Monthly Archives: May 2016

Five traditional Colombian breakfasts

Arepas – a national favorite and probably one of the first Colombian culinary words you’ll learn. Loosely translated as ‘corn cakes’, arepas are made from yellow or white ground corn and are as diverse as the country itself, with each region preparing them differently – from fried and crispy, to sweet, soft and cheesy. Within the coffee zone, paisas like their arepas thin, flat and crunchy, smothered in butter, with cheese on the side. Arepas from the central Andean region can be sweet, such asarepa de choclo, or stuffed or topped with cheese, eggs, ham, chicharrón(fried pork rind), beef or chicken. Along the Caribbean coast, arepas are chubby, resembling a hamburger patty and heavy on salted cheese, or sinfully greasy and deep-fried with a cooked egg inside, such as arepa de huevo.

The arepa list is endless and can be found on almost every corner in Bogotá. Get a taste of authentic Caribbean cuisine at Narcobollo(narcobollo.com) or Gaira Café (gairacafe.co), which is owned by famous Colombian singer, Carlos Vives. For freshly grilled cheese-and-ham arepas, stop at Puerto Arepa de la Primera(facebook.com/PuertoArepadelaPrimera).

Changua: nutritious milk soup for the soul

The indigenous tribes that once roamed the central Andes may have all disappeared, but a couple of their culinary traditions haven’t been lost.Changua, a comforting soup made with milk, poached eggs and green onions, is easygoing on the stomach and suitable for vegetarians. Each recipe is slightly different, but most come with a generous garnish of coriander and pieces of crusty – often stale – bread that are plonked or grated into the milky broth. The soup is generally enjoyed with a couple of almojábanas, cheese rolls best served straight out of the oven and eaten religiously in the regions of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. Made with corn flour, eggs and cuajada (white cheese made from unpasteurized milk), these crispy pastries are a perfect match to the homey soup.

Try a snug combo at La Puerta Falsa, the oldest cafe in the city; it’s no fake and popular for a good reason. Another downtown favorite is the 80-year-old bakery Pasteleria La Florida(facebook.com/PasteleriaFlorida).

Aguapanela and queso fresco: a Colombian classic

A classic and light Colombian breakfast is a mug of steamingaguapanela and a large piece of locally produced queso fresco (soft, fresh white cheese). Aguapanela is a sweet drink made from unrefined sugarcane juice; it’s enjoyed throughout the country. The ‘warmth’ of the drink depends on the altitude: hot and soothing in the mountains, icy and refreshing along the coast. In Bogotá, the ritual is to drop the cheese into the aguapanela (or hot chocolate). The cheese effortlessly melts in the hot drink, and using a spoon, the sweet and cheesy gooeyness is devoured. For a heartier breakfast, you can combine theaguapanela with huevos pericos (eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions) and, depending on the region, either a bollo, arepa oralmojábana.  Bollos, also known as envuelto de maíz (literally ‘wrapped corn’), are parcels of ground maize that’s mixed with cheese, enclosed in leaves and boiled.

Most traditional desayunaderos (breakfast restaurants), such as the little corner joint, Hibiscus Cafe, serve authentic aguapanela and its accompaniments.

Caldo de costilla: a soup to raise the dead

The night before was long and you wake up with a splitting headache. Forget painkillers or gallons of water; rather, slurp up a bowl of comforting caldo de costilla, a typical dish from the Andean region that’s eaten nationwide. This slow-cooked broth made with beef ribs, carrots, potatoes, garlic and cilantro is also known as levantamuertos(literally ‘raise the dead’) due to its superpower ability to cure guayabos(hangovers) and ailments. Colombians swear by its curative properties and the soup is sold in most restaurants, especially in Bogotá’s party zones. It is best enjoyed with a couple of warm arepas.

You’ll find many believers hanging out at the famous 24-hour restaurant, Cañón del Chicamocha (facebook.com/pages/Restaurante-Cañon-Del-Chicamocha), waiting for the magic doctor to kick in.

The best of Taranaki

Art and nature complement each other in Taranaki’s capital, New Plymouth. The spectacular Wind Wand – a towering kinetic sculpture designed by New Zealand artist Len Lye – arcs and sways in staunch breezes surging in from the Tasman Sea, while the mirror-clad folds of the recently opened Len Lye Centre shimmer with southern hemisphere sunshine and shape-shifting clouds. Nearby, 19th-century heritage buildings offer an intriguing contrast.

One of the 2oth century’s most interesting artists, Lye opined that ‘Great art goes 50-50 with great architecture’, and the ratio at the centre gets the balance exactly right. Towering ceilings create a sense of space and drama, while ramps lead visitors through galleries of Lye’s challenging kinetic structures and boldly energetic films. Sculptures whir and buzz and Lye’s colour-drenched or starkly monochrome short films shimmy and shake. Welcome to one of the most noisy and exciting galleries on the planet.

Adjoining the Len Lye Centre is the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, renowned as one of New Zealand’s best regional art galleries. With a motto of ‘Provocateurs since 1970’ the gallery focuses on experimental and challenging local and international exhibitions. In a region traditionally more attuned to dairy farming and laid-back surfers hunting the perfect wave, this is another of Taranaki’s best-kept secrets.

In mid-March, sleepy New Plymouth effortlessly morphs into the southern hemisphere’s world music hotspot. Every year the WOMADfestival fills the city’s Pukekura Park for a few exciting days. Recent festivals have included South African township a capella harmonies, Spanish flamenco beats and thumping Romany trumpet and tuba ensembles from the Balkans.

Outdoor adventures and foodie treats

In a land renowned for its iconic hiking, the Poukaki Crossing – the route around the perfect volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki – is an Instagram-worthy contender for the country’s finest one-day walk.

Traversing the northern side of the mountain, the 19km trek (seven to nine hours walking) negotiates diverse landscapes from forest through to sub-alpine scrub, and includes waterfalls, alpine tarns and swamps. There are also much lower visitor numbers than other more well-known hikes. Top Guides offers guided walks, shuttle transport and other shorter half-day excursions on sections of the Crossing.

After a day outdoors, it’s just a short hop to return to New Plymouth and its excellent dining scene. Kick off at The Hour Glass, one of the country’s best craft beer bars – look for beers from Taranaki locals Brew Mountain (brewmountain.co.nz) or Mike’s Brewery – before tucking into robust charcoal-grilled dishes at Social Kitchen (social-kitchen.co.nz).

Other day trips to consider over your Taranaki pork belly include a 20-minute vertiginous scramble up Paritutu (154m) at the southern end of town, or for something more accessible, a forest walk around the Dawson Falls area on the eastern slopes of Mt Taranaki.

Roadtripping Surf Highway 45

Get some Kiwi tunes on your playlist before embarking on this 105km semi-circular route from New Plymouth to Hawera. At Oakura, the world’s biggest surfboard stands outside Butler’s Reef Hotel (butlersreef.co.nz) – during summer the pub’s raffish beer garden hosts standing-room-only gigs from NZ’s biggest bands – while the hip Kin & Co (facebook.com/KinandCo) cafe dispenses organic and artisan flavours with a side order of tattooed barista.

Along the route there are plenty of spots to plant your board. The black sand- and driftwood-adorned Ahu Ahu beach is the last resting place of the SS Gairloch, now a rusted skeleton in the waves after foundering on Timaru Reef in 1903. On the horizon, the soaring profile of Paritutu can be spied, while the constant and comforting presence of Mt Taranaki rises behind forested hills.

Travelling southwest of Warea, keep your eyes peeled for a Taranaki landmark: a huge boulder daubed with orange paint that announces the route to legendary surf break, Stent Rd – the original yellow road marker kept getting stolen by trophy-hunting surfers.

How to explore Chilean Patagonia

unduhan-10The 1240km Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) is the only way in and out of Aysén by land. It stretches from the fishing hub of Puerto Montt in the north all the way down until it peters out in the frontier gaucho town of Villa O’Higgins in the south. Bumbling down the Carretera Austral’s bumpy terrain past rainforested hills and foggy fjords has become one of the most iconic road trips in South America. But it’s a journey you’ll want to do sooner rather than later.

Now is the time to visit the glaciers that shaped this dramatic landscape before they disappear. Sandwiched between the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields (collectively the world’s third-largest source of fresh water), Aysén is rightfully known as the epicenter of Chilean glacier country. Half of its land is protected in public and private parks (including the newly opened Patagonia Park, created by the late North Face founder Doug Tompkins), and the region is home to a fair chunk of Chile’s 24,133 glaciers.

Many of these magnificent cascades of fast-flowing ice are receding at alarming rates of up to 15 meters per year. But there is a bit of good news: It’s never been easier to see them thanks to new routes developed by local tour operators in recent years to help increase awareness of what we stand to lose.

Here’s how you can explore five of the most impressive glaciers within Chile’s little-visited Aysén region using the Carretera Austral as an artery through Northern Patagonia.

Ventisquero Colgante

On the northern edge of Aysén within the evergreen forests of Parque Nacional Queulat, you’ll find one of Chile’s most recognizable glaciers: Ventisquero Colgante. This so-called “hanging glacier” has receded so far from the ground below that it’s now perched atop a cliff, spewing its meltwater over the edge into the powder blue Laguna Tempanos. Pack a picnic lunch and hike the 6km out-and-back Moraine Trail to get the best up-close views. You can also arrange a trip with Experiencia Australto kayak on Laguna Tempanos right up toward the base of the glacier. If you’re feeling a bit sore after either journey, you can rest your weary bones in Termas del Ventisquero, a series of hot springs near the park entrance. Its four pools are on the shores of the Puyuhuapi Fjord, whose glacier-fed waters will be noticeably cooler for those daring enough to take a dip.

Exploradores

Take a slight detour from the Carretera Austral at Puerto Rio Tranquilo (the location of the mesmerizing marble caves of Lago General Carrera) to dip into Valle Exploradores and check out its namesake glacier. This new road leads to the river crossing for the San Rafael Lagoon and is a stunner with sweeping valley views, raging river rapids and human-sized nalca leaves fighting for attention. However, the real showstopper lies 52km in at the Glacier Exploradores Overlook, which offers not only a wide-open panorama of the glacier, but also a peek at the vast white abyss that is the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Exploradores is but one of 17 glaciers that call this ice field home, and the short 25-minute hike up to the observation deck is your easiest access point to take it all in.

San Rafael

You’ll need to book a tour back in Puerto Rio Tranquilo to reach the remote San Rafael Lagoon, home of Aysén’s most enigmatic glacier. The journey requires transport on both sides of the milky-green Rio Exploradores, a quick ferry crossing and a boat ride past truck-sized icebergs to approach the shape-shifting face of San Rafael. This massive glacier cuts a 16km path through a virgin Patagonian rainforest before emptying out into a slate-blue lagoon, replenishing its frigid waters every few minutes with roaring cascades of calving ice. The new route to see this glacier from Puerto Rio Tranquilo is less than three years old. It saves both time and money when compared to the overnight catamaran journey from Puerto Chacabuco (further north) and is much more intimate of an experience. Arrange the trip in town with either Destino Patagonia or Turismo Rio Exploradores (exploradores-sanrafael.cl).

Cerro Castillo

The closest glaciers to Aysén’s capital of Coyhaique lie amid the castle-like spires of nearby Cerro Castillo. The four-day circuit trek around this formidable mountain increasingly attracts solitude-seekers put off by the more crowded backpacking trails in Torres Del Paine further south. The 43km journey will take you past three major glaciers, turquoise lagoons and high alpine passes that are favored by Chile’s endangered huemul deer. If you don’t have the time or energy to commit to a long hike, you can always view Cerro Castillo’s glaciers gaucho-style on a half-day horseback tour. Five horse stables in the small service town of Villa Cerro Castillo can set you up, and tours should be booked in person when you arrive.

Adventures in North Wales Tips

Go underground at Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Slate mining once dominated the economy in northwest Wales: slate from these hills supplied most of the roofs in Victorian Britain and was transported around the world. Its decline over the last century hit local communities hard and left quarried hillsides, great caverns and dark tunnels in its wake.

Go underground at Llechwedd Slate Caverns

They’re all visible around the small town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Surrounded on all sides by Snowdonia National Park, its quarry-scarred landscape means it didn’t qualify for park status. Yet the area has a hard beauty of its own, and once you head downwards you discover another world. You can explore the Llechwedd Slate Caverns just outside town via numerous tours, and adventurous can spend two hours exploring the eerily magnificent mines on a Caverns tour, using zip lines, rope bridges and footholds hammered into the walls, gazing into dark holes and across cathedral-sized caves. It’s a great feeling – you get to put your hands on history, and set your heart pounding.

If that sounds a bit much, operators Zip World also offer Bounce Below, a series of enormous interconnected trampolines and slides. Trampolining in a cave is a unique experience, and the atmospheric lighting and chiselled walls around you give the giggling fun of bouncing up and down a nice counterpoint.

Fly high and low on record-breaking zip lines

Outdoor zip lines offer up a different perspective. You can build up quite a lick heading down these, a physical thrill that’s matched by the awesome spectacle of North Wales swooshing by beneath you. Blaenau Ffestiniog’s three zip lines take you down from the hills above to the mine itself. At Bethesda, northwest of Blaenau, Zip World Velocity (zipworld.co.uk) boasts the longest line in Europe and the fastest (up to 100mph) in the world.

More records are smashed elsewhere. Go Below, outside the appealing town of Betws-y-Coed, has the world’s longest underground zip line and can take you to the deepest point in Britain that’s accessible to the public – almost 400m below ground.

Snowdon: a mountain for all comers

Betws-y-Coed is a great base for exploring Snowdon, at 1085m the highest point in England and Wales. It’s famous for its views (to Ireland on a – rare – clear day), legends (it’s said to be the tomb of a giant slain by King Arthur) and the fact that you can get a train its summit. That accessibility is a big part of its appeal, and there are numerous ways to tackle the mountain, from the 120-year-old railway and the zig-zagging Miners’ Track to challenging climbing pitches and notorious Crib Goch (a knife-edge arête with a steep slope on one side and a sheer drop on the other).

Inked in New Zealand

New Plymouth might seem like an unlikely place for an international tattoo exhibition, but in November this hip little coastal town attracts some of the world’s most sought-after artists to the New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival, adding to the country’s already storied history of tattooing.

The Māori moko

For the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the tattoo tradition of the moko is a sacred part of cultural identity. Before the arrival of the Europeans, receiving one’s moko was a significant rite of passage, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood and indicating social status. Traditional Māori tattooers carved intricate designs onto the skin using a tool called the uhi, a chisel that creates the unique scarring effect that sets the moko apart from other styles of Polynesian tattooing.

Historically, moko has been worn by both genders. For men, bold full-face tattoos communicated important aspects of the wearer’s identity – their rank, lineage, and tribe were all represented – and the designs were often memorised and used as signatures. Men also wore puhoro,elaborate, swirling tattoos stretching from the torso to the knees, to enhance physical attractiveness. Women most commonly wore a variation called moko kauae on their lips and chin, which similarly signifies important information about the wearer’s life.

When large numbers of English colonists arrived in the second half of the 19th century, they attempted to oppress Māori culture and practices – people were punished for speaking Māori and moko actively discouraged. However, like other forms of tattooing, moko has experienced a resurgence in popularity; while artists more often complete the designs with a tattoo gun than an uhi, the sacred designs remain an important symbol of Māori cultural identity and resistance.

In 1873, Czech artist Gottfried Lindauer became fascinated by Māori body art, painting over 100 portraits of Māori people. One of the most detailed historic records of moko ever produced, this collection is housed at the Auckland Art Gallery.

Artsy New Plymouth

New Plymouth was already known in New Zealand for its quirky art and festivals scene. It’s host to Womad (womad.co.nz) – arguably New Zealand’s best music festival – every March,  so a tattoo festival seems a natural addition to the local calendar.

Among the city’s other diverse cultural offerings there’s the Len Lye Center, housed in one of New Zealand’s more playfully designed buildings, which gives visitors a crash course in Mr. Lye’s postmodern visions via his collection of experimental films and kinetic sculptures. Neighbouring Govett-Brewster Art Gallery hosts a wide range of contemporary local and international shows.

Activities in Seattle

Often referred to as the ‘Emerald City’ thanks to the lush evergreen forests nearby, Seattle’s sobriquet is no tourist-brochure euphemism. Bears and cougars have been sighted in the city’s rugged Discovery Park, fleece-wearing diners fresh from kayaking trips show up in downtown restaurants, and on clear days from numerous vantage points, Mt Rainier, a 14,411ft glacier-encrusted volcano, appears so close it feels as if you could almost touch it. No wonder such a high proportion of Seattleites choose to ignore manic East Coast work ethics and regularly escape into their ‘backyard’ for a dose of the great outdoors.

On your bike

Cycling in Seattle is one of the most instantaneous ways for visitors to fend off museum claustrophobia and get some fresh gulps of Pacific Northwestern air. Fortunately, with the inauguration of Seattle’s bike-sharing scheme, Pronto (prontocycleshare.com) in 2014, getting about on two wheels has become a lot easier. Intended more as city hoppers than zippy racers, Pronto’s new seven-gear bikes available from 54 city-wide docking stations are adept enough to get you out of downtown and enjoy a brief taste of Seattle’s finest greenway, the Burke Gilman trail. Check out our guide to Pronto for more info.

Stretching 21 miles from the shores of Lake Washington to Puget Sound, the Burke-Gilman follows the course of an old disused railway line. Along the way it meanders past moored houseboats, weird urban sculpture and numerous green oases. If you’ve only got time for one stop, hit the brakes in Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union, a windy promontory popular with kite-flyers where a rusting coal plant was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To enjoy the trail in its entirety, you’ll need to swap your short-loan Pronto bike for a more flexible day-rental. Dutch Bike Co in Ballard rents well-appointed, two-wheeled machines from $45 a day. The shop, which also pedals pastries from an adjacent cafe, is strategically located in Ballard at the west end of the Burke-Gilman trail close to Hiram M Chittenden Locks, where lush botanical gardens overlook the point at which Puget Sound’s seawater meets the freshwater of Lake Union. Here you can watch a merry array of working boats as they negotiate the lock system, or disappear underneath to see salmon wriggling up an ingenious fish ladder. Cycle two miles further west and you’ll end up inGolden Gardens Park, well-known for its Bloody Mary sunsets framed by ghostly silhouettes of the Olympic Mountains.

Wild parks

City parks are usually carefully configured urban playgrounds where well-manicured flower beds vie with lawns, ornamental lakes and rock gardens. Offering a more feral alternative, Seattle’s parks bring pockets of uncultivated Cascade Mountain beauty inside city limits. Forget swings and tennis courts, and prepare instead for old growth forest, interchanging ecosystems and – on occasions – wild animals.

Several years ago, a ‘lost’ black bear and a roaming cougar were spotted in the vicinity of Discovery Park, Seattle’s largest green space that abuts the hilly neighborhood of Magnolia. Spread across 534 acres, Discovery Park is one of North America’s most impressive urban regeneration and was created in 1973 on the grounds of an old military installation. Guarding several miles of Puget Sound coastline, the park’s untended landscapes fold from meadows to woodland to ocean bluffs to beaches. Its biodiversity is accentuated by the presence of an astounding 270 species of bird, including owls, humming birds and grebes.

Another notable green space is 300-acre Seward Park, which inhabits a broad nodule of land that protrudes into Lake Washington. As well as supporting nesting bald eagles and a lakeside perimeter trail, Seward shelters a small but precious tract of old-growth forest. Although its 250-year-old hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs might not be as old as the leafy behemoths on the nearby Olympic peninsula, they’re ancient monuments compared to Seattle’s man-made wonders.