patiently in the dug-out canoe under the equatorial sun’s harsh rays. The surrounding jungle was tranquil in the mid-day heat and not the cacophony of sounds heard the night before. The occasional mosquito buzzing in my ear wasn’t enough to make me lose my concentration. Nope. Bathed in DEET, I was jungle-ready and determined to catch a piranha!  Piranha fishing? Whoa…back-up. Initially my boyfriend (Mike) and I were totally shocked by the guide’s suggestion, not because of the activity per se, but because there could not possibly be piranhas in the same river that we had swam in twice the day before, right?! Don’t get me wrong we were a bit crazy and had knowingly (some may say insanely) swam in the same river that we had spotted black caiman and massive anacondas in earlier…but piranhas?! They are all kinds of terrifying! Why didn’t the local guides tell us about the piranhas before we had gone swimming? Clearly because we NEVER would have gone had we known. Ever.  Armed with nothing more than fishing lines, rusty hooks and rotten pieces of chicken, my boyfriend and I were poised to catch ourselves some fierce little piranhas from our dug-out canoe. Our Huaorani guide, Eduardo, demonstrated his fishing technique with such ease and within seconds, he had a piranha on his line. The fish was voraciously gnawing away at the meat…not even on the hook…when Eduardo plunked it in… Read More »PIRAÑHA FISHING IN THE AMAZON

              THE ENCHANTED GALAPAGOS

                Ever since I was a kid flipping through my Animal Kingdom books, I’ve wanted visit the enchanted Galapagos Islands.

                PERU PHOTO BLOG

                  The jewel of South America, Peru will send your camera into overdrive with its jaw-dropping terrain, colourful markets, white-washed cities, forgotten temples entangled in jungle vines, and massive archaeological complexes. The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world…click through the Finisterra Peru Photo Blog below to find out why!

                  HOW TO BARTER WITH THE BEST OF THEM

                    You’ve landed in a foreign land, stepped off the plane and are immediately bombarded with sounds, sights, and smells that are exotic, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming. Armed with your trusty guide book in hand, you walk the gauntlet of cabbies vying for your attention and shouting prices at you – welcome to your first haggling experience. For many travellers, haggling or bartering can be an intimidating and often frustrating experience as most of us are from countries where the sticker price is the actual price without question. In many parts of the world, virtually all prices can be negotiated – trinkets, taxis, clothing, excursions, and even accommodation can all be bartered over. Haggling is culturally ingrained in many societies and is expected by foreigners and locals alike. A fine balance of finesse, patience and humour are essential to master the art of haggling. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your haggling skills. First thing is first, you need to set a benchmark price for whatever it is that you are bartering for. Whether it is a taxi from the airport or a wooden trinket at the market, make sure you ask at least 3 vendors their price so that you have an idea. Of course make sure you know the exchange rate before you start any bartering so that you aren’t offending or overpaying (www.xe.com). Brush up on you local language skills. If you speak the local language (at least the basics), you are going to get a… Read More »HOW TO BARTER WITH THE BEST OF THEM