South American Sojourn

South America – a place of breathtaking natural beauty, rich in history, and a diverse culture sure to leave anyone awestruck; this is exactly what Ketineni Pratibha and K. Sayaji Rao got to experience on their recent trip to the magical continent. Whether it was Machu Picchu’s extraordinary manmade wonders, Bariloche’s beautiful natural attractions or Brazil’s curious fascination with Indians, here’s a peek at your next prospective holiday destination.

For this trip we were accompanied by two other couples: Anant Kishan Rao and Srilekha, and Vikram Berry and Doreen. As my husband and I had already visited most of the continents in the world, except Antarctica, this time we wanted to touch upon South America. Our first stop was Manaus in Brazil, where we saw the confluence of two rivers, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes. We then made our way to the Amazon forest via a cruise.

Sayaji-Rao-and-Ketineni-Pratibha-South-American-2

As we always wanted to witness the exotic tango dance in person, Rio de Janeiro was the next stop on our list. Here the beautiful beach is integrated into the main city. We came across quite a few
health-conscious people, of all ages, who we saw jogging and working out right along the beach. On a surprising note, Brazilians knew quite a bit about Bollywood stars, and they were truly fascinated with Indians.

Next up was Iguazu Falls. Here the group and I got to witness an amazing view of the falls encompassing 275 separate waterfalls that span almost two miles. We then headed to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina (and the Paris of South America), where we shopped for some world-famous Prüne leather bags. At Bariloche – the Switzerland of this continent – we had quite a bit of fun trying to walk on the glacial paths and cruising on the clear, emerald lake.

Sayaji-Rao-and-Ketineni-Pratibha-South-American-3

Heading north, we flew to Lima, Peru which was on the way to Machu Picchu. From there we flew to Cusco, at an altitude of 12,000 feet in the Andes. A beautiful town with amazing architecture mostly built by the Incans, we even got to visit the sacred valley which was at an altitude of 9,000 feet. While in Machu Picchu, we traipsed down the ancient crooked steps to reach the famed Incan citadel. The vast structure built without any modern engineering equipment left us stunned.

Continuing our exploration of the many natural wonders, we visited the largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca. Our hotel on the banks of the lake offered us a wonderful view. At 13,000 feet, it is the largest and highest fresh water lake in the world. We then made our way to Taquile Island, one of the last parts of Peru to be conquered by the Spanish.

Sayaji-Rao-and-Ketineni-Pratibha-South-American-4

During the final leg of our trip, we visited the very interesting island of Uros. It was home to the Uru Indians, who were forced to live on the lake as the Incans pushed further into their territory. These islands are made completely of reeds, which must be continuously replenished, as they tend to disintegrate. Quite a few families live on these floating islands and make handicrafts that are popular with the tourists.

In terms of Peruvian culture, it boasted a beautiful mix of Hispanic (Spanish) and native traditions. The Quechua and Aymara are the two main native cultures of Peru. As for the South American cuisine, the Brazilians were very pretty big on a combination of fruits, vegetables and meat. They used a lot of cassava—the tapioca root—to make delicious pancakes. We even had a lot of the acai berries which are rich in antioxidants and are only found in the Amazon forest. At the popular Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, we got to try the Gaucho Roast, where the meat is cooked over an open fire and cut right before the diners with a sword-like knife. Argentinian cuisine also had a distinct Mediterranean flavour, thanks to the Spanish colonisation. Apart from the famous steaks, we also had the Empanadas and Dulce de Leche. Their hot chocolate was to-die-for.

Sayaji-Rao-and-Ketineni-Pratibha-South-American-5

While we didn’t get to visit Chile or Los Glaciares National Park among other beautiful locations, this was definitely a one-of-a-kind trip. Though we made our way back home with the world’s best coffee, Juan Valdez’s Café de Colombia, cocoa grown in the Amazon forest, and tapioca flour, there was certainly a lot left to explore and experience. A vast continent filled with beauty beyond one’s imagination, it definitely deserves multiple visits, and we already know what we will be going back for!        – Ketineni Pratibha